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"Yule Mice"
By Don Roberts
From Fly Tying Magazine, Winter 1996
We thank Frank Amato Publications for use permission

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Yule Mice

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 esthetic sensibilities.

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.". . .

Materials List:

Hooks:  Mustad 2451 or equivalent, size 6 or larger.

Thread:  White.

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.

Tying Instructions:

1.  Form thread underbody and secure Vernille at hook bend.

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 colors.

4.  Secure rabbit fur strips to hook shank; be sure to leave strips long for ease of handling and trimming.

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 thread.

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.

Tying Tip:

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.

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