The Bunny Leech is a pretty easy fly to learn how to tie. It’s also an incredibly effective pattern. To me, it’s one of the most versatile patters. Arguably even more so than the popular Wooly Bugger.
To increase its versatility, the Bunny Leech can be tied in various sizes and colors. Small size 8 variants in black and purple can imitate leeches swimming close to the bottom. Large size 1/0 and 2/0 flies can be used on saltwater species, such as Tarpon.
To target Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, I add brightly colored rubber legs behind the collar of my Bunny Leeches.
How To Tie a Bunny Leech
- Difficulty Level: Easy
- Tying Time: 7 Minutes
- Materials: Streamer hook, various colors of zonker strips, dubbing
- Hook Size: Size 2/0 – 8
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What Is A Bunny Leech?
A Bunny Leech fly is a leech imitating pattern. One of my favorite things about the fly is that it only requires two material types.
Once you are in the rhythm of tying them, you can pop one out under 5 minutes. You can’t beat a simple and effective fly that’s quick to tie.
Leeches frequent many water bodies, especially still waters and lakes. Predatory fish species, such as Trout and Bass, feed on these leeches. The Bunny Leech is also a very effective river fly. Tied in the correct colors, it works well on Steelhead and Salmon.
How To Fish The Bunny Leech
In a lake or stillwater, the Bunny Leech needs to be fished as close to the bottom as possible. During early mornings and late evenings, when fish are feeding in shallower water, this can be accomplished by making use of a long leader on a floating line.
During warmer times of day, fish tend to move into deeper water. Use a sinking line and short leader. When casting out and waiting for the fly to sink, count down the time it takes until you start retrieving the fly.
Vary the duration of the sink until you find how deep the fish are feeding.
On rivers, the Bunny Leech is a very effective pattern to swing. Make a cast 45-degrees down and across the river. Give one big upriver mend to allow the fly to sink. Then hold the line tight to feel for any takes.
Another effective method is to cast the fly to structure that might potentially hold fish. In many cases, fish react to the sound of the falling fly. Therefore, make sure that you are in immediate contact with your fly as it lands.
Regardless of the scenario where you’re fishing it, try to imitate a swimming leech with your retrieve. See the video below:
Materials You’ll Need to Tie A Bunny Leech
As mentioned, the basic Bunny Leech pattern requires very little material types.
Match the hook to your intended quarry. I love using a small Gamakatsu B10S for my Bunny Leeches. It’s incredibly strong and works well on large trout and bass (the fish that I mainly target with it).
I recommend tying the fly in hook sizes 2 – 8. If you are tying larger saltwater versions (like a Tarpon Bunny), ensure that you make use of strong hooks.
My choice of thread for this size and style of fly is Danville’s 210 Denier Flat Waxed Nylon. You can match the color of the thread to the fly or make use of accent colors to create trigger points.
One piece of zonker strip is used for the tail and overwing of the fly. For flies between size 2 – 8 I recommend using 1/8” zonker strips. For anything larger than that, make use of magnum zonker (1/4”).
You can play around with the color. The most popular colors include purple, brown, and black.
You can make use of many different material types here. Dubbing, chenille, body braid, etc. It’s really up to you. My personal favorite is a UV dubbing, that I comb out to the sides.
The collar is made from the hair cut off from a piece of zonker strip. Here, again, you can play around with the color. You can match that of the tail and wing, create a complimentary color, or create a hotspot.
To create the collar, we make use of a dubbing brush. This can be accomplished with either the dubbing loop or split thread techniques.
Although the step-by-step guide is showing how to tie an unweighted version of the Bunny Leech, you can add weight to the fly. This helps the fly sink and, depending on how you apply the weight, will give it more movement.
Methods to apply weight to the fly include a lead underbody, tungsten or brass beads and cones, or even a split shot crimped to the tippet.
Here are the basic tools you’ll need to tie the Bunny Leech Pattern. The UV light is optional as you can also simply allow your flies to dry in the sun.
Let's Get Started!
How To Tie a Bunny Leech
As mentioned earlier, the Bunny Leech is such a great fly because it only makes use of two materials. The only “advanced” technique used in this fly is spinning the dubbing brush for the collar.
Grey And Orange Bunny Leech Recipe
- Hook: Gamakatsu B10S size 6
- Thread: Fluorescent Danville Flat Wax 210 Denier
- Tail and wing: 1/8” Natural zonker strip
- Body: Tan or shrimp UV dubbing
- Collar: Orange zonker strip
Step 1: Place The Hook in The Vise
Remove a single hook from the packet or box. Holding it with your thumb and forefinger, place it between the jaws of the vice. Lock the cam of the vice to secure it in place.
Test that it is seated securely, you don’t want the hook to move unexpectedly when you’ve started tying.
Step 2: Lay a Thread Foundation
Place your chosen thread over the hook shank, make a couple of wraps. Then wrap back towards the tag end to secure the thread in place. Cut off the tag end.
Wrap the thread forward to just behind the hook’s eye. With touching turns, cover the hook’s shank while you move the back of the hook. Stop where the hook starts to bend.
Step 3: Prepare The Zonker Tail
Select a long, suitable zonker section. Comb back the hair in their natural direction with your fingers. Turn the zonker strip so that the leather part is on top.
Make a narrow V-shaped cut in the leather, while ensuring not to cut any of the hair fibers. This will be the back of the tail and the tapered edge makes the fly look much more natural.
Step 4: Measure & Place The Zonker Tail
Place the prepared zonker strip on top of the hook shank to measure the length. Ideally, it’s equal to, or slightly longer than the hook shank. Once you are satisfied with the length, split the hair fibers at the imaginary point where you will be tying the material in at.
Now transfer the tail to the back of the hook. Place the spot where you split the hair fibers right over the point where you left the thread.
Step 5: Tie On The Natural Zonker Tail
Tie in the zonker strip with 3 pinch wraps. Wrap the thread a couple more times around this point. Pick the tail up and pass the thread behind it once. Make another couple of wraps around the tying in point. The tail is now secure.
Pull the remainder of the zonker strip back and make about 5 tight wraps in front of it. This will soon become the wing of the fly.
Step 6: Dub The Body
With your chosen dubbing, dub a thick body to about ¼ of the hook shank length behind the eye of the hook. With a piece of Velcro or steel brush, comb out the fibers of the dubbing to the side of the fly.
This is going to help ensure that the feathers fall in a natural direction, helping the fly to look more authentic in the water.
Step 7: Tie In The Natural Zonker Wing
Pull the zonker wing that you left hanging at the back of the fly forward, over the dubbed body. While holding the zonker strip firmly in place, secure it with your tying thread.
Ensure that the wing is straight. Cut off the excess zonker material.
Step 8: Spin & Palmer The Collar
Depending on the size of the fly, the collar will be created by spinning zonker fibers in a dubbing loop or by using the split-thread technique.
After creating the dubbing brush, palmer it forward with touching turns. Leave a small gap between where the collar ends and the hook of the eye.
Step 9: Create The Head
Pull back any obtrusive material and pinch it between your thumb and forefinger. Create a neat and durable head.
The goal is to have a secure head with no frills or small feathers or threads hanging off of it. You want the head to appear natural both on the vise, and even more importantly, on the water.
Step 10: Finish The Fly
Whip finish the fly and cut off the thread. Apply your preferred head cement for added durability. Optionally, you can use a UV Light to help speed up the process of setting the glue, or you can just leave the fly in a sunny window.
With a small brush (like an old toothbrush or a piece of Velcro), comb the collar forward, and then backward. This will loosen any trapped fibers and make the fly look more natural.
The Bunny Leech
Now You Know
How To Tie a Bunny Leech
After tying the Bunny Leech a couple of times, you’ll get used to working with the materials. Also, mastering the dubbing brush technique (using either split thread or a dubbing loop), will open the door to various other flies.
I hope that you enjoyed tying this fly as much as I do. It will surely catch you many fish. Don’t be afraid to experiment by adding different materials and colors. For example, by adding small eyes on either side of the fly you’ll create an effective baitfish imitation.
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