By Nick Simonson
Alright, it’s time for some meat; big honkin’ flies for big honkin’ fish, right? Hungry nighttime brown trout, aggressive prespawn smallmouth, anything with an appetite for destruction this spring will be looking for something more than the diminutive nymphs and dries tied up so far this winter. Now’s the time to bulk up that bass box or crank out some beefier flies for those big trout in spring and fall, and thanks to an unsung feather on the pheasant pelt, one can get at least half a dozen bold, bulky streamers from a single bird.
The conehead marabou streamer is a marvel of movement in the water. When stripped fast or popped along with a twitch of the rod tip, its body materials pulse with lifelike action that is an instinctive dinner bell to any predator fish. The neat thing about this fly is that it imitates many big forage items: from a darting dace, to a scooting crayfish to an undulating leech. Thanks to a variety of fringes on pheasant marabou feathers, they can be crafted to match the desired tint of the food source as well. Tie a bunch up and see which particular pattern the big bass or bruiser browns like on a particular flow.
Hook: 3XL Streamer, Size 2-6
Thread: Black 3/0
Bead: Medium Brass Conehead
Weight: 10 Wraps Lead Wire
Tail: Pheasant Marabou
Body: Pheasant Marabou
Collar: Long Pheasant Rump Feather
Start the fly by threading a cone head on the shank of the hook and placing it in the vise. Secure the cone in place by adding ten wraps of lead wire to the shank and sliding it up behind the cone head so everything is flush with the hook eye. Secure the lead with multiple thread wraps, and then advance the thread to the bend of the hook (1).
Select a pinch of marabou feathers, found underneath either side of the green-and-orange rump feathers of a rooster pheasant skin and tie them in to form the tail of the fly (2). The tail should be about the same length as the hook shank, to discourage short-striking of the final version. Repeat the feather selection process for the body, evenly distributing the next pinch of marabou around the hook shank and securing the marabou feathers securely to form the back of the body (3). Select another pinch and finish out the body, leaving about half-a-cone-head worth of space for the collar (4).
Select two long rump feathers from the pheasant pelt with a little bit of mottling for color and variation on the pattern and strip away the fuzz from the end of each one. Tie the first feather in by the tips with the fibers swept upward (5). Wrap the feather around the open area behind the cone head twice to start the collar, gently stroking the feather fibers backward over the body, before securing and trimming the excess (6). Repeat the process with the second feather (7). Once the second portion of the collar is completed, secure the feather, trim the excess, whip finish and add a drop of head cement (8). The fly is ready for that first trip of the season!
When spring arrives, work these patterns aggressively around known smallmouth haunts like rip-rap, timber, docks and other structure for some truly violent takes and the incredible aerial battle that ensues, or get to those holdover trout on an area lake and give them something big to take. Vary the retrieves and give a little pause here and there to trigger a reaction strike if things are a bit cooler but watch for that first warm-up when fish are on the feed and looking to slam a streamer. This one will fit the bill.
(Featured Photo: The cone head marabou streamer is a bulky fly that can be modified thanks to the various colors of trim on the pheasant marabou feathers used to make it. Simonson Photo)