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The Marvelous Mara-Blonde
By Joe Cornwall
I am a great fan of the late Tom Nixon. I wasn’t always. In fact, for many years I remained uncommitted – until I had the great fortune to meet and speak with the warm water master at a fly fishing conclave in Baton Rouge one wonderful Saturday in January many years ago. At the conclave I saw dozens of Tom’s unusual flies, patterns tied by his own hand. I came to understand – in one timeless, breathless moment – that his flies are most certainly classic American folk art and that Tom Nixon was an artist with amazing insight. He saw merit many fish that the established sports overlooked as lesser, or coarse. I feel in my bones a kindred rebelliousness and know this was a man who seldom tied a “trout” fly. Tom Nixon tied fishing flies; which species bit them wasn’t relevant.
Erik Andreasson, like so many of the readers of Fly Fish Ohio, carries a bit of the flame of this rough fish torch. A self-taught fly tier and self-professed coarse fisherman, Andreasson lives in Sweden where he fishes primarily for perch, pike, zander (a close cousin of the walleye) and eel. While trout are a treat, Erik is truly a warm water fisher at heart… even if very little of the water in Sweden can ever be called warm!
The Mara-Blonde is a scaled-down, marabou dressed interpretation of Joe Brooks’ famous Blonde. Erik ties the Mara-Blonde as a still-water panfish solution. I love it when a fly surprises me, and a fly for perch always comes as a surprise in a sport populated with 137 trout-centric dressing variations to imitate E. subvaria alone! Says Andreasson, “I use this fly primarily for perch fishing in lakes. My favorite colors are [sparse] black over blue or black over green.” The body of the Mara-Blonde is specified as silver tinsel or braid and the tail as white marabou. The fly is tied on a ringed eye 1XL hook in size 6 and 8.
A small, easy-to-tie, minimalist minnow imitation spiced with the inherent action of soft, mobile materials is a staple of nearly every fresh water fly box. Just look at the number of boxes that have a woolly bugger or two tucked in the corners for proof of this. And for perch, whether yellow or white, the need for a minnow imitation that suspends and which can be worked slowly without losing inherent action is central.
There is another great game fish that places this same demand on our fly selection. The strawberry bass demands its offerings be fished slowly, sometimes motionlessly. Heavy stringers often require glacial retrieval speed, a controllable slow sink-rate, translucency and inherent motion. I am referring to one of the most popular game fish in North America and one of the most popular table fish too. In the world of fillets I’m not sure, when they’re .served hot and steaming straight from the frying pan, which makes the better meal; the perch or the crappie. But from the moment I first saw it the Mara-Blonde simply’ screamed “Calico Bass” at me!
There are a lot of ways to go about tying a Mara-Blonde. The originator suggests a ring-eye streamer hook and goes on to warm about occasional tail fouling. That unfortunate shortcoming can easily be eliminated by the choice of the correct hook. But the best hook won't be found in most fly shops of fly fishing supply catalogs. That's because it's not normally seen as a fly fishing hook - but it should be! This is a very, very useful hook for many patterns and you'll see it again and again on this site. The hook I'm referring to is the Mustad 10546BLN Drop Shot hook.
Coming soon... step-by-step tying instructions and a profile of a very unique and useful hook for the fly fishing enthusiast!
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