The Mighty Muddler
Saturday’s fly tying workshop at River Magic focused on the Muddler Minnow, probably the world’s most versatile
fly. It’s a must for all fly tyers to master, although a beginner would be well advised to conquer some simpler patterns
before attempting a Muddler. At the end of the day, all left the building with 3 fishable Muddlers of their own tying and
pride of achievement in their hearts.
The Muddler was originally designed
to imitate a freshwater sculpin. Since then it has truly become the universal fly, a fly that can catch virtually any sport
fish. A clipped deer hair head and hackle are essential features of any Muddler but the rest of the fly can vary in materials
and colors. Some popular color schemes are tan/gold, white/silver, purple/red, black/gold, and olive/gold. Often a bright
accent color, usually as a tail or butt, is added to the basic color schemes. A little Krystal Flash or Flashabou under the
wing can add sparkling and flash to the fly. The thread portion of the Muddler head may also be color-coordinated, usually
black or fluorescent red.
Muddler size can vary and it can be tied to fish wet,
dry or both. These variations enable the Muddler to imitate a minnow, a nymph, a stonefly, a caddis, and a terrestrial such
as a cricket, grasshopper, or moth. Late St. Mary’s River guide Bill Strople used to say that if he could only have
one fly, it would be a Muddler. Bill caught Atlantic salmon, brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, striped bass and mackerel
on Muddlers, with the White Muddler his favorite.
Our photo is a magnificent Mulgrave Muddler tied by Bob MacDonald for last year’s River Magic Fly Tying Championship.
He won 1st.
Streamer hook like the Mustad 9671 or 9762 hook, size 2, 4, 6, 8.
GSP 75 denier
Mottled turkey strips or brightly colored hackle fibers
FlatBraid, Holographic Mylar, or Diamond Braid Mylar tinsel
Mottled turkey, goose, or duck quill strips, marabou, calf or squirrel tail over 4 strands
of Krystal Flash. Any of these can be omitted in favor of a simpler wing.
Spun deer hair, natural or dyed
Clipped deer hair & thread finished with 2 coats of head cement.
Muddler Tying Tips:
1. The traditional Muddler has a feather
wing over a hair wing. If you are uncomfortable tying feather wing strips, just omit them. A hair wing, or marabou, or hair
over synthetic flash material wing will do just fine.
2. The Muddler hackle & head are
made from deer hair, with a thread portion just behind the hook eye.
Strong thread is recommended for spinning deer hair, especially
for tying a tight, durable fly.
Remember to reserve space on the hook shank, just behind the hook eye, for a neat little thread head. First tie in
& flare a bunch of deer hair with the natural tapered ends pointed backward, toward the tail of the fly, and the blunt
clipped ends pointing forward. Then tie in & flare a second bunch of deer hair with BOTH ends clipped.
3. When applying head cement to the
thread portion of the head, apply it BEFORE clipping the deer hair. The long deer hair is easy to hold out of the way so you
can cement the thread neatly.
4. If you followed tip 2, clipping the deer hair head is
easy. Simply trim all the blunt clipped hair and leave the natural tapered unclipped hair tips to form a nice collar hackle.
5. Don’t be in a rush tying if
you prefer a neat fly. If you like a nicely tied fly, you will likely have confidence in it and fish better than you might
fish an inferior fly. However, messy Muddlers will also catch fish if fished well, and some anglers prefer them rough.
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stay on the line …