The Muskrat Nymph is one of those patterns I’d almost forgotten about until a friend mentioned it a while back. What exactly it’s supposed to imitate, I don’t know. All I can tell you is, for me, they work like a charm, especially unweighted and in smaller sizes.
For a hook, a Dai-Riki #730 in size 18 is a good choice. Start by getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.
For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of black 70 Denier. Get the thread started on the hook shank leaving a bit of space behind the eye, and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Continue taking thread wraps all the way back to the hook point. Pull down on your bobbin to expose about 3” of thread.
Natural muskrat dubbing is used to form the body of the fly, a little pinch is all you need. For smaller versions like this, I remove most of the really long guard hairs. Build a nice thin dubbing noodle on your tying thread about 2” long. Start taking wraps with the noodle so the dubbing begins right at the bend, then continue taking wraps forward up the hook shank to build a slender body on the fly. Try to end an eye-length or two behind the hook eye.
Hungarian partridge is used for the legs of the fly. Select a single well-formed and colored feather from just below the neck and pluck it free from the skin. Strip off all the lower, fuzzy, light colored fibers and then preen those remaining down the stem to expose the feather’s tip. You can then use your tying scissors to snip the tip off, leaving the feather looking something like this. Place the feather, with its dull side down, on top of the hook shank. Take two loose wraps with your tying thread to hold it in position and then pull on the stem until the fiber’s tips extend rearward to about the hook point. Use your thumb to mash these fibers down around the bottom and sides of the fly then secure them with a few wraps of tying thread. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments if necessary. When you’re satisfied with the legs, snip the excess butt ends off close.
Pull a single well-formed peacock herl free from the rest. Orient the herl so the longer flues are pointed down and toward you, and then snip the brittle tip off square. Give your bobbin a counter clockwise spin so your tying thread will want to jump rearward. While keeping the same orientation of the herl, secure its cut-off tip to the top of the hook shank and continue taking thread wraps all the way up to just behind the eye. With your fingers or hackle pliers, begin making touching wraps with the herl toward the eye, 4 or 5 turns is usually plenty. Use your tying thread to anchor the herl and then snip the excess off close. Finally, do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free.
I like to fish the Muskrat Nymph behind a weighted nymph but they can also be hung off the back of a dry or, with the aid of a bit of floatant, fished in the film.
I think it’s once again time for a little muskrat love.