Muddlers: A fly that uses its head


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A few muddlers from Paul DiNolo


Peter's note: My friend Paul DiNolo will soon have an article about muddlers published in "On The Water" magazine.  The muddlers pictures below were tied by Paul, and he has kindly written a few paragraphs for to publish along with the fly images. 

Feel free to contact Paul by email by clicking here: Paul DiNolo


Get any group of fly tying anglers together, and there will eventually be a discussion about a “must – have” fly pattern. Today, the Woolly-Bugger, and its many variations, is probably at the top of that list.

When I first started fly fishing and fly tying some forty-seven years ago, the undisputed champion of the “don't leave home without it” fly list was the Muddler Minnow. The version of the Muddler that was so popular from the 1940's through the late 1970's was the style that was developed by Dan Bailey of Livingston, Montana. The pattern was originated by Don Gapen of Anoka, Minnesota in 1937. The original was designed to imitate the sculpins that were a main food item of the large brook trout that were found in some of the great rivers in Ontario, Canada. Gapen's pattern was quite shaggy in its appearance, and looked very different from the standard style that most fly fishers would recognize today.

The “Bailey Muddler” is characterized by a fairly full, well shaped head and collar made of well packed spun and neatly trimmed deer hair. This type of head is common to all Muddler variants, and I believe that the shape of the head may produce some type of acoustic disturbance that attracts fish, and causes them to strike aggressively. However, I can produce no strong scientifically based evidence to support my theory. But, years of observation, and experimentation lead me to believe this to be true. I have tied and fished many different Muddler patterns and their performance has always been very good regardless of how I modified the pattern. However, the one common feature in all of flies has been the inclusion of the “Muddler head”.

" If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs..........

….................. Then you will be a man my son"

Rudyard Kipling


Below are some of the Muddler patterns that I have used and might worth trying

~Paul DiNolo

Sample from Paull

Above is the standard "Bailey" Muddler. I use these in sizes #8 to #4.

This is the "Bead Head" version of the "Bailey" Muddler.  The bead head helps get this otherwise bouyant fly down in the water column quicker.

Perhaps the most famous adaptation is the "Marabou Muddler". Combining the seductive action of marabou with the Muddler's spun and trimmed deer hair head is a powerful blend. You can have good luck with any number of shades of marabou.

The "Monochromatic Muddler" is an attempt to blend various shades of material each of which combines with the others to produce a slightly mottled image of a food item that appears as an impression that is more natural.

The "Mini-Muddler" offers a scaled down version of the basic pattern. This takes advantage of the fact that some times fussy fish will respond to a reduction in fly size. Tied small, the Mini-Muddler can represent a wide spectrum of food items.

The creative fly tyer can experiment with using standard non-Muddler patterns tied with the spun and clipped deer hair head. I have had a great deal of success by making a Muddler out of an Edson Dark Tiger. This technique works well with many effective streamer flies.

The "Kenebago Muddler" is the result of combining two successful fly patterns; the Hornberg, and the Muddler. This is a proven fly in the waters of northern New England


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