Original Design by Derek Fergus
Halloween MOAL variation by Gary Elgear
Front Hook: Mustad 3407
Trailing Hook: Up eye octopus hook #6-#1/0
Braided Core: 50lb Power Pro or similar product
Butt: Hot Orange Cross Cut Rabbit Strip
Body: Black Cross Cut Rabbit Strip
Lateral Accent: 2-4 strands of Superflash or Flashabou
Head: Hot Orange Cone or Bead
Tying Notes: Gary Elgear ties his MOAL’s using a variety of combinations. His current favourites for steelhead are; black with a blue butt and all blue which works well in stained water. An all pink version makes a fantastic Dolly Varden pattern.
Nearly every west coast steelhead fly fisher considers two-handed or Spey rods the backbone of their presentation repertoire. Once mastered, double handed rods offer fly fishers unparalleled versatility, allowing coverage of water only dreamed about with a single handed rod. Steelhead fly fishers now reach greater distances and lies with a functional artistic elegance. Two-handed rods also permit fly fishers to chuck enormous flies as well. Gargantuan patterns re kindle latent steelehad memories of open ocean foraging as well as eliciting a territorial or aggressive responses once in the river. Intruder style patterns have become steelhead standards, some resembling small birds in size. Gary Elgear owner of Riverside Fly and Tackle is both a Spey rod disciple and monster pattern junkie. He has a particular affliction for MOAL’s. Although I had seen MOAL’s in the past it was Gary’s demonstration at this years Fraser Valley Boat and Sportsman’s show that rekindled my interest. Swung under tension, MOAL leeches feature fantastic movement and solid hook ups.
Designed and pioneered by American guide and industry sales rep, Derek Fergus, the MOAL features an ingenious combination of a short shank hook for a forward foundation, coupled with a loop of braided line for a core wrapped with cross cut rabbit strips. Upon looking at his creation Derek christened it the Mother of All Leeches, hence the pattern’s MOAL moniker. Derek has also taken his “strung out” fly philosophy to other genres including dry flies and nymphs with equally impressive results. Derek’s unique design enables fly tiers to create exceptionally long articulated flies without the negative effects associated with long shank hooks. Compared to MOAL’s long shank flies are lifeless. In battle steelhead lever extended shank flies to their full and complete advantage. The MOAL’s supple core and short shank trailing hook make them tough to shake. MOAL hooked steelhead do not have long shanks to sway the skirmish in their favour. The small trailing hook also allows use of large flies in regions where hook gape restrictions may be in place.
At first MOAL’s seem tricky to tie but after a couple of attempts the process is easily figured out. To begin, place two fly tying vises in tandem, one behind the other approximately 3.5 inches apart. For longer MOAL’s increase the vise spacing or decrease the distance for micro MOAL’s. C-clamp style work best for holding the braided core in place during construction. Pedestal base vises can be a source of frustration as they tend to wander around the tying bench. Some vise styles do not allow the distance for the rear vise to grab the trailing hook. In these instances use a loop of backing to allow working distance between the vises while maintaining tension on the Spectra Braid core.
For an average MOAL take about 6 inches of Spectra Braid, Dacron backing or any one of the braided super lines such as Spider Wire. Make sure to use a good pair of cutters or sacrificial scissors when working with these braided lines. Place the tag ends of the braid together forming a long narrow loop. Take the loop end and slide it through an up eye octopus hook. Pull the hook through the braided loop joining them together in loop to loop fashion. Consider the fly design and how it swims as the hook can be inserted to ride point up and snag free. For Gary’s Halloween MOAL slide a large bead or cone onto a short shank ring eye hook. Avoid using expensive hooks as the bend and point will be removed. Insert the tag ends of the braided line through the rear of the bead and through the hook eye. Take the tag ends back along the shank back through the bead, doubling the braid along the shank. Attach the tying thread behind the bead or cone and secure the braid along the shank and trim the tag ends. Apply a coating of brushable Fisherman’s Glue or Zap-A-Gap for added security. Place the small octopus hook into the jaws of the trailing vise or if necessary use a backing loop to extend the working distance while ensuring the braided core remains taut.
With the hook and braid foundation complete take a section of cross cut rabbit and trim away ¼ inch of hair from the hide. About one hook length up from the trailing hook trap the trimmed hide tag between the braided core strands. Make sure the rabbit strip is positioned so the fur flows back. Apply a thin coating of Zap-A-Gap or Fisherman’s Glue to the hide tag. Pinch the hide tag back against the main hide for a few seconds cementing them together. Take care not to bond yourself in the process. Palmer the rabbit strip forward in close touching turns to the rear of the bead. Tie off and trim the excess. Pull the rabbit tightly while palmering to ensure a durable fly. Use the other hand to support the body as it is wound forward. The braided core may be coated with Super Glue prior wrapping for additional durability. There is a risk however of stiffening the MOAL. Adding Flashabou lateral lines provides an attractive shimmer. Dub a small section of rabbit fur behind the bead to conceal and protect the finishing wraps. Whip finish and apply head cement. Remove the MOAL remove from both vises and cut the hook bend and point from the front hook using a pair of side cutters. The completed MOAL may seem stiff. Don’t worry, once wet the MOAL becomes its supple slender seductive self.
MOAL’s have a myriad of configurations. The Halloween MOAL features a hot orange butt. Butts are easy to construct, typically occupying 1/4 to 1/3 the overall length of the fly. Once the butt is complete use the Super Glue and pinch method to tie off the excess, no thread is needed. Add the second color rabbit strip in the same manner as the butt and finish the MOAL. The braided core can also be tied on using traditional tying methods. Some tie along the braid core using dubbing loops to form their rabbit fur bodies. This technique works well for Chernobyl sized MOAL’s as the rabbit hide does not add unnecessary weight, an added bonus at the end of a day’s casting. Adding hen saddle pectoral fins and a spun and clipped deer hair head to an olive body black butt MOAL creates an impressive sculpin. Dubbing loops can also be used with other materials such as marabou or grizzly marabou. Small grizzly marabou MOAL’s make fantastic leech or baitfish patterns. Try blending Polar Chenille in with the rabbit for subtle highlights throughout the fly or finishing the MOAL with a schlappen hackle. Tiny rattles can even be integrated. Rattles provide audio attraction while providing internal buoyancy augmenting fly movement. To add a rattle sandwich it between the braided strands near the rear of the front hook. Bind the rattle in place with tying thread and coat with Super Glue. Continue building the MOAL from there.
Fly tyers are always encouraged to think outside the box. MOAL’s are not just for steelhead. Other fish love MOAL’s too. The MOAL concept has a wide range of applications for the innovative fly tyer. By adjusting materials and overall fly size a host of opportunities becomes apparent including leeches, baitfish patterns even damsel nymphs.
1) Take approximately 6-inches of Spectra Braid or Dacron and fold it in half forming a narrow loop at one end. Slide the narrow loop through the eye of a short shank octopus style hook. Bring the octopus hook back up through the Spectra braid securing it to the hook loop to loop fashion.
2) Slide a hot orange bead onto a short shank ring eye hook. Slide the tag ends of the Spectra Braid loop through the rear of the bead. Insert the tag ends through the hook eye back along the shank and through the front of the bead. The tag ends should be pointing back out of the rear of the bead when finished. Place the front hook into the jaws of the vise. With the bead tight against the hook eye start the tying thread directly behind the bead. Bind the tag ends securely along the shank, trim the excess. Coat the shank with Zap-A-Gap or brushable Fisherman’s Glue for added security. Leave the tying thread hanging at the rear of the bead. Set up a second vise about 3.5 inches behind the vise holding the short shank hook. Place the rear hook into the jaws of the vise. Adjust the distance between the 2 vises so the Spectra Braid is tight. If the vise configuration does not permit the hooks to be secured easily a loop of fly line backing held in place by the rear vise can be used to support the trailing hook as is shown here.
3) Take a section of hot orange cross cut rabbit trim ¼ inch from the end where the rabbit flows back away from the front of the fly. Insert the trimmed end between the Spectra Braid strands approximately 1 shank length forward from the eye of the rear hook.
4) Apply Zap-A-Gap or brushable Fisherman’s Glue to the back side of the trimmed tag. Fold the tag back against the main hide around one strand of the Spectra Braid core and pinch together to secure. Be careful not to bond yourself to the rabbit strip.
5) Using tight wraps palmer the hot orange rabbit strip forward forming a butt that occupies approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of overall fly. Coat the hide of the butt material at the tie off point with Zap-A-Gap or brushable Fisherman’s Glue. Pinch the hide against itself bonding it to the Spectra Braid core. Trim the excess rabbit strip.
6) Prepare, insert and sandwich the black cross cut hide in the same manner as the hot orange butt material. Apply Zap-A-Gap or brushable Fisherman’s Glue to the back side of the tag and pinch back against the main hide securing it in place. Palmer the black rabbit strip in tight close touching turns forward onto the front hook to the rear of the bead. Tie off and trim the excess rabbit hide.
7) Tie in 2 strands of Flashabou or Superflash along the sides of the fly. Dub a thin covering of black rabbit fur from the cross cut strip behind the bead to conceal and protect the thread. Whip finish and apply head cement. Remove the hooks from both vises. Using a pair of side cutters remove the bend and point from the front hook.