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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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August 15, 2015

Lethal Versions of the Celebrated Muddler Minnow Part II of IV

by Bob Banfelder

At this juncture, you should have on hand all of your materials and tools that we covered in Part I, published on August 1, 2015 of Nor'east Saltwater. Let's continue.


I think of thread as more of a tool than a material. It is your key to success for flaring and spinning deer hair around the shank of the hook. For both freshwater and saltwater applications, I recommend those new to flaring and spinning deer hair to start with a 10-yard spool of Danville's 4 strand rayon thread. I use all four strands for flies tied on hooks larger than a number 6. For smaller flies, you could split and separate one, two, or three strands, or simply use a size 3/0 thread from another manufacturer. Note that the standard numbering system of thread size does not pertain to Danville's Denier codes, so don't let it throw you. Olive thread, light olive, worm green, orange, red, black, and white are good color choices. You may want to familiarize yourself with threads from manufacturers such as Gudebrod, Griffith, and Uni. Stay away from threads made of Kevlar. Although Kevlar has undeniable strength, it will, in time, play havoc with your bobbin and scissors.

Also, an excellent all-purpose thread for both freshwater and saltwater applications is Danville's 210 Denier Flat-Waxed Nylon. The beauty of this thread is that it can be worked flat, or it can be slightly twisted so as to pinch down when flaring and spinning deer hair. Some shops may suggest spools of size "A", lightly waxed and round-twisted Danville's Fly Master Plus, sold specifically for flaring and spinning deer hair. However, Danville's 210 Flat-Waxed Nylon does double duty, thereby eliminating the need to purchase other size threads. As a matter of fact, the two threads are approximately the same diameter.

Pinch-Wrapping for Practice

Practice this pinch-wrapping procedure, which will save you considerable frustration if you have never flared and spun deer hair. Knowing how to pinch-wrap is essential to properly placing materials on the hook and locking them in securely, be it atop the shank of the hook or off to either side. Similarly, pinch-wrapping is vital to locking, flaring, and spinning deer hair around the hook shank.

Let's first practice with a small bunch of deer hair slightly less than the diameter of a pencil.

Assuming that you are right-handed, a pinch-wrap begins when you employ the thumb and forefinger of your left hand to hold the material precisely where you want it before securing it in place. However, rather than simply wrapping the thread tightly around the stack, first make a small, loose wrap over and around the material, catching the thread between the pinch, creating tension before slowly torquing down upon the clump of deer hair, then over and back around again, each time catching the thread between thumb and forefinger so as to flare the material around the hook. Now, release the pinch, torque down, and allow the deer hair to spin completely around the shank of the hook. Work the thread through the hair, careful not to mash the hairs. Work the thread forward then push the entire bunch rearward with the tips of your right hand. Half hitch several times or whip finish to lock in place. Practice this step until you are proficient. I can assure you that this procedure will prove priceless. The amount of pressure required for the pinch-wrap, as well as the tension needed to torque down, flair, and spin the hairs, will become second nature to you with a bit of practice. It is this dexterity that is required in order to manipulate the material.

Confusion Personified

In selecting turkey feathers for the Muddler Minnow tail and wings, here is where a good deal of confusion lies. You will read recipes and view videos that call for a matching pair of turkey quills [one from a right wing of the bird and one from a left wing]; or you will read and view videos that instruct the tier to simply form the tail and wings from a single quill. Referencing the latter, the instructor may go on about cutting and perfectly matching components from the narrow side of the quill for the tail and the wider side for the wings. Words and phrases such as concave, convex, shiny side out, points aligned and facing downward, et cetera, might follow. And there you are trying to "match" these components perfectly, but you will not and cannot match them no matter how hard you try. Why? The answer is because you would need a matching pair of turkey quills [one from a right wing of the bird, and one from a left wing], as stated initially. However, you could wing it (pun intended) to form a pair of wings that will suffice but will not be perfectly matched. The choice is yours. You'll catch fish with either procedure, which we'll continue in Part III.

Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller/Mystery Author & Outdoors Writer
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Co-host, Cablevision TV, Special Interests with Bob & Donna

August 01, 2015

Lethal Versions of the Celebrated Muddler Minnow Part I of IV

by Bob Banfelder

Fact: In the water column, for freshwater and saltwater applications, the fur from a raccoon has the lifelike action of marabou feathers and is a fantastic material for fly tying. The bonus feature is that raccoon fur is far stronger than marabou feathers. We will use raccoon fur (hair) for recipes in lieu of squirrel hair when tying the underwing of the traditional Muddler Minnow as well as the Marabou Muddler Minnow.

One of the deadliest flies in a streamer pattern for freshwater fishing is the popular Muddler Minnow. The fly was created by Don Gapen of Minnesota in 1937 and originated to imitate the small but big-headed spined sculpin. Therefore, to say that the Muddler Minnow has a long history is an understatement. This streamer pattern is doubtlessly found in most anglers' fly boxes in one form or another. However, I'd venture to say and even wager that they won't be found in notable numbers. And there is a very good reason for this. Actually, there are two explanations, for the flies are rather expensive to buy (especially when compared to simpler streamer patterns); also, Muddler Minnows can be somewhat difficult to tie, which brings me to an age-old adage: "Everything's easy once you know how."

What I have done over the course of years is to take the very best recipes and procedures for tying many variations of Don Gapen's original Muddler Minnow and incorporate them into a single, simplified whole. Well, simplified, that is, in the sense that I'll clearly point out the general confusion and then, together, we'll eliminate the problems that plague many flytiers when it comes to flaring, spinning, and shaping deer hair in order to form the overwing tips, collar, and head of this remarkable imitation.

First, let's consider the many possibilities in learning to work with deer hair in terms of the innumerable number of flies that this material can come to replicate. Stemming from the original model, which mimicked the sculpin, you can eventually learn to imitate a variety of aquatic and terrestrial forage. For example, stoneflies, leeches, crickets, grasshoppers, even mice. I say this with utmost confidence because once you learn the proper procedures for tying variations of the Muddler Minnow, you will be able to tie any number of the aforementioned deadly imitations. You are soon to learn several tricks of the trade for making fly tying (with that troublesome material) far easier and, therefore, more enjoyable.

The correct tools, materials, and procedures are most important for tying the Muddler Minnow as well as other flies that require the flaring, spinning, and shaping of deer hair. I'm sure you're anxious to begin tying the new variation of the Muddler Minnow. However, there is now a new program at Nor'east Saltwater where we writers will be limiting the length of our articles, writing shorter pieces over the course of the month or splitting up longer articles over a period of time. This new company policy is actually very good timing at this juncture because it gives you time to collect these needed materials.

Bob B's Variation of the Muddler Minnow
Freshwater Application


Hook No. 6 Mustad-Sproat –3 ex. long shank, bronzed
Fly-Tying Wax Overton's Wonder Wax is an excellent choice
Thread Danville's 4 strand rayon, or Danville's 210 Denier Flat-Waxed Nylon–color choice is yours
Pair of Matched Turkey Quills [one from a right wing and on from a left wing]; either mottled light or dark for tail and topwing
Mylar Tinsel rib (optional) not used in this recipe
Raccoon Tail for the underwing
Deer Hair Preferably from the belly section; natural color from the whitetail deer to form the overwing tips, collar, and head.

Note: mule-deer hair flares and spins more easily than whitetail deer hair because its western North American cousins' fibers are thicker; but not to worry. Whether you select deer hair from a bucktail or the belly of either species, we'll flare and spin the material most satisfactorily.

Wet ‘n' Wild Crystalic Nail Color for finishing the thread head–or another iridescent nail polish


Straight Scissors
Curved Scissors
Double Edge Razor Blades
Clear 1/8-Inch Inside Diameter Flexible Tubing
2-inch length.

To be continued. Until next time, stay cool.

Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller/Mystery Author & Outdoors Writer
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Co-host, Cablevision TV, Special Interests with Bob & Donna

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