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DC's Deuces Wild Leech

Click here for the DC's Deuces Wild Leech recipe and tying sequences.
By Dennis P. Collier

I love leeches because fish love leeches and I love catching fish! The fact that I caught one of the largest trout I've ever caught on a Deuces Wild Leech might have something to do with my devotion to these ancient surgical instruments. That fish was approaching the thirty-inch mark and weighed a good ten pounds; taken at dusk during a blizzard hatch of Caenis mayflies on a Wyoming impoundment in July, 2011. Unfortunately, it was dark by the time I landed the beast and my fishing partner was preoccupied with a fish of his own, so we didn't get photos. You'll just have to take my word for it while I hold the memory rights.

I've been fishing leech patterns for several decades, but the idea for this particular fly came after a fellow angler on the same Wyoming lake, claimed that he had been catching fish on a four- inch-long black leech pattern. When extended, leeches can stretch to more than six inches, but I had never fished a fly that length and certainly didn't have anything even approaching that size in my fly box.

That all changed as soon as I got back home from the trip; but after tying and experimenting with a single strip of black Zonker rabbit, I still wasn't satisfied that I was getting the slender profile and wriggling action I really wanted out of the fly. Then it struck me that strips of micro squirrel might be the answer – and if one was good, two might even be better! I actually think the two strips of squirrel mimic the amorous antics of a pair of love sick hermaphroditic annelids.

As previously mentioned, that monster Wyoming cuttbow was porposing along the surface at the time, gorging on an insect buffet. Caenis mayflies in unbelievable masses were hatching, along with Callibaetis mayflies; Pale Evening Duns; cinnamon sedges, damselflies, and another blizzard hatch of small chironamid. The air was literally so thick with bugs it was difficult to breathe. As one might expect, fish – lots of them, and many of bragging size – were cruising the surface eating something, but just what was impossible to tell. Matching the hatch was not a part of the equation.

It finally occurred to me that a different tactic might work. Using my four-inch-long Deuces Wild Leech I began casting a few feet ahead of a fish when it broke the surface, and on a path that would hopefully intercept the target. It was also my hope that the huge fly – which represented an abundant protein source for the resident trout – would trigger the opportunistic predatory response and result in "fish on!" It obviously worked on this big cuttbow as well as several other trout of slightly lesser proportion.

I first started tying the Deuces Wild Leech as a tube fly, but have since adapted the imitation to a long shank hook – TMC's 9395 in this case – and start the tails about mid-section, thus moving the hook point a little further back in the profile. I also now tie the pattern with X-small painted lead eyes to add a visual trigger point for the fish to key in on – this at the suggestion of fishing buddy, Curt Bachel. This discourages tail end short strikes as well, so give this a try if you find that you're missing a lot of fish on the hit.

Another method of dealing with short strikes is to use the saltwater "strip strike" instead of the upward rod arcing "trout strike" which will launch the fly into orbit behind you. Many times a fish will hit a leech to injure the creature without actually taking it deep into the mouth. You'll feel a hit, and when you strike nothing will be there. When this happens, discipline yourself to use a short strip strike, which will keep the fly in the same vicinity as the fish. Allow the fly to sit for a few seconds, as if wounded, then on the next strip hold on to your rod, as a fish will often times come back and smack the leech, offering a hook up.

One important consideration when tying and fishing this pattern is to bend the hook shank slightly upward at the front end and add several wraps of lead wire – or lead or bead chain eyes if you prefer. Equally important; attach the hook to the leader with a loop knot – such as the Non- slip Mono Knot – the front weighted fly will then undulate up and down with a very enticing action during the retrieve.

I especially like my good friend, Charlie Craven's take on leeches, provided in his "Entomology 101" course – which came from the cajoling of another mutual friend. I quote in part: "Leeches might come in a few flavors, but I always imagine them as liver flavored which probably has something to do with their color. I would have called them the 'crap fly' myself, because I don't really care for liver. But all these things were named well before I came along. Maybe Dennis Collier was around back then, but I certainly wasn't." Words of wisdom spoken by someone who knows his fishing stuff. I don't care for liver either, nor am I going to taste test a leech to find out what they do taste like; it's just a good thing the fish don't share that opinion.

One day, while visiting my favorite fly shop – Charlie's Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado – I ran into a widely recognized manufacturer's rep and film maker who works for a major fly rod company. When he was shown the Deuces Wild Leech, he exclaimed "this fly has steelhead written all over it!" As a consequence I have tied some in purple as well, just in case I get the opportunity to go "chromer hunting" sometime in the future. Keep in mind that blue and purple are two of the most visible colors to fish, so don't discount it for other trout species as well. Otherwise, I tie the fly in the colors currently available in Hairline's selection of pre-cut, full micro squirrel skins. Black, Dark brown, Olive, and Crawdad hues occupy most of the dividers in my fly box.

The first DC's Deuces Wild Leech incorporated a palmered body of rabbit fur spun in a dubbing loop and I still tie a few of this style for variety. However, when I was introduced to Senyo's Shaggy Dub the mental gears started grinding and I was soon using a mixture of Shaggy Dub and African Goat hair (Angora goat) to create a soft, air trapping body with movement to compliment the squirrel tails. I mix the two materials in a mini-coffee grinder, and after some experimentation with a number of dubbings – many of which would "pill" in the blending action – I came to the final conclusion that the goat hair provided the best material cohesion without the pilling problem. I highly recommend using this approach, otherwise the Shaggy Dub is a pain to handle and get distributed into your dubbing loop. I offer images of both body types in the fly pattern link on this web page.

Leeches are most active during the low light levels of early morning, evening, and heavily overcast days. They are also typically found in the shallow littoral zones of stillwater environs where they lurk in the sub aquatic vegetation. One preferred method of fishing leeches is to float parallel to the shore and cast almost to the water's edge. Then, short strips add the undulating motion of the natural. In most instances, I will have my leech attached to very stout Fluorocarbon leader material of no less than 1X, most often 0X, to prevent breaking off big fish that literally crush the fly. To me, there's only one thing better than an arm jarring streamer strike, and that's the one that nearly rips the rod from your hand on a leech strike.

When fishing the Deuces Wild Leech in moving waters, I add a tungsten bead or two in front of the fly to get it down to the fish. Leeches reside in many, if not all, of our larger western watersheds, and I've collected samples in the Colorado, Yampa, White and North Platte rivers, to name a few. Keep this fact in mind next time you want to wake Ol' Walter from his slumber. Just be sure to ramp up on the tippet size!

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