Intermediate Fly Tying:
By Al Campbell
Flesh flies are standard patterns used most often by steelhead and
pacific salmon folks. The idea is to make a fly that looks like a piece
of flesh that has been ripped off of a salmon by a bear or other predator
while the unlucky fish was trying to make its way to the spawning
grounds. If you add some white, it might look like the decaying flesh of
a salmon that finished the spawning task and expired as they always seem
to do. Once expired, their bodies feed countless animals and birds.
Some pretty large chunks of flesh always seem to get washed away to be
picked up by other salmon or large trout.
Bunny leeches are another type of flesh fly. The steps and techniques
are pretty much the same whether tying a bunny leech or a marabou flesh
fly. Whether you're wrapping rabbit fur strips or marabou feathers
around the hook, you still need to make sure you don't wrap over the
fluffy stuff, and that the fly "breathes" right. For those who wish to
tie bunny leeches, use these techniques but change the materials to
rabbit strips instead of marabou feathers.
One thing I find funny about flesh flies is that northern pike living in
lakes far from any salmon streams like to try to eat them. It seems
these morsels look like food to more than one type of fish. Catfish will
also grab one of these morsels if the opportunity is there.
Folks living near hydroelectric dams might want to try these flies below
the water discharge from the generator turbines. Trout and panfish often
slip into the water intakes for the power plants and exit in bite sized
chunks that big fish wait for downstream. Select colors that match the
predominant colors of the flesh and skin of the most common fish in the
You'll be surprised by the variety of fish you can catch below a
hydroelectric dam with this type of fly. The great thing about fishing
the water discharge areas is that the biggest fish in the river seem to
hold in those areas waiting for an easy meal. Flesh flies look like an
If you want to add weight, you can slip a bead or cone over the hook
before you begin tying the fly, or you can wrap lead wire around the hook
first. For a real heavy fly that keeps the hook pointing upward, try
hourglass or barbell eyes for weight.
Bass fishermen should tie this fly in the colors of common baitfish in
their area. The breathing action of the body is just the ticket to lure
some big hog bass into a feeding mood. Who would complain about a thing
List of materials: Marabou Flesh Fly
Hook: Classic salmon fly hook. Mustad 80500BL or
equivalent. Sizes 2/0 to 6.
Thread: Black or bright colored, 3/0.
Body: Bright marabou in a variety of colors ranging from yellow and
orange to purple and fluorescent green. (Bunny leeches use the same
colors in rabbit strips.)
Flash: Flashabou, crystal flash or holographic
flash added to attract attention.
Hackle: Bright guinea feather or any other dyed feather that produces
the right color and effect.
1. Stroke the fibers of a marabou feather against the grain of the
feather to expose just the tip of the feather. Tie it to the hook at
this point as shown.
2. Advance the thread to a point midway on the hook shank.
3. Start wrapping the marabou around the hook like a hackle. Pull the
fibers back with one hand to prevent them from being bound down to the
hook by the feather stem.
4. Continue wrapping the marabou feather forward until you've used the
entire feather or the feather's stem gets too thick to wrap.
5. Tie the feather off and secure it to the hook with thread.
6. Tie in some flashy material on both sides of
the hook. (Yellow flashabou used here.)
7. Trim the flashy material to the length of the tail.
8. Tie in a darker colored marabou feather the same way you did the first
9. Using the same technique you used to wrap the back half of the fly,
wrap this feather forward to just behind the hook eye. Leave a little
room for a good head and one small hackle.
10. Select a darker (but still a bright color) guinea feather and tie it
in as a hackle. You have a choice as to whether you wish to tie it in at
the tip or the base of the feather. Since guinea feather fibers get
shorter as you proceed toward the tip of the feather, I chose to tie it
in by the base of the feather so all of the feather would be visible.
11. Wrap the feather forward with hackle pliers just like you'd wrap a
wet fly hackle. When you've used up the entire feather, tie it off and
trim the excess.
12. Build a smooth head, whip finish, trim the thread and cement the
13. Your finished fly should look similar to this.
Experiment with different colors to see what the fish are looking for.
Try rabbit strips too. You might discover that this fly works in more
places than the far north.
Until next week my friends, practice and have fun.
See ya next week - Remember, I'm always happy to answer
your questions, feel free to
email me. ~ Al Campbell
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