Hook: Daiichi 2161 (#2/0-#06) or Alec Jackson Spey Salmon Hook (#5-#3/0)
Thread: MFC 8/0 or UTC 70 red
Body (Optional): Silver Mylar
First wing: Salmon marabou topped with pearlescent Crystal Flash
Second wing: Orange marabou topped with pearlescent Crystal Flash
Third wing: Same as the second
Collar: Red saddle or schlappen hackle
The pedigree of northwest steelhead fly fishers realizing advantage of the animated properties of marabou is impressive. Trey Combs, Bob Aid, John Farrar, Mike Kinney, Joe Butorac and George Cook to name a few were all seduced by the magic of marabou. Each of these renowned tiers manipulated marabou in their own way. Steelhead marabou pioneer Bob Aid was one of the first to utilize the entire marabou plume, securing it in place by the tip and winding forward using the stem to guide and place the marabou. Bob Aidís flies featured a small dubbing collar to help keep the long supple marabou strands from collapsing and fouling the hook. Others, such as John Farrar used dubbing loops to form marabou hackles. Placing marabou strands into a dubbing loop can be tricky and frustrating for some. Now todayís tiers taking advantage of Marc Petitjeanís Magnum Magic Tool can fold and manage marabou plumes easily. Marabou hackles, including unique contrasting color combinations became simple.
George Cook developed his Alaskabou series of marabou flies during his Alaskan guiding days. Ironically, the flies George tied for his clients chasing pacific salmon and steelhead were tarpon style concoctions. At one point George ran out of hackle and ended up substituting marabou, inadvertently scripting another chapter of marabou magic in the process. The Popsicle is probably the most widespread and famous of Georgeís Alaskabou family. Other successful Alaskabou variants include the Tequila Sunrise, Pixieís Revenge, Candy Cane and Showgirl.
Marabou is the key Alaskabou component. Elegant, functional and full of life marabou is an ideal material for working steelhead flies intended for good mauling. Original Alaskabou patterns feature marabou and either Flashabou or Crystal Flash accents in varying combinations. Augmenting an Alaskabou with a body of silver Mylar provides additional inner flash and glow. Use narrow Mylar as it forms neat tight bodies and it is easier to control. When the river calls however, the Mylar body can be easily omitted. For silver bodied Alaskabouís tie in the Mylar just behind the return of the hook eye using a minimum of thread wraps. Do not bind the Mylar down the shank. Instead, wrap the Mylar down the shank using close touching turns just above the hook point and then return back to the original tie in point overwrapping the initial downstream wraps. Tie off the Mylar and trim the excess. This method adds durability and allows the tyer to fill in any gaps left by the initial wraps. This technique works well for other flies as well including Flashabou, Crystal Flash or Midge Braid bodied chironomid patterns.
All Alaskabouís consist of a three stage wing of contrasting marabou that work and blend together. Most prefer using fine tipped slender stemmed strung or blood marabou quills for size 2 and larger Alaskabouís. Smaller Spey/Popsicle marabou is ideal for size 4 or lesser hooks. To begin, tie in the first plume by the tip, approximately 2/3rds of the distance up the shank. Tying tips first places the largest fibres outermost providing maximum bulk and mobility. It is not necessary to trim the tip as it will be enveloped by the balance of the marabou. Simply sweep the tip back out of the way during the initial marabou wraps. This seemingly lazy step actually adds a degree of durability to the fragile tip area of the marabou plume. Wind the marabou forward, sweeping the marabou fibres back after each successive wrap to avoid trapping them down. Raking the finished fly using scissors points further releases any additional trapped fibres. The Flashabou or Crystal Flash accents are typically tied in stages between each marabou color. Trim the Crystal Flash or Flashabou slightly longer than the marabou tips so the fly winks and sparkles as it works during the swing.
Alaskabouís feature contrasting hackle veils, saddle hackle works well but in many instances schlappenís soft longer flowing fibres compliments the marabou perfectly. Once the fly is complete slide the fingers along the shank pushing the marabou fibres from both fore and aft to further flare and stand the marabou. This trick augments the finished profile and further animates the soft flowing marabou fibres.
Alaskabou tying adapts to a diverse color pallet. As a guide, consider the silhouette advantage of darker colors in high stained and brighter flies for clear waters. Donít get entrenched into this guide however. Often, tossing out of the ordinary color combinations triggers a positive response.
1) Start the tying thread about half way down the return wire of the hook eye. Move the tying thread back to close the wire return of the hook eye. Tie in the silver Mylar body material just behind the hook eye. Wind the Mylar back down the shank in close touching turns to the hook point. Advance the silver Mylar forward over itself in close touching turns to the tying thread. Tie off and trim the excess Mylar.
2) Wind the tying thread back over the Mylar body so it hangs at the 2/3rds mark of the shank. Tie a fine fibered salmon coloured strung marabou plume by the tip. Fold the marabou tip back over itself and bind in place. Leaving the tip section in adds reinforcement to the fragile tip area of the marabou plume.
3) Wind the marabou plume forward in close touching turns about half the distance to the hook eye. After each turn sweep back the marabou and release any trapped fibres. Tie off and trim the excess marabou. Tie in 6 strands of pearlescent Crystal Flash at their mid point. Fold the forward pointing section of Crystal Flash back over the marabou and tie in place. Trim the Crystal Flash slightly longer than the tips of the marabou wing.
4) Tie in an orange strung marabou plume by the tips using the same procedure as for the first marabou wing. Wind the orange marabou plume forward in close touching turns about half the distance to the hook eye. Tie off and trim the excess marabou. Use the scissors points to rake the marabou releasing any trapped fibres. Sweep back the marabou and secure in a swept back position. Tie in an additional 6 strands of pearlescent Crystal Flash in the same fashion as the previous application of Crystal Flash. Secure the forward facing strands of Crystal Flash back over the body. Trim the Crystal Flash slightly longer than the marabou wings.
5) Select a second orange strung marabou plume and tie in place by the tip. If possible, select a plume with slightly shorter fibres. Wind the marabou forward in close touching turns approximately half the distance to the hook eye. Tie off and trim the excess marabou.
6) Tie in a dyed red schlappen feather wet fly style, the convex side of the feather facing forward. Wind the feather one wrap directly in front of the previous 4 to 5 times. Tie off and trim the excess. Build a neat tapered head, whip finish and apply head cement. Using the thumb and forefinger pinch the head area to sweep and train the marabou and schlappen back along the hook.