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Muddler Minnow Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: Muddler Minnow
3X-long nymph hook (here a Dai-Riki #710), size 10.
Thread 1:
Dark Brown, UTC 70 denier.
Natural mottled turkey-wing quills, matched.
Gold Sparkle Braid.
Gray squirrel tail.
Natural mottled turkey-wing quills, matched.
Head cement.
Thread 2:
Dark Brown, UTC 140 denier.
Collar and head:
Natural brown deer hair.
Double-edge razor blades, Krazy Straw.
Show / Hide Muddler Minnow Transcript

Video Transcript:

The Muddler Minnow is a great pattern, but one many tiers have trouble tying well. However, with a few simple tricks, they really aren't that bad.

For a hook, I'm going to use a Dai-Riki #710 Nymph hook in a size 10. After mashing the barb, get the hook firmly secured in your tying vise. This pattern all but requires using two different-sized tying threads, and having two bobbins ready to go is really nice.

I'll load one bobbin with UTC 70 Denier Dark Brown thread and the other with heavier UTC 140 Denier, also in Dark Brown.

With the bobbins loaded, pick up the one with 70 Denier, this will be used for the entire rear portion of the fly. Secure the thread to the hook leaving 1/4 of the shank exposed behind the eye. Make adjacent thread wraps back to about halfway between the hook point and the barb, snipping or snapping the tag end off in the process.

Although not essential, double-edge razor blades are a wonderful thing to have when it comes to Muddlers and I use them for a couple of procedures. They are way thinner and sharper than both single-edge razor blades and hobby knife blades. They are much easier to use if you first break them in half but be especially careful doing this. You literally fold the blade in half at both ends until it breaks. Put them away in a safe place as you don't want them roaming about your tying bench.

Matched, mottled turkey wing quills, either the light or dark ones, are the traditional material used for both the tail and the wing of the Muddler. I generally use segments from the shorter, leading edge part of the quill for the tail of the fly and the longer, trailing edge segments for the wing.

You can use scissors to cut the quill segments for the tail, but the razor blades work incredibly well. Using the indents on the blade as a depth gauge helps to cut equal segments about a 1/4 of an inch in length. At the end of the cut, kick the blade up just a bit to separate the segment from the rest of the quill.

With the two tail segments cut, lay them tip to tip with the dull or concave sides facing each other. Measure the quill segments to form a tail approximately half a hook shank in length.

While keeping that measurement, pinch the segments between the thumb and index finger of your left hand and pull the thread up between your fingers and overtop of the segments. Pinch the butt ends of the tail between the thumb and index finger of your right hand and allow the thread to hang straight down.

The weight of the bobbin will cause the thread to compress and fold the quill segments on top of the hook shank. When you're happy with tail orientation, take a few more wraps of tying thread forward toward the hook eye.

Snip the butt ends off at an angle, don't allow any of them to extend forward over the blank part of the hook shank.

Take wraps of tying thread forward to firmly secure the butt ends to the hook. You needn't worry about forming a tapered underbody.

Snip a 4 to 5 inch piece of gold sparkle braid free from the card. Secure the braid to the hook leaving a liberal tag which makes it easier to get hold of and snip off close.

Sparkle braid is pretty coarse stuff and may want to fight you a bit, but do your best to take tight wraps, first rearward and then back to form a reasonably uniform body for your Muddler. When you get back to the tie-in point, secure the braid with a few tight wraps of tying thread. You can then snip the remainder of the braid off close.

For the underwing of the fly, a few hairs from a gray squirrel tail are all that's needed. You can stack them if you want but most of the time it isn't necessary. Just strip the shorter hairs out of the clump.

Measure the squirrel to form an underwing that extends about halfway down the quill tail. Squirrel is slippery stuff and requires a good amount of thread tension to hold it in place. After a few wraps, use your thumbnail to flatten the hair on top of the shank. This will stop the hair from rolling around the hook and make a nice flat landing pad for the quill wing. When the underwing is secure, lift the butt ends up and snip them off as close to the thread wraps as possible. Your thread should end up right at the base of the underwing. Once again, cut about 1/4 of an inch quill segment and then another and match them in the same way you did for the tail.

Measure the wing so it's tips extend a little more than halfway down the tail. Use the same procedure as you did with the tail to secure the wing to the top of the hook. Do your best to keep the wraps close together. Reach in with your tying scissors and cut the butt ends off close and then bring your thread up to where the bare hook starts. Do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and then snip or cut your tying thread free. Add a good drop of head cement to the wraps and butts and the rear portion of the Muddler is complete.

Give the cement an ample amount of drying time before moving on to the next step.

For the remainder of the fly, you'll be using the heavier 140 Denier thread. With just a few wraps, get it started at the base of the wing and snip the tag off close. This will be where the collar and the head of the fly begins.

Although there are other choices it's hard to go wrong with a Premo strip of deer hair, here I'm using a natural brown color. The tanned hide makes for soft, supple hair that works well for both the collar and the head of the fly. In a pinch, the hair at the base of the backside of a buck tail will also work. Some tails have more usable hairs than others but most have enough for at least a few Muddlers. Dyed buck tail also works and makes for some real different looking Muddlers. But back to the Premo strip.

Separate a clump of hair that's about the thickness of a pencil and snip it free from the hide. Strip or comb the fuzzies and shorts free from the butt ends and then stack the clump, tips first, in a hair stacker. Carefully remove the hair from the stacker, keeping the tips aligned. I like to snip the butt ends off even and square at this point but it really isn't necessary.

Position the hairs so they extend rearward to just past the hook point and then hold them between your thumb and index finger on the near side of the hook. Take one wrap of tying thread and apply a bit of pressure. You'll both see and feel the bundle begin to spin. Take another tighter wrap and allow the bundle to spin just a little bit more. Use a third, even tighter wrap, to further spin and flare the deer hair. Take a fourth wrap to ensure the hair is spun completely around the hook and then take a few wraps through the butt ends to lock everything in place. You should end up with a collar of deer hair tips, pointing rearward at an angle, that look something like this.

My favorite tool for packing deer hair is, believe it or not, a kid's crazy straw. They're made of hard durable plastic, they're easy to get a firm grip on, they fit over most hook eyes and they're clear enough so you can see what you're doing.

Once you have the hair pushed rearward, take wraps to build a small thread dam to hold them back. You should still have some bare hook left behind the eye.

Select another slightly smaller clump of deer hair and snip it free from the hide. Once again, you're going to need to comb or strip out the fuzz and the shorter hairs. This time, there's no need to stack but do snip the tip ends off.

Place the clump along the near side of the hook at an angle and take wraps to spin and flare just as you did before. Once again, you're going to need to pack the hair rearward and then take wraps in front of it to build a thread dam.

Because of all the hair, using a whip finish tool to tie off the thread can be tricky and trap a lot of fibers. I prefer to make a half hitch with the nozzle of my bobbin and then slip it over the hook eye. This particular Rite Bobbin has a tapered nozzle which makes the process exceptionally easy. Taking three wraps instead of just one and slipping them over the eye really locks the thread in place.

Reach in with your scissors and snip the thread off close. I'm sure you'll do a better job than I did here.

Now comes the fun part. Pull the butt ends forward while leaving the collar tips pointed back. Get a hold of one of the razor blade halves and carefully put it into a nice even bend. Starting above the eye, push upward and back at an angle, trimming the deer hair butts as you go. Turn the fly and do the same to the near side of the head. For the underside, push the razor straight back rather than up. Continue shaping the deer hair head until you end up with something that looks about like this. One of the keys to making a good looking Muddler is to know when to stop trimming.

Muddlers may require a bit more effort than other patterns but once you get the hang of it, they really are fun to tie and are definitely effective.