Dubbing With Deer Hair
If you tie, you've used deer hair to make wings and bullet heads. But it has another use--one that will give you some killer patterns.
rom wings to legs, clipped bodies to bullet-heads, deer hair is especially important in Western fly tying where durability and floatability are essential when chasing big fish in fast water. Halfway around the world, deer hair is just as critical to catching big fish in fast water. However, the deer hair is used in a way you probably never thought of.
A Better Way to Dub?
Roman Moser, the Austrian fly-tying master who is often credited with the modernization of beadhead flies over the past twenty years, uses deer hair in a different manner. Instead of tying it in as a clump or spinning it around the hook, Moser dubs the hair to the thread. Though this process can be maddening to learn, the results cannot be duplicated with any other style of tying.
Dubbing with deer hair offers several advantages over traditional materials. Because deer hair is hollow, it provides floatation. Combining deer hair dubbing with other floating materials (such as CDC or foam) results in a superb floating fly.
But deer hair is not just for floatation. Sinking flies that are dubbed with deer hair then coated with fly floatant, will collect air bubbles in the many pockets in the dubbing. This creates the suggestion of life. Also, deer hair dubbing has a loose and scraggly look that gives a buggy impression of legs and antannae. And mixing different colors of deer hair creates a mottlng effect that no other material offers.
The result of dubbed deer hair is a unique surrealistic impressionism that seems to catch more trout than anglers, and it probably has kept many anglers from giving these patterns a chance.
How to Do It
This may sound nice and cute, but how can the average fly tier dub deer onto thread? It just takes patience and an ample supply of dubbing wax or saliva to make your thread and fingers tacky enough to work with the deer hair. Simply grasp a very small clump of deer hairs (about 15-20 to start with), and dub them up the thread just like you would dub a clump of fur. If you have trouble, bend or wrap the clump of hair around the thread so you already have a "start" to work from. Some people I have taught this technique to found it easier to dub on a thin layer of fur onto which to dub the deer hair, though I never have liked to do it myself.
Use a firm tension when dubbing, and keep an eye on what you've already dubbed onto the thread. Sometimes you'll just dub off old material as you're dubbing more on. Once the deer hair is on the fly, clip off some of the more obnoxious fibers so that your body has a realistic girth and taper. Sometimes I'll leave certain fibers that might imitate legs or antennae.
These flies will get chewed up and even more scraggly after a couple fish, which actually improves the fly's effectiveness. However, I usually keep an extra set of clippers on me so I can keep them from looking like something from the Sargent Pepper album cover.
I have found that deer-hair dubbing works best on caddis (all life stages) and chironomid pupae. It can be excellent on the thorax of stonefly and mayfly nymph patterns, giving the impression of legs without the hassle of rubber legs or the antiquity of a hackle collar.
While this dubbing style creates excellent bodies on small stonefly nymphs, it can be a pain in the rear to dub the deer hair for the thorax of a size 2 salmonfly nymph. Roman Moser does some adult stonefly patterns, even some large ones, with this technique. I am to try out some of my experimental patterns on this season's salmonfly hatch. I have yet to figure out a good way to use this style for adults and emergers, though I am sure some creative tiers can incorporate it with few problems.
When dubbing with deer hair, remember that your fingers will be sore. It is like dubbing with sandpaper, and even commercial tiers will notice blisters after two-dozen flies. Take your time at first, and don't wait until the night before the big trip to sit down to crank out five dozen of these buggers.
I hope this style of tying will ignite some sparks of creativity for you. Don't fall into the rut of using a material as it is "supposed" to be used, and try to find new ways to throw old materials into your patterns. Nothing ever became great by mimicking the crowd!
Three Dubbed Deer Hair Killers
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