Tying deer-hair flies

Deer-hair flies come in myriad styles and shapes and can be used to catch many species of fish throughout the world. Examples include the G & H Sedge and the Muddler Minnow for trout, the Water-Walker for steelhead, the Dalberg Diver for pike and largemouth bass and the Canadian Bomber series of dry flies for Atlantic salmon.

deer-hair flies

Fuzz busters

If you don’t remove the fine underfur near the deer skin, you can’t pack the hair tightly. In addition, the fur absorbs water, making the fly rather heavier than normal.

A clean mascara brush is excellent for removing unwanted deer-hair underfur. For a lot of hair work, use either a fine-tooth comb or a poodle brush – both are available at pet shops, and both do the job equally well.

After combing the underfur from the hair, save it in a small plastic bag. It’s extremely fine and makes an excellent dubbing material for dries and nymphs brown trout caught on deer hair fly Even fastidious river browns – such as this fine specimen – can be fooled with deer hair flies such as G & H Sedge, Muddler Minnow and Troth’s Bullhead.



1. First make the tail, body and wing of the fly. Then grasp a small clump of deer hair by the tips and upper portion of the hair, and remove it as close to the skin as possible. (Don’t handle the hair too much after cutting from the skin since you may displace the fibres and end up with a mess.)

Clip off the tips and butts; then lay the hair on the hookshank atari angle. Catch it in with two loose wraps of thread, making sure the thread is in the middle of the hair.

2. As you pull the thread down, release the hair a little at a time. It should spin around the hookshank. Make another wrap or two through the spun hair. Then tighten by pulling the thread down while holding a few of the fibres.

3. Pull all the hair back. Wrap the thread two or three times in front of the fibres. Then push the hair back towards the tail with a hair packer. Advance the thread 2mm or so, and repeat the entire process until you come to a point just before the eye.

4. Pull all the hair back again, and then whip finish just behind the eye. Apply a drop of varnish to the thread for protection. Clip the head to the desired shape with sharp scissors.

deer-hair flies

Hair and other bits and pieces

1. Short-fibred natural deer hair

2. Long hair dyed yellow, olive and black

3. Natural white hair from the belly

4. Size A rod wrapping thread (or size A mono-cord) – using strong, thick thread allows you to exert a lot of pressure on the hair, ensuring it spins well and the fibres flare properly; also you don’t have to worry about the thread breaking

5. Tiemco curved scissors – these scissors are super sharp, and the curved tip is useful when clipping different fly shapes

6. Hair stacker – for lining up tips of hair when forming a collar

7. Hair packer – allows you to compress the hair a lot better than with your fingers or a Biro tube; it’s an essential item for forming really tight bodies and heads

8. Marabou

9. White polypropylene

Deer-hair fibres contain air spaces, making the flies naturally buoyant – superb for fishing near the surface (up to about 0.9m/3ft deep). Muddler-styled lures, for example, displace a great deal of water, and trout and other predatory fish pick up this turbulence with their lateral lines and home in on the source.

Quality deer hair is spongy and flares easily when under thread tension. Most good fly fishing tackle shops have different colours and lengths available. Short hair is excellent for sedges and mini muddlers (because you trim a lot of the hair away). Long hair is suitable for large fry-imitating flies – the extra length helps to provide the right imitative dimensions.