The Conehead Combo


Return to Flies With a Story


Flies With a Story #66

"Off my vise the first night I tied the Conehead Combo came only two flies...."

Story and Fly By Peter Frailey, Westford MA

The original of this fly was designed by accident, as the shank was too long for the marabou feathers I was wrapping forward to make a simple marabou leech.  I pulled the conehead back to where I had been forced to tie off the marabou feathers.  This left me pondering what to do with the 1/4" of empty shaft that I had in front of the conehead.  The pattern below is what resulted.

This fly has served me well for three seasons.  It has become the staple early season fly for me and a couple of buddies with whom I have shared it.  The Combo represents a “combination” of patterns and creatures: leeches, nymphs, crawfish, streamers, buggers, and minnows, to name a few. The soft feathers of marabou and mallard, when combined with a conehead, allow this fly to sink fast and deep.  I think this is a major factor in the Combo’s success when the water is high and fast. 

Off my vise the first night I tied the Conehead Combo came only two flies, which I gave to my brother, to fish in June of 2002 on the then high and fast flowing Miller’s River in central Massachusetts during our annual fishing trip.  Those first two samples were tied in colors that are still my favorite Combo: olive marabou and a light olive dyed mallard .

My brother caught 18 rainbows that day, and I caught a dozen.  We fished opposite sides of the river and walked downstream in tandem for the best of the morning. I was quite cognizant of the fact that he was picking up an extra fish here and there, but discussing patterns with him over the sound of the current was impossible.

When we finished the stretch, and he walked across the downstream bridge to within ear-shot of me, I yelled to him, “whatdya catch ‘em on?” I was pleased to see him point to the Conehead Combo in his hook-keeper.  He had actually fished the fly the entire day!  Ironically, after breaking down his rod and storing the well-used fly on his vest fly-patch, that first fly somehow got dislodged and was lost as we walked through the woods to the car.  I think he was disappointed, but I told him to keep the second one as a memento.  I hope he still has it.

--Peter Frailey, April 2005


The Conehead Combo

Spring 2005: 18-inch brook trout taken on the exact
size 4 Conehead Combo pictured below

 Fly and Photos by Peter Frailey


Order of Assembly:

Hook: Streamer or nymph hook (2xl or longer), sizes 2-8
Conehead of appropriate size for hook.
Thread #1
: 3/0, color to match body
Tail and abdomen:
One or two marabou feathers, tied in tandem to create bugger-style tail.  Twist stems together and wrap forward to create abdomen.  Or twist and wrap each feather separately. Leave a few millimeters of bare shank behind conehead.
Marabou butts from above, applied in a dubbing loop behind the conehead.  Whip finish and snip off thread behind the conehead.
Thread #2:
3/0, same as thread #1 or switch to another color.  With fingers, force conehead rearward over the dubbed thorax, leaving a few millimeters of hook shank in front of conehead.  Attach thread and create a "ramp" of thread between the conehead and hook eye.  This will prevent the conehead from sliding forward and will provide a base of thread over which to wrap the collar hackle.
Mallard feather, three or four wraps, and tie off. I prefer to tie in by the tip and to wrap the feather by holding the thick stem.
Head: Create a head with the thread by wrapping back and forth over the base of the mallard feather fibers. This will help angle the barbs rearward.

Step-by-step instructions:

Large Combo: Sixteen step instructions for the fly pictured above can be found in the Fly of the Week section of


Medium Combo: Twelve step instructions for a slightly smaller Combo can be found here on


 copyright © Notice by All rights reserved. This material is for your personal enjoyment. Please obtain prior written permission from the author and before any other use.