By Nick Simonson
Looking for another beefy pattern to throw to those hungry springtime pike or a succulent streamer to slap in front of a prespawn bass? Look no further than this week’s fly. The bunny leech is so easy to tie and so effective to fish that Minnesota has outlawed it. Just kidding, but the way it fishes – and catches fish – it feels like they should. Its subtle shimmy and ability to pause indefinitely in the water column makes it to fly fishing what the Yamamoto Senko is to standard bass fishing, plus for those first openwater pike of the year, it’s an easy target for them to take in cool, clear backwaters. Typically coming in packs of three, the magnum rabbit strips should produce half a dozen of these flies to help fill any big fish box quickly!
Hook: Mustad 3407 Size 2 to 4/0
Thread: 3/0 Red
Tail: Magnum Rabbit Strip on Mono Platform
Body: Palmered Magnum Rabbit Strip
Before tying, select the appropriate-sized hook for the species that will be targeted with this streamer. For smallmouth bass, downsize to a size 2 or 1, for largemouth and pike anything from 1/0 to 4/0 will fit the bill. You really can’t make it too big for these larger predators but be certain your fly rod can whip it out there, as the tail doesn’t make it the most aerodynamic offering. If you’re going for muskies with a bunny leech, consider a hook in the 5/0 to 6/0 range – but you’re going to need a 12-weight fly rod to chuck it.
Secure the hook in the vise and start the thread, covering the hook shank (1). Tie in a loop of strong monofilament on the top of the hook shank so the loop hangs out over the bend (2). For smaller hooks, go with 20-pound test, for bigger ones go with 30. This platform will help keep the tail horizontal in the water, giving the fly that life-like, subtle shimmy that drives bass and pike mad.
Select a rabbit strip and measure out a tail that is three times as long as the hook shank and tie it in with five or six secure thread wraps just in front of the monofilament loop, being certain that the rabbit strip tail is resting on top of its support platform (3). Make a few thread wraps in front of the tie-in point and then advance the thread to a point about one hook eye length behind the hook eye (4).
Next, palmer the rabbit strip around the hook shank, while stroking the hairs back toward the tail with each wrap, making certain that they don’t get caught under the next adjacent wrap. Continue the process up to the point where the thread is hanging (5). Secure the rabbit strip with five or six tight wraps of thread and trim off the excess before tying down the remaining nub with some additional thread wraps (6). Build up a small head with the thread behind the hook eye before whip finishing. Add a drop of head cement to secure everything in place – especially for those big pike versions that will be subject to sharp teeth – and the fly is complete (7).
This is just the basic offering in a natural color. Rabbit strips are available in countless hues, and it’s easy to trim a white strip off after tying in the tail and palmering in a red strip for the body. Add in cone heads, lead eyes, or other accents up front, especially for smallies down in the rocks, and a marabou or bucktail collar in an accent color will also make the pattern more versatile. Krystal flash or magnum flashabou accents tied in under the tail can help add some pizazz to get the attention of predators. Make the fly your own or adjust to what the fish tell you!
Fish the bunny leech slowly in the cold waters of spring. Let it undulate in the water and the tail will work its magic, much like a plastic stick does for bass. As backwater bays warm up and fish get more aggressive, strip it, rip it, twitch it and pause it in various cadences for ferocious strikes from both pike and bucketmouths. Hit them back with an angled strip-set and make sure the rod matches the quarry for best success!
(Featured Photo: Add a conehead on smallmouth-sized bunny leeches, or tie in some bright marabou to catch the attention of pike. Make the fly your own! Simonson Photo)