Marabou. Who cares? Same old, same old. Right?
Marabou feathers are a great material for use on all sorts of flies to fish for salmon, steelhead, trout, bass, pan fish, great white sharks and deep-sea scallops.
But there are many different kinds of marabou for the tyer to use and each has its subtleties that deserve understanding in order to short-cut the effectiveness learning curve.
We here at the Caddis Fly get all of our Marabou feathers from Hareline Dubbin. Marcos Vergara told me a little about the marabou supply-handling-processing conveyor belt and it boggled my mind. Think about this.
Collect 30,000 pounds (yes, thirty thousand!) of Turkey Marabou from processing plants here in the USA. Load the raw feathers into a shipping container. Stack the container on a ship and send it off to China. The Marabou is then cleaned, graded, and stitched before it is shipped back to Hareline, where it will be dyed, dried, and packaged for wholesale distribution all over the world.
Amazing. I’ve seen miles of strung Marabou brilliantly colored, freshly dyed, billowing in the wind of a high-powered fan in the drying-room at Hareline. I never really comprehended the long trail of hands and the miles those feathers had passed through before they found home in a fly tyer’s den.
The photo here shows the various sizes of marabou from the Extra Select on the far left to the mini marabou on the far right.
Key Marabou products offered by Hareline and the Caddis Fly include the following.
• Extra Select Marabou (5-7,” strung, 16 colors)
• Blood Quills (4-5,” strung, 36 colors)
• Barred Blood marabou (4-5,” loose, dyed over white and hand-barred)
• Woolly Bugger Marabou (~3,” strung, 10 colors)
• Grizzly Mini Marabou (Chicken marabou, ~2,” loose, 10 colors)
• Mini Marabou (Chicken Marabou, ~2,” loose, 10 colors)
Blood Quills tend to have thin center shafts, they wind well for hackling flies, and they gather well for tails and wings. The tips of the vanes align very evenly, making them an easy-to-use winging material. Jigs? Does anyone tie jigs? No one I know, that’s for sure. But if you do, Blood quills are your best bet
Extra Select Quills
These Giant size Marabou feathers are my favorite for hackling really large salmon and steelhead flies. These are perfect for what one could call Spey-style flies. I may only use the top 1/3 of the quill for hackling a fly, as the lower portion of the quill can get a little on the thick side to wind effectively. These well-hackled quill sections get put aside for use with my Petitjean Magic Tool for future creative uses.
Woolly Bugger Marabou
This material is my hands-down favorite for tailing steelhead and trout flies. This grade has a thick shaft and is not well suited for hackling, but has nice even ends and is very full, making a go-eat-me tail on all sorts of flies. Lake fly fishers love these feathers for leeches and buggers.
Barred Blood Marabou
This dying process applied to Blood Quills is relatively new. This product is tons of fun for winging, tailing, and hackling salmon and steelhead flies. Rumor has it that bass and carp flies tied with these wild feathers are effective also, but I wouldn’t know nuthin’ ‘bout that.
Grizzly Mini and Mini Marabou
These feathers are the smallest in the marabou line-up. These are bit time effective for tying — listen up—flies for trout and saltwater species. Wow. One minute a guy will be using grizzly mini watchamacallit for a nymph tail or wing-case, while, seven houses down the block, another tyer is using the stuff for bonefish or permit patterns!
Amazing, truly amazing.
BTW, most of these products may be purchased in packets or by the ounce, so consider stocking up on your favorite colors well before you hit the bench.
To close, I wanted to share a fly that has been a dependable for me on the Santiam. This fly uses two types of Marabou and a surprising color palate that has proven effective when fished behind hotshots, eggs, spinners, spoons, and yes, even behind big leeches! Please don’t laugh at the gray wing material; it really works. OK, go ahead and laugh, it still works.
Here is the fly and the materials list.
Fly: Jay’s Santiam Ghost
Hook: Daiichi 2441; size 2/0 – 6
Thread: Lagartun X-Strong 95 Denier black
Tail: Black Wooly Bugger Marabou
Body: Lagartun Gold Mini Flat-braid
Under hackle: UV Polar Chenille Gold (two turns only)
Wing: Gray Marabou Blood Quill
Collar hackle: Purple, long (cock saddle, schlappen, or neck)