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White Deer Hair Moth
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White Deer Hair Moth
By Gary LaFontaine

There are some heavy hatches at night and trout feed selectively on them, keying on the size and shape of the insects. They also eat of lot of nymphs, taking them as they drift in the current. But otherwise fish forage very opportunistically in the dark. They react to the vibrations of anything in or on the water, moving towards objects instead of waiting for them.

My basic list of night flies would include a top-water swimmer (a slim deer hair bug or a Creature), a shallow-water, bulky streamer (a Muddler or crawfish pattern), a stonefly nymph (a Natural Drift Stone), a big mayfly pattern (a Mess), a big, skating caddisfly pattern (a Dancing Caddis) and a dry moth imitation.

The Deer Hair Moth has the attributes of a good night fly. It gets soggy, the head eventually wicking up moisture, and it lands on the surface with an attractive splat. The pattern is bulky, sitting flush, pushing water with every twitch and sending out vibrations. The wings, out at an angle, fold up and spring back out as the fly moves and stops.

This pattern was developed during a crazy summer, a solid seven-week stretch of night fishing. Bill Seeples and I usually slept during the days, but if we had to go outside we wore two pairs of sunglasses to protect our night vision. We traveled to all of the great rivers of the state, including the Madison, Beaverhead, Missouri, Smith, and Yellowstone. We fished hard every night of that period.

How did we do? We probably would have caught more trout during the same number of fishing hours in daylight, but the average size of the browns and rainbows was much larger, roughly 17 inches. We wondered where the fish under 14 inches stayed at night. They certainly didn't hit our flies. We caught nearly as many rainbows as browns. We found enough brutes, trout over 5 pounds, to keep us always alert to the possibility of trophy fish. Our biggest trout were an 8 1/2 pound brown from the Missouri and a 9-pound brown from the Beaverhead.

By the third week of our spree the White Deer Hair Moth had evolved through trial and error to its finished form. It became the main fly from the 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. part of the night. Over the summer it caught more fish, if not bigger ones, than any other pattern.

Materials White Deer Hair Moth

Hook:   8-12 (2X long shank, TMC 2312.)

Body Hackle  Cream hackle (palmered and clipped).

Body:  White closed-cell foam (wrapped).

Head:  Cream mink fur (dubbed rough with the guard hairs).

Tying Steps:

1. Tie down a strip of foam; let it dangle for the moment.


2. Tie in the cream hackle; let it dangle for the moment.


3. Pull the foam down over the hook shank; bind it down by ribbing it with the tying thread on the bobbin.

4. Palmer the cream hackle; clip the fibers short all the way around.

5. Tie in a heavy downwing of deer hair.

6. With a dubbing rope (created by twisting mink fur in a dubbing loop), figure-eight the wings (leaving the hair split in a 45 degree backwards angle); wrap enough fur in front of the wings to form a head.

7. Whip finish.

More:

It is not a large creek, maybe ten to twenty feet across on average, and brushy enough to make casting in the dark difficult. The easiest way to fish it is to wade straight upstream, avoiding the deeper outside corners. The best areas to fish are the boundaries of a pool - the head, the tail, and both banks (anywhere except the deep center).

Alan caught trout on a Muddler, landing six of them in an hour, the best a 20-inch brown. He missed too many fish at first on an erratic, strip retrieve. He started hooking more of them on an across-stream cast and a simple, short-line swing, most of the strikes coming as the fly straightened out and hung below him.

My choice for a pattern was the old reliable, the White Deer Hair Moth, not only because it would catch trout but also because it would bring them to the surface hard. Up and across stream cast, thrown with a curve, hooked the Moth in against the deep banks. With a dry fly this slice of the stream was more productive than the tails of pools and runs (where Alan picked up his fish on a Muddler.)

The best retrieve, at the end of the drift, was a quick upstream mend of the bellying line. This maneuver not only threw new slack for another drift but make the fly dash upstream in a smooth, one-to two-foot jot. The movement gave fish a new chance to notice the bulky imitation silhouetted against the sky.

Browns and rainbows took the fly, crashing the surface loud enough for me to know when to strike. The numbers of decent trout, all above 13 inches, in this stream was surprising even to someone who had fished it a lot during the day. Four over 18 inches were landed. Some fish, of course, hit the Moth with huge swirls but were never hooked, and these, always the biggest in my mind, made the night special. ~ Gary LaFontaine


Credits: From Trout Flies by Gary LaFontaine, published by Greycliff Publishing. We greatly appreciate use permission.


For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.


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