Fly of the Month 6.14
The Deer Hair dry fly is a roughwater fly featured in Roger Lowe’s Fly Pattern Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains. Roger’s caption “Sometimes known as an Irresistible; also nicknamed “The Speck”.
This is a fly with a number of variations which are all based on a spun deer hair body – almost!
Possibly the most original fly pattern and variation of the Deer Hair dates back to the Cherokee Indian that made a more durable, efficient “bait” on a bone hook. Imagine running out of bait while foraging native brook trout for the family. By taking a narrow strip of deer skin with the hair intact and wrapping and securing it on a bone hook, a reusable “bait” was invented. Leaving the hair “as is” would create a “woolly bugger” like “bait” and clipping the hair would create a highly floatable worm-like “bait”. Either way, the “bait” would prove so effective that the method of tying the strip of deer skin with the hair intact would be passed down for many generations and possibly be adapted to the wire hook later when the Spanish explorers came through the area in the early 1500’s and traded hooks for gold or food.
The original Deer Hair may well have been the first fly tied and used in North America and by Native Americans.
“The Speck” or Deer Hair is a very close variation of the Adams Irresistible. The primary difference is the Moose hair tail which gives the fly more float past the bend in the hook.
The Irresistible is a true Southern Appalachian dry fly originated by Joe Messinger of Morgantown, West Virginia. Did Joe simply improve on the original Deer Hair fly pattern used by the Cherokee Indians for hundreds, possibly several thousands of years? The improvement is believed to be the spun deer hair which is secured to the hook in a superior manner. Spun deer hair is an advanced tying technique to master. It requires a strong, flexible thread, a little faith in getting the deer hair tied down uniformly 360 degrees around the hook shank and a packing and clipping technique to make the resulting blob of hair a dense, high floating body.
The first fly pattern created by Joe Messinger was called the Deer Hair Drake (note the name Deer Hair) and was renamed in the 1930’s to Irresistible. Ken Lockwood, an outdoor writer, was sent one of Joe’s flies. Ken remarked, “I haven’t used this one but is sure looks irresistible.” Over the years, the name stuck and the fly pattern has spawned various color variations including: Adams Irresistible, Black Irresistible, Brown Irresistible, White Irresistible and Yellow Irresistible with the Adams becoming the most popular. According to Dr. John Benbow, the Yellow Irresistible is the most irresistible (a definite Southern bias for yellow of course). Joe Messinger’s original Irresistible recipe calls for a natural deer hair top and a dyed-white deer hair bottom. A very advanced deer hair spinning technique is required to accomplish this subtle difference.
There is some dispute as to the origin of the Adams Irresistible itself. Harry and Elsie Darbee of (Roscoe) Livingston Manor, New York originated a similar pattern in 1939 called the Beaverhead Bastard which was generally tied on larger hooks for Salmon and Steelhead. His friend, Percy Jennings, at Harry’s suggestion tied the pattern onto smaller hooks. Percy’s daughter came up with the name “Rat Faced McDougal” to replace the “Bastard” name which she felt was not a fitting name for a fly pattern. The Beaverhead Bastard was tied with grizzly hackle tip wings (thus the dispute) and the Rat Faced McDougal was an improvement tied with calf hair as Harry wrote in his book Catskill Flytier that white calf-wings were “more visible, just as effective.”
The Deer Hair or Irresistible works very well on our rougher, fast flowing waters in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The spun deer hair body provides excellent floatability. A number of variations have originated for western waters including: Irresistible Wulff, Irresistible October Caddis, Irresistible Yellow Stimulator for Yellow Sally hatches and the Irresistible Orange Stimulator which is a good choice for golden stone and Salmonfly hatches. Another variation based on a spun deer hair body is the Goddard Caddis.
Deer Hair or “The Speck” - moose tail, mixed brown & grizzly hackle, grizzly hackle tip wings
Irresistible - brown bucktail tail and wings, medium or dark dun hackle
Adams Irresistible - black, grizzly or Coq de Leon hackle, grizzly and brown or Cree hackle, grizzly hackle tip wings
Deerhair – Roger Lowe
HOOK : Tiemco 100 or equivalent in size 18,16,14, 12
THREAD : Uni8/0 or equivalent Black
TAIL : Moose hair
ABDOMEN: Deer Body Hair, natural
WING : Grizzly Rooster Hackle tips
HACKLE : Brown and Grizzly Rooster hackle
1. Begin thread wraps two eye lengths from hook eye and make touching wraps to the hook bend. Let the bobbin hang.
2. Select six or eight fine moose hairs and clean away any body fuzz. Use hair stacker and align the tips. The length should be slightly less than the hook shank. Place the moose hair on top of the hook shank and using a soft wrap, bind them in place. If everything looks good, continue with firmer wraps to tie in the tail. Do not tighten so quickly that you make the moose hair flair. Once secure, trim the excess and bring the wraps back to the hook bend and let the bobbin hang.
3. Choose a small bundle of deer hair on the hide. Something smaller than a pencil. Trim from the hide and clean the underfur as completely as possible. The better it is clean, the better it will spin. It is not necessary to stack the hair. Place the hair on top of the hook shank, at the hook bend and hold at a slight angle. Using the bobbin make two soft wraps over the center of the deer hair. Holding the hair in place with your left hand, take the bobbin and pull straight up to tighten the soft wraps. When you begin to apply this pressure the hair will spin around the hook shank and begin to flair explosively. That is good. Advance the thread to immediately in front of the deer hair and push the hair into itself, using a thumbnail. Bind in with tight wraps immediately in front of the hair. Repeat the process, three or four more times, advancing the hair to the thorax. Tie off thread with hitch knots and cut away temporarily.
4. Using scissors, begin trimming the abundant hair fibers to the appropriate abdomen profile being careful not to cut the tail. Once you have a reasonable shape and size add the thread back in front of the deer hair. You can return for final shape and size after finishing the thorax and head. Being the creative barber is the best part anyway.
5. Select two matching grizzly feathers and cut the tip section away from each. The length will be the height of the wing plus a short length of stripped stem to tie in with. With the concave part of the tips out and the tips aligned, tie in at about half the distance left from the eye to the abdomen. Tie in by binding the bare stem on top of the hook shank and wrapping thread in front of the wings. Pulling back the thread on top of the hook shank in a horizontal manner will cause the wings to stand upright. Divide the wings with a couple of x turns and let the bobbin hang in front of the wings.
6. Select a grizzly and a brown rooster hackle with barbs to suit the hook size chosen. They should be about one and one half the hook gape. Also make sure the two hackle feathers have similar stem thickness. Strip both with sufficient bare stem to make one and one half wraps before the barbs. Tie both in together with the shiny side up and the bottom aligned. The tie in point is just behind the wings. Begin wrapping one hackle at a time and make the first wraps open to allow the second hackle space. Three or so behind the wings and two or three in front. After binding in the hackles, trim the waste and whip finish the head.
- Tom Adams, Alen Baker