Muddler Minnow

muddler minnow


This is a long established pattern with a history preceding the famous Woolly Bugger. Designed by Don Gapen, as a sculpin imitation for trout, the Muddler works for any species that respond to streamer patterns, especially in circumstances where fish are feeding on similar coloured baitfish. It has accounted for trout, grayling, bass, panfish, pike, and saltwater species including bonefish, snook, bonita, and jacks.

How to fish:

An effective streamer for bank shooting, and a traditional cross-stream swing. Fished with a strip retrieve on a floating, intermediate, sink tip, or full sinking line, the Muddler is effective in rivers and lakes, estuarine and saltwater marks. The Muddler can also be fished as a dry fly, especially during sedge hatches and when hoppers are about. It can be fished as a wake fly for steelhead, and for species in stillwater. And according to its originator the Muddler can be fished as a nymph in suitable sizes. Try using a non-slip loop knot to allow the fly to develop its best action.

Tying instructions:

Left-handed sequence | Right-handed sequence
Stage 1 1. Start the thread about one quarter of the shank length behind the eye, and wrap the thread in touching turns back to where the tail will go, just before the bend. I catch in a rib at this point – some people prefer to catch in the rib after tailing the fly.
Stage 2 2. Offer up a matched pair of feather-slips and adjust for length.
Stage 3 3. Tie in the slips using the method in this tying article.
Stage 4 4. Wrap the thread forward in close touching turns over the feather butts to the start of the body.
Stage 5 5. Catch in a prepared length of tinsel for the body.
Stage6 6. Wrap the tinsel down to the tail in close touching turns, avoiding overlaps. Wrap the tinsel in a similar fashion back to the start of the body.
Stage 7 7. Now rib the body making sure the rib finishes under the body. See this article on ribbing for details.
Stage 8 8. Tie in a sparse hair wing reaching the rear of the bend.
Stage 9 9. Next, tie in a wing so as to continue the outer contour of the tail. Make a small whip finish or a couple of half hitches.
Stage 10 10. Now start a heavier gauge thread – I use Size A rod whipping thread. This allows you to tie a good secure head and collar.
Stage 11 11. Tie in a small bunch of de-fuzzed deer hair at both sides of the wing, and directly over the thread wraps that secured the wing. Keep the collar short and hold the deer hair as you tighten the thread to stop it spinning.
Stage 12 12. If you’ve done it right the collar will not mask the body or wing but will emulate the pectoral fins of a baitfish.
Stage 13 13. Wind the thread forward to make locking wraps in front of the collar. Pull the deer hair butts back ready to spin more hair on the bare shank.
Stage 14 14. Spin two or three small bundles of deer hair to form the head leaving room for a proper whip finish.
Stage 15 15. After the whip finish and a drop of head cement, trim the deer hair with a razor blade and/or pair of scissors.
Stage 13 13. After trimming you should end up with a small cone shaped head.
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3 thoughts on “Muddler Minnow

  1. Nice. Any tips on keeping the collar separate from the butt ends and from the head when you do your deer hair trimming?

  2. Thanks for your comment Mike.

    Regarding your question, you’ll notice the collar is quite short here so that the butt ends of the deer hair are longer than the tips and clearly distinguishable in terms or colour and texture. This makes trimming without clipping the collar, using scissors or razor blade, relatively easy. With the fly in the vice you can slide scissors down the hair in front of the collar to make the initial cut or work the razor blade back from the head towards the collar stopping when those long hairs are cut. Feasibly you could hold the hair at the same time to keep it taught and further from the collar but that’s not something I find necessary. Having said all that, Gapen’s originals look to be rather more ‘roughly’ finished even straggly so none of us should probably be all that bothered about clipping a few collar hairs – I suppose we bother out of habit or perhaps because our versions require a different profile. On some muddler derivations or other deer hair headed flies, bass flies being a prime example, you cam tie the collar with hair trimmed so that the butt ends are shorter rather than longer. This also helps define where cutting stops and starts.

    Anyway, I hope that’s what you were after.