Why Every Fly Box Needs a Balanced Leech

You’re here reading this thinking, “what the heck is a balanced leech?” I’m sure you’re familiar with the prototypical leech pattern. However, the balance leech is somewhat of a special, almost miraculous fly. The difference between your ordinary, run of the mill leech pattern and the “sent straight from Jesus” balanced leech is the eye placement on the hook. This beautiful bloodsucker has its eye facing downward, at a 90 degree angle. Thus, when you tie it onto the end of your line it will sit completely balanced and straight in the water. Much like a teenager in 2014, attempting to set a Guinness World Record planking time.

Now, I am not going to explain how to tie one of these delightful devils. If you want to learn how, check out this fly tying tutorial by Kootenay Kid. Although I tie mine slightly different, his instructions will give you a great deal of knowledge and understanding on the basics of tying this fly.

Out with it already, right? What makes these flies undeniably triumphant? Why does my box NEED a balanced leech. I’ll tell you in one word, versatility. This fly can be used in almost any situation and be successful. It’s the first fly I put on in a lake, and its just as deadly in the river. Seriously, this fly would be my first choice fishing in any water, for any species. This even includes species I am not familiar with. Bass? Balanced leech. Dorado? Balanced leech. Arapaima? Balanced leech. A date with Anna Kendrick? You better believe it, a balanced leech.

Beyond getting you dates with supermodels, this fly will catch you some serious fish. Let’s start where this fly is most effective and how to fish it properly.


When lake fishing a balanced leech I like to fish it slightly shallower than I would with most other flies. This is because leeches are found higher in the water column, and therefore fish cruising for leeches would be look upward towards the surface. Look for drop offs, structure, and ledges to find the most action. Secondly, I fish balanced leeches under an indicator. These flies are not meant to be stripped in, but rather drift slowly along at the same pace as a typical leech would found in the lake. To get that beautiful drift, you’ll want a slight breeze to be coming over the lake. I tend to cast my fly in the opposite direction of the current caused by the wind. This allows the fly to drift at a consistent and slow rate. Once I have my fly in position, I mend my line in the opposite direction of my cast, which created a “C” shape in my line. This allows the wind to push my line and drag the fly at a good drift speed. Furthermore, that “C” shape allows for a quick hookset as my body and rod are set in a natural position of a roll cast. This means I can set the hook over my left shoulder, quickly and easily.

When your drift comes to an end, it’s a good idea to strip the fly in slowly. This may get those fish who are active to come chasing after the fly. I’ve caught several fish over the years stripping this fly into the boat or shore before recasting.

If you are finding less fish in the higher water column, move your fly right down to about one foot off the bottom. This can be a very good tactic in the summertime, when the water has become very warm towards the surface, driving the fish to the cooler depths. Continue using that slow drift motion and wait for an unsuspecting fish or actress to come by and show interest.


Oh, baby. This fly is something special when used in a river. Why? Because it can be used in situations where streamers might not be an option. Think about a slow, meandering brown trout creek. That lumbering 24 inch brown is sitting under the bank waiting for its next meal. You know throwing out that big streamer will cause that fish to pucker up tighter than your butthole when you hear the word commitment.

Beyond the slow winding brown trout creeks, a balanced leech can be tossed in any river, of any size. I’ve caught some of my biggest rainbows out of my hometown river on a balanced leech. When fishing bigger rivers, I still fish them under and indicator but with additional weight to get it down in the current. At the end of my drift I will tighten up my line and let the fly swing towards the shore. I’ve often gotten huge hits as those more active fish chase the more unnatural, faster movement of a swinging fly. Once the fly is close to shore, I will strip it in, drawing attention from those fish tucked close to the bank.

To conclude, every fly box needs, no wait, deserves a balance leech. Fill those boxes up with every color of the rainbow. Pink, blue, green, red, they all work. But, mostly fill them up with the staples, black and browns. Try different bead colors. Make them in different sizes. Have a Tacky Box stuffed with all variations of sizes and colors. From the lake to the river you will be happy you did yourself that favor, and gave in to the power of the balanced leech.

Balanced Lines! Thanks for reading…

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