Mitch Moyer’s Unbalanced Leech
Mitch Moyer is a local fly tyer and flyfisherman, having grown up in the Milwaukie area. In his early years he spent countless hours catching all kinds of fish on the Willamette River and he’s got to be the only person I know who caught his first steelhead on Johnson Creek.
He started fly tying when he was nine years of age and sold his first flies at age 10. Like most of us Mitch spent lots of years honing his craft by duplicating the designs of other well-known tyers. Today he is focused on creating original fly patterns and says he now fishes his own patterns 100% of the time. Mitch spends lots of time testing out his patterns and tweaking the designs. He recently got back from a two-week trip to the waters of the Cascade Lakes area of Central Oregon field testing his patterns. And, as of this writing, he is scheduled for another two week trip to the same area for a repeat. It’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it!
You can find some examples of Mitch’s flies and the fish he has caught with them on his Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/headless_flyfisherman7/?hl=en . You really should check out this link because he catches a lot of fish… a lot of big fish.
Mitch goes by the business name “The Headless Flyfisherman”. The name apparently originates back to his childhood when his brother, either by design or through lack of good photography skills, often cut off Mitch’s head in photos of him holding fish. The tradition continues today because, philosophically, Mitch says the photos are not about him but about the fish and about the flies. So you won’t find any of his photos showing his face, hence “The Headless Flyfisherman”.
I was sitting in at a Tyer’s Table session on a Saturday morning at The Royal Treatment watching Mitch Moyer work his magic at the vise. He showed everyone a fly that he said had been very productive for him the past season, including on the Owyhee River. When I mentioned that I would be traveling to the Owyhee on an annual outing with other Clackamas Flyfishers, he tossed me one of his “Unbalanced Leech” flies and told me to give it a try. So I did and it turned out to be a winner. The area had recently experienced a major weather event that really put the fish down. All of the impressive insect hatches that we had seen in previous years were nonexistent. After a day and a half of not touching a fish I remembered the Unbalanced Leech and thought what the heck I might as well give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised when I quickly landed a 22+” brown and followed it up the next day with a 19” brown. I went back to camp and tied up some more Unbalanced Leeches to share with other members of our group. On a trip where we all really struggled, four members of our group ended up having success with the fly.
The Unbalanced Leech is what could be called a “minimalist” design. Lots of streamers are large and often quite flashy. Mitch says that sometimes “less is more” in designing fly patterns. The Unbalanced Leech is relatively unimpressive looking and easy to tie by streamer standards. But it has a lot of movement and Mitch says that is the key to successful streamer patterns. All I know is the fly catches fish. Besides having success on the Owyhee, I have also caught rainbows and browns on East Lake and Wickiup Reservoir on various colors of the Unbalanced Leech pattern this season, so I can honestly say the fly is effective on both rivers and still waters.
Join us at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, Sept. 25th for our next Fly Tying Night. It will be a great opportunity to learn from the master as Mitch Moyer has volunteered to lead us during an evening of tying up his Unbalanced Leech. We’ll try to tie the pattern in more than one color so bring a variety of colors of thread like black, olive, and tan. As always we will be starting at 6:00 pm. Hope you can join us!