Using Leech Patterns to catch Trout

The Best Leech Patterns For Trout And Great Fishing

It’s a known fact that trout love leeches and anglers have been using them for fishing for decades; unfortunately, if you’re like me, you must be afraid of holding them in your hands. I have always found them sickening; therefore, I had to go with the latter when given an option between live bait or dry flies. My phobia for leeches forced me to always follow my granddad, an avid fly angler, who taught me everything I knew.

When it comes to trout fishing, there is nothing more effective than a leech pattern. It resembles live bait, and some, like the bunny fly leech, can attract a wide range of fishes, including steelheads, salmon, trout, and even bass.

Trout Caught Fly Fishing
Trout Caught Fly Fishing

If you use the right pattern at the right time, you will likely catch something every time you cast your line. In this article I will show you my favorite and the best leech patterns for trout and great fishing. We’ll also show why you should try the leech pattern, especially when fishing trout and why anglers have been using leeches for centuries.

Leech Fly Pattern for fly fishing
Leech Fly Pattern for fly fishing

What Are Leeches, And Why Do Fishes Love Them?

Before I tell you why I have fished with leech patterns for years and some of my favorite patterns, I will elaborate more on what leeches are and why fishes love them so much, even though they’re bloodsuckers. I will also show you why they can guarantee a catch every time you cast your line despite the season or time of day.

What Is A Leech?

A leech is a uniquely segmented worm with a soft and muscular body that can contract and lengthen just like its close cousin, the earthworms. Leeches are hermaphrodites, and unlike earthworms, it does have suckers on either end; plus, the ring on their skin doesn’t correspond to the internal segments. (source)

Trout love leeches
Trout love leeches

Where Are They Found?

Leeches can be found in several freshwater habitats, while others reside in marine and terrestrial environments. You can find them in streams, lakes, and ponds, but leeches prefer hiding in soft-bottomed places. Therefore, even underwater, they usually attach themselves to vegetation, logs, and stones. During ancient times, people used these parasitic worms to draw blood from injured patients. (source)

The most popular leech species, like the Hirudo medicinalis, are known for attaching themselves to feed on by simply attaching their suckers to the host. And to prevent clotting, they release hirudin, a peptide known for preventing blood from clotting, which makes it possible for them to suck blood.

Generally, knowing this fact has stopped most fly anglers from going anywhere near leeches, but did you know that not all leeches consume blood? Some species, like the Erpobdelliformes, have a huge toothless mouth that they use to consume larvae, among other worms.

Why Is Avoiding Leech Patterns A Bad Idea?

Avoiding leech patterns is not a good idea simply because you believe they are all bloodsuckers. After all, fishes love consuming leeches; in fact, several animal species eat leeches. Some huge fish species that eat leeches include catfish, sturgeon, perch, and largemouth bass; therefore, you can never go wrong with leech patterns. (source)

Why Are Leeches Ideal For Fishing?

Generally, you can find an abundance of these leeches in lakes and streams; plus, they can survive even the tough cold times. You can even find them hiding in the lower water columns come winter.

Rainbow Trout Fly Fishing
Rainbow Trout Fly Fishing – caught on a leech pattern

Therefore, the trout and most fish species turn to leeches during tough times or in winter when finding food can be challenging. Some experts believe a stream or lake with high leeches has a low fish population.

Remember, leeches die after laying their eggs or have a biannual or annual life cycle; therefore, most can guarantee you only one bait. And with their population being high, it goes without saying that a leech pattern can surprise you.

Besides being highly nutritious, it is one of the few readily available food sources. At the rate that they’re reproducing, they can affect the ecosystem without the help of the fish. Remember, they’re bloodsuckers who must leave the host to lay their eggs.

Another thing you have to remember, leeches are nocturnal creatures; therefore, they can hide when it’s bright. Therefore, when using the leech patterns, the time you venture into the lake to cast your line will matter. A leech pattern can be your best option if you love fishing at dawn or dusk.

What Are The Best Leech Patterns For Trout?

As aforementioned, trout love leeches, and with their population being relatively high in most streams, they can easily mistake your pattern for a live leech and attack it. Unfortunately, not every leech pattern can guarantee great results; therefore, you need a pattern that resembles the leech species they’re consuming.

It should also resemble the life stage of a massive percentage of the leeches in the water; therefore, knowing their breeding pattern can also come in handy. Other patterns resemble leeches consuming an egg. So here are some of 

1. Bunny Hair Leech

If you’re not fishing leeches, then you should start, and one of the patterns that can never fail you, thanks to its segmented body, is the marabou leech. Therefore, if you plan to fish in Stillwater lakes, you should go for the Bunny Hair leech pattern. After all, it is one of the few patterns designed for Stillwater. The marabou leech pattern is excellent for bass, trout, and carp.

Bunny Leech Fly Pattern
Bunny Leech Fly Pattern

You can tie the Bunny Hair Leech using any color, but most folks prefer using black, which resembles the black leeches found in still waters. To tie this pattern, you will require a thread, lead wire, marabou feather, and a hook. The lead wire can give your fly some weight, but you can also achieve this by adding a bead head. The best marabou feather for this fly should have a thin stem and feathers, and you should avoid the fluffy options.

The feather you use will hugely affect the final product and how it will behave when submerged underwater. To tie this fly, you should start by:

  • Tying the lead wire on the hook secured by the vise gives the fly a ribbed figure. 
  • The tail should be as long as the hook. Next, you can tie the tail, and then with the remaining feather, you can twist it around the hook’s shank to create the leech’s body.
  • Ensure you leave enough space for the head; finally, you can cut the marabou feather right near the head.    
  • Don’tDon’t forget to counter-wrap the wire against the marabou feather and cut the wires, and you’re good to go.

Finally, with this highly durable leech pattern, you can visit the local still water and catch some fish. (source)

2. Woolly Bugger

Another reliable segmented leech pattern in our list that is guaranteed to get you a trophy catch is the woolly bugger. The woolly bugger is a popular pattern that should be part of the arsenal of both saltwater and freshwater anglers; therefore, you can use it in tidal flats, ponds, rivers, and streams.

Woolly Bugger Fly Pattern - a great leech imitation
Woolly Bugger Fly Pattern – a great leech imitation

Plus, it resembles a wide range of live baits, including leeches, baitfish, nymphs, and other terrestrial creatures like crabs. Therefore, I consider it one of the most versatile leech patterns in the industry that has surprised anglers over the years.

Like some patterns in our list, you can tie the woolly bugger using a marabou feather and a fur or chenille body. Don’t forget to add the palmered hackle from the head to the fly’s tail. Adding a copper wire can help protect your hackled palmer while giving it stability and durability.

You can increase the weight of the fly by adding tungsten or lead wires to the fly’s body. Therefore, it is one of the best options for fishing the lower water levels, but it can also work in shallow rivers and streams. For better results, you can tie the leech using several popular colors, including black, brown, or olive, for freshwater lakes. The brighter colors can come in handy when doing saltwater fishing or fishing in murky lakes. (source)

Like most leech patterns, this pattern can be tied on hooks number 2 to 14, with the main variation being the addition of tungsten or brass cones, tungsten or brass bead, and dumbbell eyes.

3. Egg Sucking Leech

We have talked about leech patterns resembling adult leeches moving around, but now we are about to switch to a unique pattern resembling a leech consuming fish eggs. After all, male fishes are usually left behind guarding the eggs after the females have laid them. And they can attack any predator that consumes the eggs; therefore, this is the best pattern to use when fishing in spring, and if used correctly, it can attract a male fish every time.

Egg Sucking Leech
Egg Sucking Leech

Before being introduced in several fly boxes in the United States, the egg-sucking leech was first experimented on around the anchorage of the rivers and streams. And its results were excellent, and with time it gained in popularity.

An egg-sucking leech is a huge woolly bugger streamer with a bead on its head resembling an egg. (source) The body of the egg-sucking leech is usually dark, just like a leech, but it can also be purple or black, with the tip being orange or bright red, resembling a small egg. (source)

This leech pattern can be effective and popular for fishing steelhead, pike, trout, bass, and salmon.

4. Slumpbuster

John Burr is known for creating some of the best dry flies on the planet that have revolutionized the sport and made lives easier for anglers. And one of his most effective and easy-to-tie patterns is the slumpbuster. The slumpbuster is a unique pattern with a perfect profile that includes weight, flash, and a unique design that displaces a fair amount of water when submerged; plus, its movements can easily attract trout. To tie this pattern, you should do the following:

Slumpbuster fly pattern
Slumpbuster fly pattern – image – Umpqua – link
  • Start by inserting the hook into the cone head, moving it to the hook eye, and securing it on your vise.
  • The slumpbuster requires a lot of weight to sink, so you can start by wrapping a copper wire around the hook’s shank before applying your adhesive.
  • Move the wrapped wire towards the cone head and ensure it helps secure the cone head.
  • Tie your thread on the shank, starting from the end of the wrapped wire and moving backward to the bend, before snipping one end and wrapping it around the wire.
  • For the rib, you can use brassie size wire. Simply tie it to the bend using the thread. Finally, you can finish by adding a sparkle braid over the rib.
  • With the remaining length of the braid, you can wrap it over the hook up to the cone head. And secure it.
  • The final ingredient is a pine squirrel anchor stripe. Start by pushing a part of the stripe into the cone head and securing it.
  • Trim the fur so that it may be at a 90-degree angle to the hook and secure it at the bend of the hook before wrapping the wire around it.
  • Take another strip and remove a bit of fur from the tip before securing it, wrapping it behind the cone head, and securing it using your thread, and you’re good to go.

This pattern is unique for discolored water, so you can tie yours using various colors. Plus, it is one of the most effective flies targeting huge fish species in murky lakes. (source)

4. The KGB Leech Fly Pattern

Several leech patterns can transform your fly fishing experience, but have you ever thought of trying some less common patterns like the KGB leech fly? Despite being not that common, this pattern has been tested and proven by several avid anglers; plus, you can never have enough leech patterns in your arsenal.

To tie the KGB leech pattern, you should do the following:

  • Before securing your hook to the vise, place your favorite bead on it. The bead will serve as the head while adding weight to your leech pattern.
  • Wrap a thread behind the bead to the hook’s bend, ensuring it’s secured.
  • Next, prepare and add your tail at the bend of the hook. Usually, the tail is made using some strands of the Krystal flash and then securing them. The Krystal flash should stretch from the bead past the bend of the hook.
  • Finally, you can wind it with the wire from the tail to the bead before finishing it with your favorite adhesive to create a durable leech pattern. (source)
  • Bunny Leech
  • Besides being a unique pattern, the bunny leech is one of the easiest patterns to tie; all you need are some strings, a hook, and bunny fur. Tying the bunny leech pattern can seem challenging for newbies, but with practice, you can tie your flies in no time.
  • Fortunately, it’s one of the few reliable fly patterns that every angler must add to their arsenal. Like some patterns, you will require fewer materials to tie a bunny leech pattern; you can create the head and tail using the same material. But don’t let its simplicity fool you; this pattern can attract several fish species, including steelhead, salmon, trout, and bass. (source)
  • You can tie this leech pattern using one or a combination of colors, but for it to come alive when submerged, it has to be tied correctly and using a suitable material. For this pattern, you should first tie the thread to your hook, which is supported by the vise. Next, cut a piece of the zonka strip and tie it onto your hook, ensuring it extends past the hook’s tail.
  • Once the tail is ready, you can proceed to create the body using the same material. Simply tie a piece of the rabbit fur to where the tail ends using your thread and then wrap it on the hook’s shank up to the hook’s eye and tie it down. You can add some beads and finish with the head for extra weight. (source)

5. Bipolar Balanced Leech Pattern

Another reliable leech pattern that can improve your fly fishing experience and help you attract a wide range of fish species is the bipolar balanced leech pattern. The Bipolar balanced leech is very versatile, so you can flip it from balanced to unbalanced and use it under an indicator as a normal leech.

To tie it, you should do the following:

  • Start by inserting the bead in the hook and then securing the hook on the vise.
  • Tie your thread from the bead to the bend of the hook. Cut your marabou fiber, place it on the hook, and secure it from the bead to the bend using your thread to create a beautiful tail.
  • Secure a bright-colored wire on the leech’s body using your thread, and then wrap the wire around the body of the leech, making sure you get as many wraps as possible.
  • Add your polar chenille to the body of the pattern and then secure it before wrapping it from the bend to the bead and trim the excess. Finally, you can wrap the wire from the head a bit before snipping it.
  • Finish by dipping it in warm water to create the desired design with the fibers stretching backward. (source) The warm water will help it hold its unique shape when it dries up and ensure that it retains the shape for a very long time.

6. Simi Seal Leech

My pals always raved about this pattern, claiming it was one of their best options for catching something whenever casting. But at the time, my bunny, woolly, and Mohair leech patterns were working perfectly, and I didn’t see the need for adding a new pattern to my arsenal.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a lot of free time, So I decided to try several things, including experimenting with a simi-seal leech. I was surprised when I asked my pal to send me some of his simi seal leech patterns! This pattern does everything they claimed and more.

The Simi seal leach can attract a wide range of fish species, and being an experienced fly tyer, I quickly went to YouTube and found a few videos on how to tie this pattern. With the knowledge I garnered from the internet, I experimented with several color combinations. I finally settled on white, tan, brown, and black, which resemble some leech species in most lakes and rivers.

To tie this unique pattern, you should do the following:

  • Start by adding a bead to the hook and securing it to the vise. You can use a glass bead at the tip to create a pattern that resembles a leech consuming fish eggs or add another bead at the center for extra weight. But this will depend on the season, where you’re fishing, your main goal, and the condition of the lake or river.
  • Secure the bead with your thread, then continue wrapping the hook’s shank to the bend.
  • This pattern is made using a simi seal, so you should get some fiber and create the tail for the simi seal pattern.
  • After securing the tail, you can apply some adhesive to the leech’s body and then wrap some more fiber to create an exceptional body. You can even tapper the fly’s body, and once you get the desired body, you can tie it using your thread before scrubbing it to stretch the fibers on the body. (source)

Why Should I Use A Leech Pattern?

Catching carp with a fly rod
Catching carp with a fly rod – Carp Love Leeches!

Like I said, you can find leeches everywhere, including all water bodies hiding under vegetation and rocks. Plus, the fact that they’re highly nutritious means that they have everything trout need s to survive; therefore, fishes tend to turn to them when finding their other sources of food becomes challenging. So, you have a high likelihood of catching something if you use these patterns correctly.

Another reason you should opt for these patterns is that they’re versatile and can do more than attract trout; they can attract several fish species. Therefore, you are likely to catch something every time you cast a leech pattern.

Unlike some dry fly patterns, tying leech patterns is relatively easy and cheaper; some experienced fly anglers claim that it takes them less than two minutes to create these patterns; plus, you can experiment with several color combinations. 

One More Cast With A Leech

Fly fishing is one of the world’s most relaxing and rewarding hobbies that has helped me forget about my busy weeks every weekend. And one pattern that has never failed me is a leech pattern; after all, they’re the most common species in our waters, and fishes love feeding on them. So, if you’re up for the challenge, why don’t you try experimenting with the above patterns and catch as many fish species as you want?

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How 2 Fly Fish

Sources

  1. Image credit from Umpqua – Umpqua Feather Merchants – World’s Best Flies
  2. Wikipedia contributor, leech, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leech/ accessed August 18, 2022
  3. Clarence M. Taube, Leeches, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/f/fishery/aag2862.1713.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext/ accessed August 18, 2022
  4. Barbara Somervill, Leeches, https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=ZAZgEAAAQBAJ&pg=PA16&dq=do+fish+eat+leeches&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjulOv4y9r5AhUN1IUKHRH9B8EQ6AF6BAgLEAI#v=onepage&q=do%20fish%20eat%20leeches&f=false/ accessed August 18, 2022
  5. Alvin Dedeaux, Tying the Bunny Leech, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO961uK2sTw&t=355s/ accessed August 18, 2022
  6. Huge Fly Fisherman, Marabou Leech-Fly Tying, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuMjS_jSAqs&t=182s/ accessed August 18, 2022
  7. Wikipedia Contributor, Woolly Bugger, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woolly_Bugger#Origin/ accessed August 18, 2022
  8. Jat Zimmerman, Egg-sucking leech, https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=6OqclByMo58C&pg=PA146&dq=Egg+sucking+leech&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiusc2yoNv5AhUPTMAKHdbBDMQQ6AF6BAgEEAI#v=onepage&q=Egg%20sucking%20leech&f=false/ accessed August 18, 2022
  9. Wikipedia contributor, Egg-sucking leech, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_sucking_leech/ accessed August 18, 2022
  10. Tightline video, slumpbuster, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xqV1-jhUQg&t=8s/ accessed August 18, 2022
  11. BCFlyguy, KGB Leech fly fishing pattern, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afVrpYmYRyM/ accessed August 18, 2022
  12. BC flyguy, bipolar balanced leech, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sksT8jmu2ts/ accessed August 18, 2022
  13. Az fly fishing, fly tying simi seal leach – John Rohmer, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZN1249smis/ accessed August 18, 2022
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