When I think about the most successful flies I have used over the years for smallmouth and largemouth bass, trout, pike and panfish, I realize that marabou is, in most cases, a common denominator. In fact, if some strange game law were to restrict me to tying flies with only marabou in black, white or olive, I'd still feel fairly confident in my fish catching ability. It's that good.
Wooly buggers, Marabou muddlers and Gartside's soft-hackled streamer are just a few examples of flies that use marabou as a major component — and I defy any angler to argue the effectiveness of these killer patterns.
The success of marabou is mainly due to its wonderful undulating action once in the water. It comes to life with twitches or little retrieves and when coupled with a good fly pattern is seemingly irresistible to fish. It's also easy to cast. Better yet, it's hard to tie marabou wrong.
New fly tyers should also know that it is one of the least expensive and widely available materials, too. As if that's not enough, you can get it in virtually every useful color you can think of. I really don't know what we fly anglers and tyers would do without it.
It is with this in mind that I'm about to start my annual marabou marathon. I'll tie a few of the standard streamer patterns, such as the ones mentioned, but also experiment a bit by substituting marabou for bucktail in patterns like the black-nosed dace, Mickey Finn and Black ghost. It's certainly been done before, but I haven't had the pleasure as yet.
This minor modification is often a very easy way to increase the effectiveness of bucktail patterns, especially in still waters where a marabou fly will pulse between retrieves. A bucktail, on the other hand, will remain fairly rigid when not activated by the angler stripping it in. This difference in animation of the fly often is, typically, what makes the marabou version far more effective.
This, of course, is not much in the way of a revelation but it is a good reminder. We anglers tend to forget about the basics as we evolve into the sport of fly fishing and, every now and again, I don't think it does any harm to recall that we should tie flies — no matter how basic — that the fish want.
In most cases, that would be any pattern with a bit of marabou in it.