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Home->Articles->Fly Patterns->Archives->Muddling Through-A hair spinning primer   
Fly Patterns
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.


Tying Instructions



1) Start the tying thread ¼ back from the hook eye and cover the rear ¾ of the shank.  This approach creates proportional goal posts to ensure there is adequate room for the spun and clipped deer hair head. With the basic wrap in place return the thread to the ¾ mark on the shank.  Select a single bushy plume of grizzly marabou for the tail. Stroke the plume from butt to tip to even the tips and it in place so the tips extend past the bend ½ the shank length. Return the tying thread to the ¾ point and bind a length of holographic Mylar in place along the length of the shank.  Tying in the tail and Mylar in this fashion ensures both a secure tie in and a smooth foundation for the body.



2) Advance the holographic Mylar forward in close touching turns to form a smooth under body.  Tie off the Mylar at approximately the ¾ mark on the shank and trim the excess.



3) Tie in 4 strands of Ice Blue Pearl Flashabou at the ¾ mark on the hook shank.  On patterns size 10 and smaller 2 strands can be doubled around the tying thread to control bulk. Moisten the strands and sweep them together.  Wind the Flashabou back down the hook shank to the tail and then back up the shank to the original tie in point.  Tie off but do not trim the excess strands as they will be used as part of the wing. If desired coat the body with brushable Fisherman’s Glue for added durability and shine.



4) Tie in a length of red holographic Mylar at the ¾ mark on the shank just in front of the holographic Mylar body. Wind the red holographic Mylar in front of the body 2-3 times to suggest the gills. Tie of the red holographic Mylar and trim the excess.  Fold the remaining strands of Flashabou back over the body.  Trim the tips of the Mylar even with the tip of the tail.



5) Tie in a single plume of grizzly marabou on top of the shank at the ¾ mark to form the wing.  The tips of the wing should be even with the tail. Soft bushy plumes with thin stems work best for the wing.



6) Trim a sparse clump of deer body hair from the hide for the collar. Grasp the deer hair firmly by the tips and remove any short fibres and under fur from the butt area of the hair. Place the prepared clump of deer hair in a hair stacker and even the tips. Gently remove the hair from the hair stacker and measure it so it is even with the tips of the grizzly marabou wing. Pinch the hair at this measurement point and trim the butts even with the thumb and forefinger. Tie in the trimmed deer hair on top of the shank just in front of the wing. Do not allow the deer hair collar to twist or spin.



7) Advance the tying thread 2-3 wraps forward of the collar tie in point. Trim a clump of deer hair that is about the width of the hook gape.  Grasp the hair firmly by the tips and remove any short fibres and under fur to aid the spinning process. Trim the tips of the deer hair so the stack is about ¾’s of an inch long. Place the prepared stack of deer hair on top of the shank and hold it in place. Take 2 full loose but controlling wraps around the deer hair.  On the third wrap increase thread pressure so the deer hair protruding forward of the thumb and forefinger begins to flare upward.



8) Increase the thread pressure and as the hair flares up past a 30 degree angle release the hair and continue wrapping the tying thread around the shank. Allow the deer hair to “follow” the thread spinning around the shank. Continue winding the thread through the spun deer hair until it stops spinning, 2-4 additional wraps should be fine. Use a hair packer or the thumb and forefinger to push the spun deer hair back against the collar. With the hair in its final position place a few wraps directly in front for added security.



9) Prepare a second clump of deer hair in the same manner as the first. Spin this clump in front of the first and pack it back into position. Sweep the deer hair fibres back exposing the hook eye. Build a neat head, whip finish and remove the tying thread.  Apply a dab of head cement to complete the tying portion of the fly.



10) Using a double edged razor blade or scissors carefully trim the spun head to shape.  I prefer a triangular head that is flat along the bottom. Trim the sides of the head close to the shank just behind the eye to create eyes sockets for the eyes.



11) Using a dubbing needle apply a small dab of Goop in each eye socket and then place and press the eyes in place on each side of the hook.  Try to ensure the eyes are placed directly opposite of each other when viewed from above.  Allow sufficient time for the Goop to dry before taking the fly for a swim.


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