Flies that use muskrat?

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by Thom Collins, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. Two threads in one month, hmmm. I'll be done for awhile. Anyhow, I was given a chunk of muskrat fur by someone who decided fly tying wasn't their thing (I know, I didn't understand either). Have done some web searches but can't find many patterns that call for the stuff. Is it primarily used for dries? Substatute for...? Looks like it will be fun to use.
  2. great for nymphs and hair hackles

    hair ahckle.jpg
    Thom Collins likes this.
  3. I use it for a the casual dress nymph. Great pattern.
  4. kelvin, Thom Collins and McNasty like this.
  5. Any fly with a grey body with or without the brown guard hairs.

  6. Muskrat is best for dries, because the hair is naturally hydrophobic, as most aquatic mammal fur is. I tie and fish a lot of parachute Adams. Reason enough to keep a patch of muskrat around.
  7. Adams is another.
  8. Thanks to everyone. Looking forward to tying these.
  9. Thom Collins likes this.
  10. I'm not sure that the hair itself is hydrophobic but like aquatic bird feathers the oil on it sure is. It may be that the hair on aquatic mammals has evolved to absorb and hold more oil. I often wonder how much of that oil is left on most commercially processed and packaged hair. I doubt there is much left. To get the full benefit of the oil its best to find muskrat that has been dried but not tanned as the tanning process removes much of the oil.

    The last muskrat I bought and will probably ever buy was from Blue Ribbon Flies. I bought a whole dried adult skin for around $12.00 including shipping.

    You can find it here for $5.95. Look under raw fur.

    What you are looking for is often referred to as dried and cased or uncased (flat), doesn't matter, the key is not tanned as most commercially prepared hide is. The skin side of a dried skin will be brown and shiny. Kind of greasy looking. That is from the oil that you want. It will also be less pliable. The guard hairs will be much more glossy than tanned fur, again from the oil.

    Not many people other than fly tiers want a greasy skin so supplies are more limited but certainly not that hard to find. You just have to look closer to the source like hide and fur dealers. Plus you get to bypass the additional cost of processing and packaging and the high markup of just about anything marketed as fly tying material.

  11. Tim, you prompted me to do a little research on semi-aquatic mammal fur. Muskrat (and beaver, otter, etc. are considered semi-aquatic, as opposed to mammals that are fully aquatic like whales).

    It turns out that the underfur on semi-aquatic mammals does not repel water by being hydrophobic or by being oil covered. It does so by trapping air among the hairs in the underfur, which produces a water repellant and insulative layer. I don't know what this means for its use in dubbing. If there is some property of the individual hairs, which, when in close proximity to other hairs, produces these air traps, then it would stand to reason that it would make good dry fly dubbing. But, if the air-trapping property only functions when the densely packed hairs are all still attached to the skin, then maybe not.

  12. Interesting stuff Dick. As usual the devil is in the details but why do they produce an abundance of oil? I am assuming that at least part of the reason they spend so much time grooming is to distribute that oil. Like a duck. I understand comparing birds and mammals is like apples and oranges but they share a similar habitat so parallel evolution makes some sense at first glance.

    Given the air trapping qualities of the underfur it would seem that a tightly spun dubbing would compromise those qualities significantly. Could be a big part of the reason that a well chewed, dubbed bodied fly is so attractive to fish. I'm thinking the choice of muskrat on the original Adams had more to do with color than assumed hydrophobic qualities.

    Richard Olmstead likes this.
  13. I like to use muskrat underfur for any dubbing in patterns that calls for Blue Dun Grey Dubbing. It's right on the money for the color, no dye needed.

    I use it to dub nymphs - no problem sinking if there's wire ribbing or a bead head, and it's great for dries as noted above.

    Some years ago on Rocky Ford there was some type of small blue quill hatch occurring over a couple of weekends that I fished it, so I started tying blue quill emergers using a #18 2487 hook, muskrat guard hair tail, muskrat underbody dubbing (no ribbing), and a little CDC loop. The combination of hydrophobic fur properties and the cdc loop kept it perfectly in the film and I slayed bow after bow on it. Perfect color match for blue quill patterns. For the emerger I let the dubbing be a bit messy, so it had a bedraggled emerger look - but if I were to tie any later stage upright patterns with it I would dub tighter and thread rib it.

  14. Oh, right, and as posted in the rediscovered old patterns thread, I used muskrat as the B.D. grey dubbing called for in the classic Gold Ribbed Hares Ear pattern. The hackle, by the way, is grizzly schlappen, as I wanted it to be the softest, webbiest stuff I had.


  15. It's a shame I can only "like" a photo once as I like the looks of this fly. Years ago I fished one of these up at Chopaka in the early morning hours. The trout were out slurping up callibaetis spinners. Some felt this fly in a size 10 was close enough for sunken ones. That was my first trip up there in 1977.
    Jim Speaker likes this.
  16. When I first started tying, I seem to remember muskrat as the body material indicated in the recipe books for a traditional style Adams.

    I did some research and yes-sir-ree, muskrat was the stuff.


    Of course nowadays I use rabbit fur or synthetic dubbing for dry flies.

  17. Same here. A friend of mine taught me and two of the first few patterns we did were the casual dress and the adams. He gave me a muskrat pelt because those were two of his favorite patterns and he wanted me to have the correct materials. Great guy and teacher, and great patterns. I use synthetic now, but I sill prefer the muskrat body on adams. Don't know why I stopped using the original muskrat, just easier to use the synthetics I guess.

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