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Working with Marabou: A Fly Tying 101 Guide

Marabou is one of the most popular fly tying materials. It’s used for tails, wings, collars, and bodies. You’ll find it on trout flies, salmon flies, bass flies and even some saltwater applications. The soft and silky fibers of a marabou feather create incredibly lifelike movement in the water.

But like so many fly tying materials, you’ll be faced with choices. One type of marabou simply wouldn’t do for all pattern types. We like to make things complicated, don’t we? Here at the shop, you’ll have to choose from Wooly Bugger marabou, strung marabou, blood quill marabou, select marabou, prime marabou and barred marabou.

But don’t worry. There are actually some pretty simple distinctions between each marabou product. We’ll do our best to point you in the right direction as to which one serves which purpose. And in case you missed it, go back and check out similar discussions on chicken feathers, dubbing, chenille and thread.

Marabou feathers once came from an African stork of the same name. These days however, marabou comes from domestic turkeys. These are the downy feathers from the underside of the bird. When you’re looking for movement in a fly, it’s hard to do any better than marabou. But use it sparingly. Too much marabou tied into a fly will actually restrict its movement and defeat the purpose.

For help with the different types of marabou, we turned to one of our in-house fly tyers, Johnnie Trujillo:


Wooly Bugger Marabou

“Woolly Bugger Marabou has shorter, less consistent fibers than the others,” Johnnie started off. “It’s great for tails on buggers and other small streamers as well as damsel flies and some leeches, but lacks the length for anything bigger. And it’s even uniquely used for buggy bodies on some saltwater shrimp patterns.”

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Think of wooly bugger marabou when you’re tying tails on those small streamers like wooly buggers, about size 8 and smaller.


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Select Marabou

Select marabou offers tyers the best available feathers,” Johnnie explained. “These have long quills and the tips of each feather are uniform and perfect. Select marabou is ideal for palmering collars and bodies on spey flies, as well as big streamers like the Knucklehead or Dirty Hippie.”


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Strung or Blood Quill Marabou

Blood quill marabou was the original marabou commercially produced for fly tyers. The “strung” refers to the way the feathers are packaged, sewn or strung together. These paintbrush-like plumes have a thin stem and long feathers, making them a great choice for all-around tying purposes. They make great tailing material. And they can be used for palmering (wrapping) collars or bodies.

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“Strung marabou is really a mixed bag,” Johhnie said. “The feathers are shorter on average than the select. This is great for tying streamers that call for both palmering marabou and tied in tails, like the Circus Peanut and Peanut Envy.”

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You’ll need to sort through strung marabou to find what you need. But for tyers who find themselves using marabou for a variety of purposes, a pack of strung marabou can be a versatile choice.


Prime Marabou

“Think of prime marabou like select, but with even longer quills,” Johnnie told us. “These are ideal for palmering thick collars on big streamers”


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Barred Marabou

Barred marabou is about the pattern,” Johnnie added. “When you need a mottled appearance, a barred feather can really give a different look to any pattern.”


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Contact Us with Questions

If you have questions about marabou or any fly tying material, please come see us at the fly shop in Littleton or give us a call at 303-794-1104. We’d love to help you find the materials or tools you need to get started.

As a reminder, we offer free shipping on all online orders. Or, you can opt for same-day curbside pick up here at the shop.