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Winter is upon us and with it the cherished opportunity to swing flies for steelhead in our favorite rivers and streams of the west coast. I’ve long been a fan of the classic Marabou Spey patterns for steelhead, from the simple wound marabou patterns of Bob Aid to the decidedly fancied up ties of John Farrar. They move, they breath, they have an inherent life-like presence that tells Mr. Steelhead to come on over and have a little taste. Charles St. Pierre’s Hoh Bo Spey is a more contemporary Marabou pattern that I’m enamored with. It’s pretty simple to tie but has a classiness all its own.

While many of these flies are tied unweighted and swim enticingly in soft subtle flows, I like to have some weighted stuff in the box too. Lead eyes or brass dumbbell eyes are the common method du jour for getting a fly down a little deeper in the water column but as one that likes to tie I grow tired of figure-eight wrapping these suckers in and find they sometimes wedge between rocks and other places where I don’t want them to be. The brass or tungsten bead conspicuously hidden in the shoulder of the Leadbelly Spey eliminates this problem and serves the double function of helping to support the soft materials in front of it to give the fly some profile and extra action on its cross-stream journey. I like the shrimp pink and purple combo for clear water but will readily tie this one in blacks, blues, purples, oranges and any number of colors that strike my fancy.

Leadbelly Spey

Shank: 32mm OPST Steelhead Shank
Bead: 5/32″ Gold Brass or Tungsten Bead
Thread: White 140 Denier Ultra Thread/Fl. Fire Orange 70 Denier Ultra Thread
Trailing Hook: #3 OPST Swing Hook w/ #30 Fire Line
Body: Flat Pearl Diamond Braid
Dubbing Loop: UV Pink Ice Dub, Pink Barred Predator Wrap, Pearl Ripple Ice Fiber, Pink Barred Flashabou
Rear Hackle: Pink Jumbo Guinea
Hackle: Fl. Shrimp Pink Speyquill Marabou
Collar: Purple Schlappen

Confluence Beer Pairing: This month’s beer of the month is Kulshan’s appropriately themed Christmas Ale, the Royal Tannenbaum brewed with real spruce tips. It’s crisp, refreshing and mildly sprucey, without being overpowering. Fill up a growler or better yet, grab a fresh tap at our December 18th Confluence Tying Night at Kulshan Brewing on James St.

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