Leeches are an important food element for many species of fish, including carp. I have several friends that catch a good majority of their carp every year on leech flies.
Up to now I have always gone with a black Zimmerman's Backstabber when I wanted a leech.
The Backstabber is a superb fly and super easy to tie, but I much prefer to catch fish on flies I have designed myself. As a result, I have been trying to come up with a leech of my own for over a year now. I have tied up at least 15 different ideas, and I hated them all the second they came off the vice. Unoriginal. Ugly. Too hard to tie. Doesn't behave right in the water. You name it, I have screwed it. What I needed was inspiration and that inspiration recently arrived when Pat Cohen from rusuperfly.com sent me a bunch of his new Carp Dub from Hareline.
Pat is one of my favorite on-line tiers because everything he ties has a high level of aesthetic artistry that is just beyond me. Don't get me wrong, I think my flies are pretty spiffy and they catch the snot out of carp, but there is just no way they are as artistic as Pat's for the simple reason I am not as artistic as Pat. So, when he sent me all that dubbing in the obvious hope that I would make something cool and carpy with it, I was a little overwhelmed and intimidated. On demand is NOT how the creative process works for me. It works in it's own good time, and for no apparent reason. If at all. I also felt a little pressure to make something worthy of Pat freaking Cohen. As a result I avoided my tying desk and the pile of carp dub on it for several days.
Finally yesterday I was walking by my desk when I happened to notice the "Northern Lights Black" looking at me funny. You know, kinda out of the corner of it's eye and I just had to stop and actually take a closer look. Pull a pinch out of the bag and feel it. Put it under a light and check out the color variation. "Micro-flash". "Niiiiiiiice". "squigglies". "Ummmm Hmmm". "Coarse but not TOO coarse. "Ohhhhhh yeah". Not really ideal for dubbing a tight body, but good for a buggy dub and PERFECT for a dubbing loop! Twenty minutes later this was sitting there on the table in front of me. Like magic. A leech I don't hate. A leech I like quite a bit. And I feel it.
So this was version 1.0 of a Headstand articulated leach with a Cohen's Carp Dub dubbing-loop-body trimmed for a lateral - almost spoon-like profile. Very sexy, but like I said above, pretty is not really my forte. What the fly does in the water is my thing and even as I was loving this fly I knew deep down that it would not do a head-stand as intended. I used the shank from a size 12 dry-fly hook and there is just not enough natural buoyancy in this dubbing to lift that.
Fortunately my subconscious was on the job as I slept. When I awoke this morning I knew exactly what I needed to do and hopped in the car for a quick run to the fly shop to get some tube tying stuff. You know. Stuff. Whatever the heck stuff you need to tie tube flies. After some consultation with David (one of my favorite shop guys because he is a born-again carper) and a quick buoyancy test in Anglers All's goldfish tank I bought this stuff:
Forty minutes later version 2.0 was off the vice and in the sink. It now had a tail built on a 3/8" long piece of small tube fly tubing attached to the hook with big fly thread. A quick dunk in the sink confirmed that version 1.0 (top fly below) flopped right over on it's side while version 2.0 (bottom fly below) did a decent (although not perfect) headstand.
Now I had a problem though. I was REALLY feeling this fly. Feeling it enough that I was going to be agitated until I got the chance to try it out. Fortunately today was a really nice day and by 2:00 I had a little time to run to the river for some quick on-the-water winter testing.
I had some good shots in the next two hours and learned some things.
First of all I am on the right track. I had at least 6 carp turn on the fly. For winter carpin it was a very very positive response.
Second of all I think the fly might need to be a smidge smaller for winter carpin on the South Platte. In other seasons and on other bodies of water I think it would be fine, but four of those carp lost interest in the fly after their initial positive reaction. In my experience, on the DSP that typically means that the fly is too big, being fished with too much movement or is too flashy. In this case I am going for just an eensy weensy bit too big.
And finally I learned that although I THINK I am on the right track, I KNOW that the fly will actually already work as-is because two of the 6 carp were more than happy to eat the dang thing! The first was a little guy but I don't care. The only feeling better than a winter carp is getting the stink off of a new pattern!
The second was a whole different story. Big. Real big. As a matter of fact if the second fish was just half a pound heavier I could have closed out 2013 the same way I closed out 2012. With a super-rare-for-me twenty!
Not a bad start for the Headstand Leech. Not a bad start at all, but as you may know a fly doesn't earn a quirky name, recipe and place on the favorite flies page around here until it proves itself worthy. Two carp does not worthy prove!