Fly Of The Week
Marabou Spawn Sac
Marabou Spawn Sac
By Gary LaFontiane
Illustrations By Powell Swanser,
Photo by Doub O'looney

Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms

Marabou Spawn Sac

The nymph is no different than any other type fly - presentation is still more important than pattern choice. The nymph, for optimum effect, has to drift at the eye level of the trout. When fish are feeding on items near the bottom, a drift a few inches over their heads makes the best looking fly mediocre and a drift a foot over their heads makes the best looking fly worthless.

It is easy to imagine insects, scuds, worms and eggs in the currents, filling the water column top to bottom. In reality objects caught in the flow concentrate in a narrow mixing zone. Entomologists estimate that 70 to 80 percent of free-drifting life forms move at any given moment in an interface between the dead water of the rocks and the unobstructed water of the open flow. This turbulent band, with its circling eddies, tenaciously holds organisms until they reach an area where the flows are slow enough for them to settle to the bottom.

The nymph fisherman, whether he realizes it or not, searches for the best way to keep his fly in this mixing zone. He chooses a method of weighting, wrapping lead on the fly, applying lead to the leader, or using a sinking line.

My weighting technique for the Marabou Spawn Sac is different than my normal nymphing strategy. Why? Fish eggs drift differently than insects. The eggs are dense, sinking rapidly - they have to, or else they would wash downstream and not settle into the gravel for incubation.

My favorite approach with most of my other flies is to put the lead on the leader (Outrigger Method) - wire is wrapped at the first blood knot, 18 inches up from the fly; at the second blood knot; 30 inches up from the fly; and if necessary the third blood knot, 42 inches up from the fly. This rig drags the leader down to the bottom in a riffle, the wire tapping on the rocks, but it allows the unweighted or lightly weighted fly to ride freely in the mixing zone.

My goal with the Marabou Spawn Sac is to make it, not the leader, bounce the bottom. The fly is heavily weighted so that it drops through the mixing zone - the countering effect with any weighted fly is the is the unweighted leader, the monofilament pulled and tugged so much by the upper, faster currents that it tends to lift the heavy pattern back up into the interface. This nymphing technique mimics the natural drift of the real fish eggs better than the Outrigger Method.


Hook:  Size 8 (up-eye, Atlantic salmon, TMC 7989).

Weight:  Lead wire.

Egg Sacs:  Marabou fibers.

Body:  Pink sparkle yarn.

Hackle:  Scarlet rooster.

Note: You can change the color of the egg sac, (but not the body) pink, purple, white, red chartreuse, and burnt orange are effective variations.

Tying Steps:

1. Wrap lead wire along the hook shank, lacquer it.

2. Tie in a clump of marabou fibres; let them dangle for the moment.

3. Wrap a piece of pink sparkle yarn a third of the way up the hook shank; tie it off, but do not cut the excess.

4. Pull the clump of marabou forward and tie it down.

5. Tie in a second clump of marabou; let it dangle for the moment.

6. Wrap the piece of pink sparkle yarn two thirds of the way up the hook shank.

7. Pull the second clump of marabou forward and tie it down.

8. Wrap a scarlet hackle one turn; slant the hackle fibers backward with turns of the thread. Whip finish.

Fishing the Marabou Spawn Sac:

Gold Creek [Montana] still has plenty of scars from mining a hundred years later, but its cold and clear water invigorates the Clark Fork. Around the mouth of the stream cutthroats push out into the main river, joining the predominate brown trout.

There wasn't much excitement for the first few hours. Most of that time was spent walking and searching for trout in Gold Creek itself, starting two miles upstream and moving down towards the mouth. My total catch was one small cutthroat.

Actually, I was starting to think that I should have gone to Lost Creek, my favorite place for hunting spawners, but I had to keep looking for, in Kevin Vause's words, " . . . there's one big brown trout, maybe 28 inches."

Then I started spotting groups of spawning fish up from the Clark Fork in the final half mile of the stream. None of these brown trout was Kevin's monster, but I did get three over 15 inches on a Marabou Spawn Sac. All of the fish rushed the fly hard.

I had gone upstream two miles because I thought that the trout might have moved from where Kevin saw him yesterday. When I spotted him he was against a steep bank, at the end of a fallen log, and it might well have been the exact water that Kevin had described to me.

He had the place right, which wasn't bad for a beginner flustered by a huge trout. Kevin's estimate on the size of the fish looked off to me, though, the trout maybe going 23 inches. The kype showed clearly on the male, a richly spotted, dark fish.

On the first drift the trout ran up to meet the drifting Burnt Orange Marabou Spawn Sac, stopped within an inch of it, and finally dropped back downstream with the pattern (a type of inspection common with dry flies but rare with a nymph). On my next few casts he ignored the fly.

Unlike egg-eaters, spawners would take an egg pattern the first time or not at all, disregarding it with a bit of disdain on every subsequent drift. Once they knew it was a fraud, the fly couldn't stir up any more aggression in them.

This brown trout passed up a series of Marabou Single Eggs and Glo Bugs in a variety of colors, looking at only the yellow one. I was going to change to a streamer, some type of yellow aggravator, when I sighted the larger female under the log for the first time.

All I could think was that she was getting excited over my artificial hatch of egg imitations. I put a bright Yellow Marabou Spawn Sac on and cast further upstream than usual, aiming the drift for the top fish instead of the bottom one. So what did the male do? He bolted up, flashing in front of the female as she neared the fly, and sucked in the Spawn Sac.

I didn't want him any longer, not at the risk of spooking the female. I let him mouth the fly, never setting the hook, and after carrying it downstream for a moment he spit it out. I tried to draw the Spawn Sac aside, but he grabbed it again.

Finally he let it go and I picked it up as gently as possible, plopping it upstream for a repeat of the last drift.

Again he rushed up, and again he bullied the female off from the Spawn Sac, but this time he didn't eat the fly himself. He repeated this routine, facing off the more passive female without touching the Spawn Sac.

This battle of wills between us was now approaching nearly an hour, and it was starting to get personal (and it didn't help that he was winning). My only alternative, if he didn't get tired of this game of dare, was to catch him and carry him in a bucket to a place, maybe another watershed, far, far away. Then maybe it would be possible for me to come back and hook the huge female.

On a hunch, I took off the Yellow Marabou Spawn Sac and put on the Burnt Orange Marabout Sac again. The darker color didn't excite the male as much and he let it pass along the log. On the third drift the female positioned herself in front of the oncoming fly and sipped it in gently.

She burst out of the run, going straight downstream through two smaller pools, never trying to bury into cover. The male even started to follow her, but when he saw me in the channel he flushed into deeper water. The female, fighting spectacularly but not particularly intelligently in the confines of the creek, was still fresh when she almost landed herself on a gravel bar. She wasn't 28 inches, but with a bit of stretching on her tail she touched 25 inches on the tape. She swam away strongly on the release.

Those two brown trout were so different. The male was motivated by aggression when he took the fly - the female simply craved a caviar snack. The male actively tried to control the situation - the female passively accepted the possibilities. ~ Gary LaFontaine

Credits: This article is an excerpt from Trout Flies - Proven Patterns Published by Greycliff Publishing.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying and Intermediate Fly Tying.

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