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Hair Bugs – Oldies but Goodies

DSCN0962First off I love deer hair bugs.  I love the sound they make when they splat on the water.  I love the action they give and how they look.  I also like the way they still catch fish.  What I don’t like is the time and patience it takes to spin a full size bass bug into being.  Working with deer hair is not the easiest thing to do and it can be intimidating if you’re trying to figure it out on your own.  DSC_0126I’ve been working with deer hair  since I was a kid.  I’m not the  greatest at it, but I can do it.  Spinning, stacking, muddler heads and collars, I’ve got most of it down.  I’m from the pre-YouTube generation so I tried to learn how to spin hair by looking at pictures in books.  This is the long and frustrating route, not recommended.  A good mentor or better yet a live demonstration is worth all the pictures in the world.   I remember somewhere along the line I was at an outdoor show and I watched a gentlemen giving a demonstration on spinning deer hair to make a gerbubble bug.  In just five minutes of watching him I learned more than I did in the last year trying on my own.

Although I truly admire some of the unbelievable works of art that some tyers produce with deer hair, most of my tying is for utility, meaning I tie flies that are meant to be fished with.  As my skill DSC_0137progresses I make semi-serious attempts at stacking colors for the sheer art of it but even when I do get it right and turn out an awesome looking bug, it feels like a waste of good tying time.  Even more so after i feed it to a fish or two or, more likely, toss it into the brush and trash it trying to get it back.   Besides, the logic in me says the fish only see the bottom of the thing anyway so I don’t know what those people are doing with all that stacking. I won’t get into all the details of how to stack hair here as there are dozens of great videos and instruction already out there and my techniques aren’t any different than what you’ve already seen.  But I will give a few tips that will help turn out bugs that last longer, float higher and generally fish better.   The rule of a good surface bug is the more hair the better.  Learn to stack instead of spin.  Pack it in on the top to make it more dense.  It takes a lot of patience in IMG_1645“hair management” but with a lot of serious practice you’ll beIMG_1658
surprised at how fast you get.  You can use cement or glue on the hair base as you go if you want but I  generally don’t.  I will sometimes coat the entire bottom of the bug after its trimmed to give it more durability.  Bass especially can really wreck a bug and its a lot of effort to keep making replacements, especially when you find the one with just the right action that seems to work better than all the others for some reason.  Its hard to duplicate something when you don’t know exactly what it is that makes it work better.

Speaking of hair, get good hair for spinning and stacking.  Again, there’s tons of articles on how to select hair, but in general, it needs to be stiff, straight and thick.  Deer belly hair is what I generally use for spinning and stacking or any application where I need a lot of flare.  It is generally also all white so it can be dyed into some very brilliant colors.  Also, good hair can’t be purchased over the internet.

The Whitlock Mouserat, one of my favorites.
The Whitlock Mouserat, one of my favorites.

I’ve ordered several pieces of the same hair and found half the order was too thin or curved.  You need to inspect each patch for what it is and for your purpose in mind.  But with that said, I still get a lot of my hair online.  I’ve had really good luck with Feathercraft and Nature’s Spirit lately.  Nature’s Spirit will go the extra mile and actually sort the deer hair they get and label it for what it’s most usable.  Just order spinning hair and you’re all set.


Most important, practice.  Tie a lot.  If your goal is to make those incredible works of art, go for it.  If you’re tying just for utility, remember those “rejects” that don’t come out just right, sometimes catch just as many fish as the ones that are seemingly perfect.


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