Thursday, October 06, 2011

Chicago Leech

Chicago Leech - The Best Wet Fly I Ever Fished.

These were the words of Carl Richards, a trout/ saltwater fishing guru from Rockford, Michigan. Richards was the author of numerous fly fishing books and videos, most co-authored with guru, Doug Swisher. Richards wrote these words in Trout South, the newsletter of Trout Unlimited in the Southeastern states.

I was given one of these flies to use by Muskegon River guide John Krause one summer over ten years ago. My fishing partner, retired lawyer Dan Lever, and I proceeded to catch fifty trout, two days in a row with my biggest a dandy six pound brown, my largest fly caught trout. It made the cover of a Michigan fishing magazine. I had 1400 flies with me in my boat bag and I would not use any other fly on that trip.

Since that time I’ve learned it also works great for bluegills especially and bass. On another trip on Lake Geneva, I caught a number of largemouths that all had tiny black leeches attached to the inside of their mouths. Former Shabbona Sportsmen’s Club President Rich McElligot has had good luck on Lake Shabbona bluegills and bass with the Chicago Leech. Another friend called me a number of times about good trout catches in Southwestern Wisconsin on this fly.

Guide John Krause, was the co-author with Carl Richard, of two books: Hatches of the Muskegon River and Tailwaters of Southern Appalachia. John Krause taught the fly to me on a day when it was too cold for me to steelhead fish the Muskegon with him.

Here’s how John Krause taught me to tie the Chicago Leech:


Hook:    Size 6 (bass/steelhead) or 10 (bluegill/trout) 3X long, Tiemco 5263 or similar.
Thread:  Size 6/0, black, to match body color.
Tail:        Short tuft of black Marabou or Mohair.
Flash:     Short piece of Dark Purple Flashabou, length of tail on each side of tail.
Body:     Black Uni-Mohair.
Wing:     Black Uni-Mohair, one or two sparse clumps teased out of body.
Head:     Purple Cyclops bead or small black lead or tungsten bead.
Legs:      Black Uni-Mohair, a few sparse strands teased out of body.

  1. Slide a bead on the hook. Cyclops beads are counter drilled to make it easier to slide over the barb. You may have to press the barb down on some hooks with large barbs.
  2. Tie in a short tuft of Marabou or Mohair for a tail, a little longer than the width of the hook gap.
  3. Tie in a short piece of Purple Flashabou doubled around the tying thread and tie it in so there is one strand centered on each side of the tail tuft of Marabou or Mohair. Cut the flashabou to a length of one gap width or the tail length. If you can’t find purple Flashabou try dark red.
  4. Tie in a short 4 to 6 inch length of Uni-Mohair and advance the thread to the front of the hook.  Now comes the hard part: begin to palmer wrap the Mohair around the hook, winding forward. The Mohair staple fibers are unusually long. You will find yourself trapping the fibers under the central core. You must use your bodkin needle to constantly tease the strands of mohair out from under the core thread as often as every one quarter or one half turn around the hook. Try to tease one or two sparse clumps of Mohair on top for a wing. Try to tease a few sparse strands of Mohair on the bottom. This is a tedious process but will make a very thin sparse fly that works best.
  5. Tie off behind bead head and whip finish and apply some head cement.
  6. (For a steelhead Egg Sucking Leech, make a small bright ball in front of the bead with egg yarn.)
  7. Stroke the top fibers of Mohair upward. Trim them, if long enough, from the front of the hook to the back going downward at a 45 degree angle to the end of the hook.

Black leeches work best but olive brown with gold and white bodies with silver or gold work.
Note: The goal is to tie a very sparse, thin bodied fly. It should not look fat like a wooly bugger.

Contributed by NIFT member Harry Blessing.
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