Muddling Through - A hair spinning primer
Grizzly Muddler - designed by Phil Rowley
Hook: Daiichi 2220 #6-#12
Thread: MFC 8/0 or UTC 70, color to match overall pattern
Tail: Grizzly Marabou, color to match the natural forage fish
Body: Holographic Mylar, silver or gold
Over Body: Ice Blue Pearl Flashabou
Gills: Holographic Mylar, red
Collar: Natural or dyed deer hair
Head: Natural or dyed deer hair, spun and clipped to
Eyes: Molded Eyes, silver, gold or red
Tying Note: Use Goop adhesive to secure eyes in place.
There are a number of ungulate hairs suited to spun and clipped patterns but the best spinning hairs are coarse, spongy and soft. The stiff hairs of moose and bull elk are poor choices but antelope hair spins wonderfully and is considered by many to be the premium spinning hair. However, the broken tips characteristic of antelope limits its popularity. Caribou is another ideal candidate its only failing is its short average length. Cow elk hair is perhaps not as well known as bull elk but it also makes fine spinning hair.
Without question, deer body hair is the most widely used for spinning. Mule deer and whitetail are the two most popular families, but deer are as individual as humans and in addition to specific species a variety of factors such as the season when the animal was harvested, age, geographic region, sex, and diet all play a role in the hair’s suitability for spinning, as well as the location of the hairs themselves. When inspecting hair for spinning, its color can be a guide. Light grey hair tends to spin best, but there are always exceptions. This is a basic guideline. Leg or hock hair and the facial area feature fine hairs that are not suited for spinning. Save these hairs for wings and tails. Deer belly hair is a coarse underutilized hair that is ideal for spinning larger mouse or bass flies. Fly tiers are encouraged take advantage of the Internet, books and DVD’s to educate themselves about the characteristics and variety of hairs available for these patterns.
When tying Muddler style patterns featuring spun and clipped hair heads begin by keeping the front third of the hook clear of thread. Although some find spinning hair on a lightly thread or bare shank easier it is not a requirement for successful Muddler heads. Muddler patterns often feature wings, collars and gills, so spinning on a bare shank isn’t practical. However, the clear head area does however ensure proportional balance.
Fly tying thread for spun and clipped flies should be at least 6/0. Fine threads, such as 8/0, are prone to breakage and can slice the hair. Some tyers prefer heavier gauge 3/0, size A rod winding thread, Kevlar or the newer super strong Gel Spun threads. Pattern size and personal preference are the usual deciding factors.
Many Muddler patterns feature a collar of hair of varying density depending upon the imitation demands on the fly. After completing the body and wing sections on a Muddler pattern spinning a collar may inadvertently shift or rotate the wing, or catch the hook during the spinning process. Kelly Galloup, author and creator of the famed Zoo Cougar, incorporates a simple collar technique that involves no spinning at all. Kelly stacks and measures the hair for proper placement. Once prepared all hair forward of the tie in position is trimmed the remaining hair is then tied in place. This technique keeps the body and wing in place and allows proper collar positioning. The Grizzly Muddler uses this technique to keep the collar material on the top half of the fly exposing the holographic Mylar gills to any predators ambushing the fly from below.
The actual hair spinning process is simple. Select an appropriate volume of hair for the size of the fly, about one half the hook gap. Too much material will make it tough to get sufficient thread pressure onto the shank as the compacted hair will not bend from the thread pressure and the spun head will rotate. All under fur and short fibers must be removed to ensure proper spinning. This is best accomplished by using the thumb and forefinger to pluck and sweep out the under fur or a fine comb. Fine combs such as pet flea or moustache combs are also ideal for removing under fur. Prior to spinning, trim the tips of the prepared hair so the stack is of a manageable length and spins around the shank without fouling the hook bend.
Place the prepared hair on top of the shank, forward of the collar and wing area. Encompass the hair by placing two loose controlling wraps of tying thread around the hair stack. Apply steady pressure on the ensuing wrap so the ends of the hair pointing forward over the hook eye flares up on an angle. Release the hair and allow the thread torque to rotate and spin the hair around the shank. Continue the thread wraps until the hair ceases to spin. Once spun, pull back the hair and place additional wraps directly in front of the hair to lock it in place. Support the hair from behind with the thumb and forefinger and push and pack the hair back into position. Most tiers use packing tools avoid accidental stabbings if the fingers slip. This push back technique allows eases the spinning processes and positions hair without the risk of knocking the wing or collar out of place. The tighter the hair is packed the more buoyant the pattern. Hopper and stonefly patterns featuring spun and clipped heads should be dense, sculpin and minnow patterns should not be tightly packed so they sink quicker. Most Muddler heads take about two stacks of hair to complete the head.
Once the head is spun, barber skills come into play depending upon the intended shape. Scissors or flexible double edged razor blades are the trimming tools of choice. Using a sawing motion, razor blades allow for quick trimming, especially when grooming larger flies. Flexible blades allow tiers to create rounded sculpin heads in seconds. Care must to be taken to avoid injury.
Scissors are used for final preening depending upon how fussy the tyer wants to be, as the tips are ideal for isolating and snipping individual hairs. Muddler heads often combine the tier’s personality and style in conjunction with the shape of the prey item being suggested. Sculpin and minnow heads tend to be triangular in profile while hopper heads are block-shaped.
For the Grizzly Muddler break the head into sections, top, bottom and sides. Begin by trimming the bottom section flush to expose the gills. Trim the top section on an angled taper up toward the tail of the fly. Complete the head by trimming the sides of the head on the same angle as the top of the head. The finished result should be an arrow shaped head. Trim a small eye sockets close to the shank to allow for proper glue penetration. Small wood burning tools can be used to burn eye sockets into the head. Avoid setting the fly on fire and clean out the burnt fibers with a dubbing needle prior to applying any adhesive.