Fly Tying: Animal Fur with Guard Hairs

When I first learned to tie flies, synthetic dubbing blends were unavailable. Fly bodies were often from wool yarn, chenille or animal fur. I recall using one of our ‘older’ coffee grinders (grinding your own beans was revolutionary in itself, if you were only familiar with Folgers. So, when I appropriated our one and only coffee grinder to blend fur cut from the hide…well, it didn’t go over well. Fur on the hide usually came packaged in small patches, unless you knew someone who trapped or knew how to manage road kill (I won’t ever explain my one and only effort at skinning a rabbit).

One method, less used today, was to cut fur from the hide and dub it onto the hook, guard hairs and all. The spiky appearance was appealing and still is today. Today, dubbing loops are more popular to capture the fur, which allows for a uniform body and display of the guard hairs. The attached pic is of a nymph in which I dubbed via a loop Muskrat hair with the guard hairs included. Guard hairs can be separated out from the fur when one only wants the pure fur for dubbing a nice tight nymph or dry fly body. Today, synthetic dubbing’s (Ultra Fine, etc) make the tying/dubbing sleek dry fly bodies a breeze. But, every now and then, I find a patch of fur that has been properly stored and avoided the moths. It takes me back to dub a fur body. The thorax on the pattern is a couple turns of black Ostrich. The fly was tied on a size 14 hook. Attached, also, is the Hare’s Ear fly pattern (the more popular non-synthetic material these days to dub with), notice the more chaotic blending of fur and guard hairs when spun or twisted vs. captured in a loop with a minimal amount of twists and then wrapped around the shank. Both ways are equally acceptable.

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