50 Pheasant Flies: The Teeny Leech

By Nick Simonson


The beauty of the Teeny leech is in its simplicity.  Designed by renowned fly angler Jim Teeny for trout, panfish and everything in between, this two-material fly, which is about 90 percent pheasant tail (PT) fibers, pulses with each twitch of the rod and falls slowly through the water column like a little leech swimming and struggling along.  As a result, fish have no problem snapping it up.  Relatively simple to tie, filling a fly box with natural versions or egg-sucking options (using orange, chartreuse or red thread instead of brown) shouldn’t take long, and the PT fibers make it another versatile pattern derived from the ringneck pheasant.

Hook: 2XL Nymph, Size 8-12
Thread: Brown 6/0
Tail: 8-10 PT Fibers
Body: 8-10 PT Fibers
Underwings: 8-10 PT Fibers
Ribbing: Fine Ultrawire


Start by tying in a set of PT fibers for the tail, which should extend back about one half of the hook length (1).  Next tie in another set of PT fibers by the butts and a two-inch length of fine copper wire and advance your thread to the midpoint of the hook shank (2).  Wrap the PT fibers forward to where your thread hangs, forming the abdomen of the leech.  On your last wrap, secure the fibers so that the tips are pointing down and back on the fly and match up in length with the tips of the fibers in the tail (3).  Then wrap the copper wire forward in the opposite direction to secure the fibers some more and add a little weight and flash.  Tie off and trim at the midpoint (4).

From there, tie in another clump of PT fibers by the butts and wrap them forward in the same manner as you did with the abdomen, tying off the final wrap with the tips forming another underwing which points down and back (5).  Check to see that when the tips of each set of fibers are folded back, they match up with the length of the tail. It doesn’t have to be exact, but the uniformity gives it a great profile.

Form a small thread head with a few extra wraps so it is about even in width with the front portion of the body (6).  Whip finish, trim the thread and add a drop of head cement for posterity and the Teeny leech is finished (7).  You can vary this fly by adding a bead head for weight and flash, or using a fluorescent-colored thread to create the egg-sucking version, which is a popular variation for Great Lakes steelhead when spring flows are low, or near the tail end of their spawning run.

The Teeny leech is a great all-purpose fly and good in clear waters.  Its generally edible appearance fools trout in streams and bluegills and crappies in a variety of slow-moving rivers and lakes.  Work it on a sinking or sink-tip fly line to get it down in the water column, and bring it up on the retrieve with a series of small twitches and pauses. Odds are if you’re on fish, you won’t get it all the way back in without a take.

(Featured Photo: The feathery tips of pheasant tail fibers give the Teeny leech its undulating power which draws fish in for a bite. Simonson Photo)

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