The Mickey Finn
Hook: Daiichi 2220 #6-#10
Thread: Black 8/0 or 6/0
Rib: Fine Silver Wire or Oval Tinsel
Body: Uni Mylar, #14, Silver Side Out
Wing: Yellow and Red Bucktail or Calf tail tied in 3 separate segments. The red is sandwiched between the yellow segments. The second and third wing stacks are equal in volume to the first yellow segment.
Tying Note: This fly can be tied in a variety of color combinations including orange and red or yellow and chartreuse.
Western fly tyers love cutting edge materials and fly patterns yet traditional favourites and tying styles are always welcome both at the vise and in the fly box. This is especially true of hair wing streamers such as the Mickey Finn. Hair wing streamers still produce and are a common fly box inhabitant for many British Columbia fly fishers, particularly those who the pursuit of returning salmon and coastal cutthroat.
Hair wing streamers are simple and uncomplicated, consisting of nothing more than a flashy body and sparse hair wing. Original bodies were constructed from silver or gold tinsel depending upon the pattern recipe. Tinsel however, had a number of drawbacks. Stiff and inflexible, tinsel was tough to coax around the shank and often kinked or broke. Tinsel bodies also tarnished and a pattern’s attractive lustre was soon gone. Tinsel has since been replaced by Mylar, a modern plastic that is fly tyer friendly and available in variety of widths and colors. Common Mylar sizes range from #12 through #16, the higher the number the narrower the Mylar. Narrow Mylar is easier to work with and for # 6 to #10 streamers #14 Mylar is ideal. Mylar is sold on spools in two sided combinations such as silver and gold or peacock green and orange. Silver and gold is the most popular combination and it is ideal for streamer bodies and wet fly ribs. Other materials may also be used for hair wing bodies. Flashabou, a hanked Mylar, makes wonderful bodies, especially on tiny streamers. Most Flashabou suppliers offer a wide color range in a 1/69th inch width but wider widths are available, typically aimed at the salt water market. Narrow Flashabou is easy to work with and multiple strands may be used. The main drawback to Flashabou is its elasticity, pulling too hard dulls its reflective qualities. This is particularly true of holographic Flashabou. Wind with care to ensure the fly receives its holographic benefit. Other popular Mylar substitutes include, Crystal Chenille, woven Mylar and braided body materials such as Poly Flash or Poly Glimmer.
Mylar bodies are easy to form and look their best when the individual wraps butt against each other neatly over a smooth underbody. If the pattern does not have a tail or rib the best underbody foundation is the hook shank. Tails or ribbing materials must be bound along the entire shank ensuring smoothness. Lumps and bumps create a poor foundation and the finished result is less than satisfying.
There are two body wrapping options, single or double layer. Single layers involve, as the name would suggest, a single layer of Mylar for the body. This is the easiest and quickest method. Tie the Mylar in at the rear of the shank and wind forward using close touching turns to the hook eye. Be careful to ensure there are no gaps in the wraps that detract from the finished result. The single layer method is best suited for wider Mylar.
To form a single wrap body trim one end of the Mylar on an angle creating a point. Tie in the Mylar by the point with the opposite color of the Mylar showing, if a silver body is required tie in the Mylar with the gold side facing. Raise the Mylar vertically to position the Mylar and take one turn. The turning motion places a 180 degree rotation in the Mylar, the silver side now shows. After the initial wrap pinch or use the thumb nail to flatten the crease in the Mylar. Continue winding forward forming the body. Single layer bodies are not as durable as double layers but with practice and care the finished result is nearly impossible to distinguish. A ribbing of either fine wire or oval tinsel adds an additional level of protection. Again, make sure the ribbing material is tied along the entire shank ensuring a smooth body. Place the initial ribbing wrap around the rear of the Mylar body to protect it. Continue the rib forward using even open spirals, placing the ribbing on the Mylar seams if possible. A coating of head cement or Super Glue provides a further level of durability.
Double layer bodies are a personal favourite. To form a double layer body tie in the Mylar with the desired color facing out just back from the hook eye. Wind the Mylar back down the shank to the bend. Hold the Mylar vertically for positioning purposes and then wind the Mylar forward to the tie in point creating the double layer. Tie off the Mylar and fold it back over itself. Place a few additional thread wraps locking it in place and remove the excess. Double layer bodies offer two distinct advantages. The first is cosmetic, as the return journey up the shank covers any gaps in the primary wraps. The second advantage is strength. Any material wrapped over itself adds durability negating the need for a rib. This method works well with Flashabou and is my preferred method when forming Mylar bodies on chironomid patterns.
With the body complete the wing is next. Hair wing streamers, as their name would imply, are made from animal hairs such as bucktail, polar bear, squirrel tail or calf tail. Modern synthetics such as Diamond Wing or Super Hair also work well and are handy when tying flies for toothy opponents. Calf tail and bucktail are probably the two most popular choices. Their crinkly nature provides the illusion of bulk and allows the creation of sparse wings, a mark of a quality streamer. Calf tail works well for smaller streamers, #6 and smaller, bucktail is better suited for larger patterns.
Many natural wing materials are stiff slippery and cause frustration. Repeating preening of the wing often results in a bald pattern. This characteristic is a result of either too much material or tying technique and often a combination of both. Hair wing streamers must have sparse wings for optimum movement and translucency. Bulky overdressed wings require a tonne of thread to bind them in place resulting in ugly flies with large heads. Despite the thread volume in many circumstances thread pressure does not reach the shank and the wing is never secure. A good measure of hair volume involves twisting the hair stack tight at its mid point. The twisted width should be no wider than the hook eye. Always err on the side of sparse.
Hair choice and preparation is key. Select long straight hairs. Curved or curled hairs create an unattractive look and the fly will not swim properly. When using calf tail for example, use the hair from the middle portion of the tail, avoid the tip hairs. Pull the hair perpendicular to the hide or bone to even the tips and trim. In many instances this stacks the hair sufficiently for a suitable wing. A hair stacker can be used to even the tips. Make sure the hair stacker diameter is large enough to allow the hair fibres to move and even up. Once stacked, pinch the tips and stoke out any short hairs or under fur.
With the hair prepared hold it parallel above the shank for measurement and trimming. Pre trimming prior to tie in provides the foundation for a neat tapered head. Typical wing length is about one and one half the shank length. Meaning the tips of the hair should extend about one half shank length past the bend of the hook. When trimming the hair butts most tyers trim on a sloping angle on the top side of the stack away from the hook eye. At first glance this might make sense as the angle helps form a neat tapered head. The drawback to this trimming method is that the securing thread wraps have a poor grip on the top hair fibres and are easy to pull out. Once the top hairs pull out the balance soon follow. An angled cut is correct but it is the angle location and direction that is critical. Trim the butts from the bottom of the stack on a similar angle to a down eye hook slopping upward towards the front of the hook. Trimmed in this fashion the securing wraps have a full purchase on the top fibres and in turn bind the lower wing fibres in place. The wing is durable and the fibres are tough to pull out. On multi layered wings such as those on the Mickey Finn place a drop of cement between stacks for additional security.
Once the wing is complete build a tapered head. Spin the tying bobbing counter clockwise removing any thread twist, allowing flat wraps that provide maximum coverage without building up bulk. Gloss head cement or varnish provides an elegant finish and the hair wing streamer is ready for feeding to a migrating salmon or nomadic coastal cutthroat.
1) Cover the hook shank with tying thread. Tie in the ribbing material along the near side of the hook. Tie the ribbing material along the entire shank to ensure a smooth underbody for the Mylar body material. Trim one end of the Mylar body material on an angle. Tie in the Mylar by the point, silver side out, approximately one eye width back from the hook eye.
2) Wind the Mylar down the shank to the bend using close touching turns. Once at the bend hold the Mylar vertical and then wind it forward to the hook eye using close touching turns. Cover up any gaps left in the initial wraps down the shank. Tie off with 2-3 wraps of thread. Fold the Mylar back over itself and add an additional 2-3 wraps to lock off the Mylar. Trim the excess Mylar. Spiral the ribbing material over the Mylar body in even open turns to the hook eye. Place the first wrap of ribbing directly behind the Mylar body at the bend of the hook to protect it. Tie off the ribbing and remove the excess. If using wire pull and twist the wire to break it. Avoid using scissors. A coating of cement can be added for further security if desired.
3) Select, prepare and stack the first wing segment. Keep the wing sparse. To check the volume of the stack twist the prepared the hair, it should be no wider than the hook eye. Err on the side of sparse. Measure the wing for length, the tips should extend about half the shank length past the hook. Trim the butts of the wing at the tie in point, approximately one eye width back from the hook eye, on an angle equal to that of the hook eye sloping up and toward the front of the fly and away from the tips of the hair. Tie in the wing and secure it forward to the hook eye creating a nice even taper.
4) Select, prepare and stack the second wing segment in the same manner as the first. The volume of the second stack should be half that of the first wing segment. Trim the butts at the same angle as the first stack and tie in place at the same location. As with the first wing segment wind the thread forward to the hook eye to secure the wing butts.
5) Select, prepare and stack the third wing segment in the same manner as the first. The volume of the third stack should be the same as the second wing segment. Trim the butts at the same angle as the first stack and tie in place. As with the first wing segment wind the thread forward to the hook eye to secure the wing butts. The second and third wing segments should be the same volume as the first. The overall wing should be sparse. A dab of head cement or superglue can be added between stacks for further reinforcement.
6) Build a neat tapered head. Twisting most threads in a counter clockwise manner when viewed from above allows for wide flat wraps that cover without building up unnecessary bulk. The finished head should be no longer than the hook eye. Whip finish and apply head cement. A glossy finish coat adds a touch of class to any hair wing streamer.