Monday, February 15, 2016

Tying the John Deere Marabou Jig

Whenever I fish Bennett Spring or Montauk State Park, I always seem to have the best luck whenever I use the the John Deere Marabou Jig pattern. I first learned about this fly last May, when I was fishing with the Eckelkamp family at Bennett Spring. I had a lot of luck with it on that and several subsequent trips. I'd been meaning to learn how to tie my own and this week I finally buckled down, bought the materials, and taught myself how to tie this incredibly versatile fly. This is one of the most popular fly patterns in Missouri, and you can find it in pretty much any fly shop in St. Louis or near the Missouri trout parks. Both T. Hargrove's and the Ozark Fly Fishers have instructions on how to tie this particular fly but I thought I'd give a crack at explaining my experience with it.

A line of Deeres


This fly is fairly simple to tie, and even a novice (like me) should have no problem tying it, so long as you know the basics of locking in multiple materials and whip finishing. Not counting paint, this is a two material fly. Compared to some of the more complex emerger or dry fly patterns I've tied in the past, that seems like nothing. Furthermore, I'm tying these on a fairly large size #10 jig head hook, which seems like a monster compared to sizes #16 or #18. Here's a complete list of materials:
  • Hook: Size #18 Jig Head - Horizontal Presentation
  • Thread: Olive 8/0 UNI-Thread
  • Tail: Olive Marabou Fibers
  • Body: Olive Wooly Bugger Chenille, Medium (or Small)
  • Head: Acrylic Paint, Green Head, with a Large Yellow Eye
Your first step, and perhaps the only tricky step with this fly, is to paint the head of the hook. Now, this head is going to be two colors, so my advice is to paint several hooks before moving on to traditional materials. It's tedious to have to let the paint dry before moving on to the next step, so you might as well tie a bunch of these at once and get the boring head-painting out of the way first.

John Deere Jig Step One - Painted Head

I painted several hook heads green, let them dry, and then moved on to paint the large, yellow eyes on each hook. I used acrylic paint, and as you can imagine, you're only painting a very small jig head, so a minuscule amount of paint goes a long way. I bought mine, along with the brushes, for about $1 per bottle at JoAnn Fabric. I didn't worry too much about getting paint in the hook eye, and just used a needle to clear the eye once the paint had dried.

Acrylic Paint

Once your paint is dry, you can begin with starting your olive thread behind the head, and adding a base layer of thread all the way down to the bend of the hook. Once there, you're going to tie in your marabou fibers for the tail. I found marabou surprisingly tricky to work with. The feather fibers are incredibly airy, and I accidentally blew them off of my tying desk more than once when trying to get the head paint to dry. It seems that the end tips of the fibers have much finer barbs that at the base of the feather, and work better for the tail. That means that reusing the feathers for multiple flies can be tricky as you trim more and more material off the tip as you tie. I found that once the marabou material starting to change color as you approached the base of the feather, it was time to discard it.

John Deere Jig Step Two - Marabou Tail

Once your tail is tied in, you attach the chenille material at the bend of the hook right at the base of the tail. It does not take a lot of material here, maybe an inch per fly. I bought the medium thickness chenille, but I wish I had gone with the finer, small thickness. I'm in no way disappointed with how my flies look, I just prefer the smaller diameter chenille that I have on my store bought John Deere jigs. Once your chenille is tied in at the bend, wrap your thread back up to the head. In tight wraps, bring your chenille to the head also, making sure not to overlap yourself.

John Deere Jig Step Three - Chenille Body

Once you have the chenille at the head, lock it in with your thread, and trim any excess. Use your whip finish tool to complete the fly, and you'll be set to catch some trout in Missouri's parks.

Complete John Deere Jig

I'm excited to have a fly box full of these John Deere jigs, as they always seem to be the first fly I lose in a typical fishing day. I've read that applying a clear coat of fingernail polish can prevent paint chipping and extend the life of the painted head. I might need to raid my wife's collection of polish tonight and finish these flies off. I hope this was useful, and feel free to comment below if you have any questions about this pattern. Now please enjoy this animated .gif showing the main four steps of tying this fly.

John Deere Jig .Gif

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