Steelhead Muddler

flytie09

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Steelhead Muddler

From Wikipedia:

"The Muddler Minnow was originated by Don Gapen of Anoka, Minnesota to imitate the slimy sculpin and fool large brook trout in the Nipigon River. Gapen tied the fly by lantern light in his camp, using materials available in his portable kit, after watching First Nations guides capture sculpins and explain to him their importance as forage for the large, piscivorous trout in the Nipigon. Gapen was the son of resort operators Jesse and Sue Gapen who ran the Gateway Lodge Resort on Hungry Jack Lake in what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the 1920s. In 1936, the Gapens opened a second resort, the Chalet Bungalow Lodge, on the Nipigon River in Ontario to be operated by Don. In 1937 Gapen developed this fly to catch Nipigon strain brook trout, Ontario, Canada. The Muddler, as it is informally known by anglers, was popularized by Montana, United States fisherman and fly tier Dan Bailey. It is now a popular pattern worldwide and is likely found in nearly every angler's fly box, in one form or another. On March 14, 2008, a size 4 muddler minnow was used by Dr. Brian Yamamoto of Fairbanks, Alaska to catch a 41.66 lbs., 46 inch-long brown trout in Argentina's Rio Grande."

What makes this a Steelhead version vs a regular old Muddler? No tail and it's sparseness I guess (mine isn't real sparse, sorry). I can say I have never have been good at spinning deer hair. Drawing inspiration from Quade's Orange and Black version...I thought I'd give it another try. The instructions were taken from Dec and Marty's wonderful book. I'm pleased with the results except I didn't pick out the dubbing for the gills....I'll have to go back and try.

Dec says in his book that Steelhead crush Muddlers. I hope to find out hopefully in September when I head out West again and fish the Deschutes River.

steelhead muddler.jpg

Hook - Size 2 low water salmon
Body - Large silver flat tinsel
Rib - Large gold oval tinsel
Wing - Squirrel tail dyed red fox color underwing with turkey tail over top
Gills - Red dubbing (pick out before spinning deer hair in next step)
Collar - Deer hair stacked and spun
Head - Deer hair trimmed squarish
Thread - red
 

dillon

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The muddler brings back a fond memory. After over forty years I can still picture my first steelhead to a fly. It was on the upper Wind River in the early summer. I could see the fish rise and take the fly in a swirl. Then I made the fatal mistake of setting the hook... I later, came to trust the muddler as my confidence fly on my west slope streams.

For the Deschutes, I would suggest tying some in purple, especially if the lower river is a bit off color. John Hazel would agree...
 
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flytie09

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Thanks guys. Some additional tidbits as I'm a sucker for fly history.

Here is one tied by Don's son Dan. Dan has been tying since he was 6 years old. If you notice.....no bobbin......


Dan Gapen through the years
Born: April 9, 1932, in Duluth, Minnesota. Spent his first years at his grandparents’ resort on Hungry Jack Lake on the Gunflint Trail. First big move is to Nipigon, Ontario, where they run a resort, Chalet Bungalow Lodge.
1936: Dan’s father, Don Gapen, begins what became The Gapen Company, with the Muddler fly. The company continues today, under the direction of Dan, out of its headquarters near Becker, Minnesota. http://www.gapen.com/category_s/1953.htm
1938: six-year-old Dan Gapen is taught to tie flies by his father, Don
1940: starts tying flies professionally, for half a cent apiece
1946: becomes a fishing guide at age 14 on the Nipigon River and other nearby waters, under the tutelage of Michel Dava
1947: Gapen family started the first fly-in service in Ontario and began taking clients on fly-in fishing adventures
1997: inducted into Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame
2005: inducted into National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame

Some additional history of the fly with a couple pics of Don's originals and a great pic of Don and Dan together.


I'll be darned....I'm gonna land a Steelhead on a Muddler in 2020.

One final thought....the Muddler is supposed to imitate a Sculpin. Anyone that's ever fished one knows that....it floats. Real well in fact. I don't care how sparse and how big a hook you use......it's like a cork. You ever see a floating Sculpin? Versions I have tied before are all with a cone head to counter the ultra-buoyant deer hair...but man it's tough to cast.

Fish really are so dumb. Now go tie ya some!
 
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quadesherwood

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You dont see sculpins floating by your legs while wading? Weird. ;)

My fishing mentor on the SR swears by em. I've never had any luck with them either.

Theres a guy in Instagram named Tyler Lescano that ties the most beautiful muddlers ive ever seen. Not sure if he is on here.

Quade

Sent from my SM-G892A using Tapatalk
 

flytie09

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Here’s a trifecta. No purple deer hair. Oh well.... I’ve got light to dark covered at least It’s really gonna kill me to not swing these on a sinking polyleader. I still might.... sssshhhhhh. 🤫.
B4012251-10E8-4D76-A0A3-A113237883BB.jpeg
 
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