There are two places where professional Bruce Henderson
thinks a Deer Hair Mouse looks quite dapper: one place is
hanging from the serrated jaw of an irate brown trout; the
other is hanging from one's blazer lapel at Christmas-time.
There is little difference between the two mouse patterns,
except the color scheme, and even that is completely
arbitrary. The fact is, a big ol' predaceous brown trout
is just as apt to lunge after a well presented red, green and
white striped mouse as it is to go after the plain brown version.
Maybe depending upon that particular trout's mood and
Bruce Henderson is at once both shy and impish, eschewing the
dour seriusness of many a fly anglers and tier in favor of a
light-hearted, almost mischievous approach to his sporting
preoccupation. Have started fly fishing as a toddler in the
rural reaches of Nez Perce, Idaho, Henderson has never left
his child-driven curiosity and enthusiasm behind. With a wry
smile, Henderson observes: "I was do young when I started
fly fishing I can't even remember how old I was. One of the
first things I do remember is my dad taking me to the Lochsa
River, where he hooked me in the nose with a fly. So I guess
you could say I was hooked at a very early age.
"I got interested in tying flies while in high school, but I
was just winging it. My flies all fell apart pretty quickly . . .
Then about five or six years ago I took a class from LeRoy Hyatt
and soon after that I rented every fly tying video I could get my
hands on, which I strongly recommend to anyone getting into fly
tying. I also bought all the fly fishing and tying books I could
afford." With an almost straight face, Henderson adds, "I had
to quit drinkin' and tobacco in order to afford my fishing habits."
Henderson's Xmas Mouse is offered as an holiday amusement - a
seasonal item for gift shops, appealing mostly to impulse buyers. The
bulk of his business, however, lies in custom orders from fly shops,
including a selection of his own patterns - some of the most stunning
steelhead - and trout flies in the N.W. Since Henderson is by nature
soft spoken, if not downright reticent, he is not an aggressive promoter
of his own products. Consequently, his patterns have found a market
based entirely on word-of-mouth. In fact, while conducting the
interview for this article in Propps' Fly Shop in Spokane, Washington,
one of the curious onlookers interjected, "Bruce Hendersons ties the
meanest steelhead flies on earth."
The Xmas Mouse is a modification of a Christmas pattern first tied by
Jan Sadlo (an employee of Propp's Fly Shop) who in turn borrowed
the basic Deer Hair Mouse design from its orignator, Clarence Calhoun.
In Henderson's words: "I often alter patterns to suit my tastes . . .The
truth is, it's almost impossible to invent a new pattern any more.
Everything's been done"
To tie a good Xmas Mouse you need fairly long, soft deer hair to work
with; otherwise, you won't get a plump, round body after trimming. As
far as color goes, Henderson always ties the head of the fly white so that
the ears, eyes and whiskers are distinct and visible. "After that," Henderson
says, "you can use any combination of red, white or green you want,
whatever seems Christmasy." Henderson notes that there's one other
secret to tying a handsome mouse: "When you cut the fur strips for the
ears, trim them to a point and then tie in just the tips of the points. That
way you won't get a build-up of materials on the head.". . .
Hooks: Mustad 2451 or equivalent, size 6 or larger.
Since some of use can experience serious blood
letting when packing deer hair on hooks, try sliding
an 1/8 inch section of hollow tubing over the point
of the hook. It protects your fingers and also helps
the point from nicking your thread when spinning
the first hair bundles.
Tail: Red Vernille, 2 inches long.
Body: Deer belly hair: dyed red, green and white.
Ears: Red rabbit fur strips.
Eyes: Umpqua mono eyes.
Whiskers: Deer belly hair or red Krystal Flash.
1. Form thread underbody and secure Vernille at
2. Spin on the first batch of deer hair; color optional
according to one's taste.
3. Spin on next two bands of deer hair alternating
4. Secure rabbit fur strips to hook shank;
be sure to leave strips long for ease of handling and
5. Spin two or three more batches of white deer
hair to fill in mouse's head and whip finish.
6. Remove fly from vise. Use razor blade to trim
bottom of fly completely flat. Be careful not to cut
7. Use curved scissors to trim and shape fly..
8. Trim rabbit fur strips to form ears.
9. Coat several fibers of Krystal Flash and
tease into place.
10. Use head cement or epoxy to attach eyes.