Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hair & Hen Muddler

Natural Sculpin Muddler
          The importance of freshwater sculpin as trout food has become fully realized in our time, & that realization spawning the vast array of fly patterns meant to simulate them. Some of these are incredibly realistic, like dolls, some with doll eyes, the eyeballs rattling around in little plastic domes (even though the eyes of the naturals are generally mottled camouflage like the rest of the body & barely discernable). Many are bulky, ranging from awkward to dangerous when cast. (No problem, you stick a pin in the doll & fish simply float up!) 
Purple Muddler

Still, it’s hard to beat the original Muddler Minnow, tied by Don Gapen, & I’d place Jack Gartside’s Sparrow right up there beside it as a sculpin imitation. Considering that most species of freshwater sculpin are two inches long or less at maturity, Gartside’s Sparrow, generally fished in smaller sizes than the Muddler, makes perfect sense. Both of these killing patterns have two things in common: both offer the classic, big-headed, sculpin profile, & both are constructed of natural materials that blend together when wet, mimicking the blotchy coloration & texture of the naturals.
Chartreuse Muddler

If you’ve caught a natural & looked at it in hand, or if you’ve seen pictures, you might have noticed that the critter looks like primordial brown/olive camo ooze fashioned to an elongated teardrop shape, & other than the profile, the most outstanding characteristic, the dark barring on the body, usually three or four dark patches (& yes there are the large pectoral fins, but these are held close to the body when the sculpin is in motion). In designing the Hair & Hen Muddler I was looking for a version of about two & a half inches in length that, when wet, would closely imitate a natural in shape, movement & coloration. This one comes alive when wet, & worked very good for us this past season. I tie these in purple & chartreuse as well, & there are a lot of possibilities with dyed squirrel & kip tails. Works as a craw for smallmouth bass as well. 

Hair & Hen Muddler

Hook: #2-#4 Mustad 3366-BR

Thread: black, brown, tan or olive UNI 6/0

Tailing: squirrel tail

Gills: red tinsel wound on the hook shank

Body: in order tied in, on top of the shank: olive calf tail; squirrel tail; olive calf tail; squirrel tail; olive calf tail; squirrel tail; olive calf tail, on this last one, a pinch on top & a pinch on both sides of the hook shank (this will support a flared head shape once the hackle is wound in – each hair clump is placed a bit forward (shorter) than the one preceding it, I use the color bars on the hair as a guide, stepping the hair clumps forward a bar at each step 

Lateral Line: copper mylar flash, one strand, both sides

Head (Hackle): in order tied in: bronze mallard, gadwall flank or brahma hen, Coc de Leon is perfect if you have it; then work toward the eye with dyed olive grizzly hen (3 to 4 hackles) diminishing the size of the hackle slightly as you go forward ~ & finish    


  1. Steven,
    This pattern is wonderful and very real looking to boot! That is the kicker! This would be an awesome weapon in taking some rather plump Smallmouth Bass on my beloved streams here in Ohio! We have sculpins a-plenty and your pattern is a sure bet to bring them to hand! Thanks for bringing this to us! Very enjoyable!

    1. Doug, cool you checked in! I should have said this is my current favorite smallie fly as well. Killed Pend Oreille smallmouth last summer. Brown trout too. When wet, it is the most realistic sculpin I've seen. Pulses & moves like a natural. Well worth the effort it takes to tie. Might take a couple tries to get the material quantity right, but you'll figure it out. Let me know how it works for you.

      Best in the New Year!


  2. Looks lovely and is indeed what I need for the smallmouth in the Huron in early season.

    Alas, it is a little beyond me to execute both in technique managing all of "that" and in materials. I'll work up to it and have it in my bookmarks now.

    I need to get better at streamer-type flies. Hair-wings and Mickey's are a crutch right now. I do enjoy reading about these more robust bodied streamers types and their construction technique. I like the repetition aspect of this one.

    Good looker.

    1. Spike, nonsense, I know you can tie this one. If you can tie a simple hairwing like Mickey Finn, you can tie this. It's just more of the same thing: strapped-on hair & wound hackle. Well within your abilities.