Stacking Deer Hair [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Stacking Deer Hair

01-04-2002, 06:49 AM

When I signed up for the present warmwater fly swap I signed on for tying a matuka sculpin. I signed up for this fly because I know that it is effective for bass and I know that tying the fly requires some tying techniques that I had not tried before. The fly would be a learning experience for me.

Well, I have cranked out 5 or 6 of the flies (3 that I deemed worthy for the swap so far) and I have learned a multitude of tricks that help me to tie the fly. However, I find that I have trouble packing the deer hair as tightly as the man that tied the fly that I am copying.

The men at Hunter's Angling helped me pick out the best deer hair (for spinning) that they had. This is not my problem. I have read many articles on spinning deer hair and I am decent at it. However, I have some questions for any members that may have experience spinning deer hair.

1. Is it better to tie in many smaller clumps of deer hair (half the diameter of a pencil) or 4 or 5 larger clumps of deer hair (the diameter of a pencil).

2. Do any of you have an opinion about putting Zap-A-Gap or superglue on the wraps that you use to attach the deer hair. I do so but you must be very careful not to glue the deer hair into a position that is not perpendicular to the hook shank (unless that is the effect that you are looking for).

3. Do any of you have tips for keeping different colors of deer hair separated (this fly is olive on top and white on the bottom)? If I am going to make a mistake I shoot for some white on top not olive on the bottom. You can always use a marker to color in some of the white hair that crossed the color boundary and drifted to the top of the fly.

4. After tying in some white on the bottom of the fly and some olive on top I fold back the olive hair on top and I fold the white back on bottom. Then I slip a loop (a twist tie) with the ends twisted together over the hair in order to keep the hair out of the way when I spin the next clumps of deer hair. This works pretty well for me. Any other tips out there?

Maybe I can consult with the "pros" and see them spin some deer hair at the Marlboro show.



01-04-2002, 07:20 AM

I'm FAR from an expert but based on my limited experience I think you're doing great.

Size of the clumps of deer hair are dependant upon the body/ head you are trying to build. If you need to make something really large on one side (like a Dahlberg Diver) I use a large clump on top, take two loose wraps and pull tight (using my fingers to prevent the spin) to keep the majority on top. Then pull the thread to the front of the bunch, throw in a 1/2 hitch or two, a little glue and do it all over again with a smaller bunch for the bottom.

Same thing for seperating colors.

Hope this makes sense.


01-04-2002, 09:33 AM
Mike, that's a timely question for me.. I attended the UFT last night and camped next to John Morrison who was tying Bass bugs and I watched him tie the most beautiful heads. I learned not to use super glue in the thread.. can screw it up.. He also swears by the packer and the little thing to pack the hairs in tight to each other on the shank.. But what I thought was the coupe de Gras was using a razor blade to trim the heads. He also showed us how to put different colors in ...Including large eyes of different color dear hair.. where to put your fingers to keep the different colors on top or on the bottom of the shank. To put in horizontal colors.. I can not explain it but will be glad to show you at the show.. You should consider joining UFTers. I usually do not tie at these meetings but go from table to table watching the Techniques I want to learn. I will be tying a few up for my fly display at our Booth.

Dble Haul
01-04-2002, 10:08 AM
Mike- I'm another who doesn't claim to be an expert, but I've learned a few things over the years that might help you. I don't use glue because once its used, any potential mistakes really can't be undone. I also swear by the packing tool; this will keep the hair extremely tight and close, and the fly will float like a cork because water just simply cannot penetrate the interior of the pack.

FWIW, my packing tool is a washer that is large enough to fit over the hook eye of whatever pattern it is that I'm tying. It's very practical because it gives you 360 degree coverage of the hair that's being packed, and if lost can be very easily replaced.

Good luck, and looking forward to seeing your fly in the swap.

01-04-2002, 12:09 PM
Originally posted by striblue
Mike, that's a timely question for me.. I attended the UFT last night and camped next to John Morrison who was tying Bass bugs ...

Awwww shoooot!!!! I missed it. God I hate getting old. Can't remember where I left my pants half the time (like when I was 22, but that's another story).
Oh well, at least I stayed in and worked on my boat trailor bearings project. So some progress was made.


01-04-2002, 04:44 PM

Thanks for the advice. One question though: what is the packing tool really used for and how would I use a washer. I assume that I would just use the washer to squash down a clump of hair that I am trying to attach to the hook shank before I wrap the clump?

Thanks to all for the advice!

And John, maybe I should join the UFT. For now maybe you can just show me some of your tricks at the Marlboro show.

Thanks again,


01-04-2002, 06:51 PM
No expert here, but I do a lot of spinning at the bench, none of which is the result of the dram of Holy Peat Water that usually sits next to my tying table.
Here is an easy & inexpensive packer tool.
Get a "plug" from an electrical outlet box those little round circles that pop out), file the rim to a smooth finish, drill a hole about 3/16 with you hand drill, (or buy a washer with a small hole in the middle)
Get a brass case/empty shell from a hunting buddy, like a .308 or that size.
Weld the washer/plug onto the shell casing using regular welding material of household variety, something like an electric welding toll works just fine .
Voila, you can make all sizes you like, to get to pack your deer hair!

As for hair selection, a lot depends on the size of the body or head you want to make.
If you know someone who hunts deer, ask for a full skin, which is often thrown away. You will find that flank hair is different from top of the back hair as it is different from neck hair. Also, if you can get hair from young yearlings (where legal) you will find the coarseness varies. Tanning a hide would cost about $35 and you and sveral friends can have hair for years to come.

As a general rule, here is my recipe.
Back & neck hair, larger & longer & coarser hair = bass bugs & bombers, up to 3/4 inch in diameter
Flank & thigh hair, usually not as long or coarse = Spun heads (most sizes)
Upper leg hair, usually very fine = smaller spun head and ideal for "shaving" as John has described
Yearling hair (where legal) = ideal for making flared collars on small to medium sized spun head that call for a "collar"
If you don't like the razor shaving technique or clipping with scissors (they get dull real fast on dear hair), ask your friendly hairdresser for their supplier of hair clippers. I get some real neat "used" clippers for about $10 and they work just fine, some are as small as 1/2 inch wide.
Hope this helps.

Dble Haul
01-04-2002, 07:17 PM
Mike- The packing tool is used on the hair after it's tied onto the hook shank, not before. When using the washer, tie in your clump of hair as usual, put in a few half-hitches, and then slide the washer over the hook eye and up against the half-hitches. With the washer, cram the most recently tied in clump of hair back down the hook shank into any clumps that are already tied in. This can create a very durable, dense, and buoyant fly. Repeat as necessary after the tie in of every clump.

Regular packing tools are used for the same effect, but the packing may not be as even as what a washer can yield.

Hope this clears things up a bit.

John Desjardins
01-04-2002, 09:29 PM
This may be a remnant of tying a lot of flies on a poor vise, but I like to hold the hook with the free hand when packing deer hair together. It helps to prevent hooks from popping out of the vise.

01-04-2002, 09:54 PM
Ahh...that makes sense with the packing tool. I have been using an old pair of needle nose pliers to pack the hair back towards the bend in the hook. I also used a wire stripper (basically pliers with a hole in the jaws). The wire stripper works pretty well if you hole the strippers up near the hook shank.

I also hold the hook (at the bend) when I pack the hair. Somehow I feel that I am less likely to jab my packing hand into the hook when I do this.

I tied some flies tonight and the packing went well enough. Then I put the eyes on in such a way as to make one fly look a little cross eyed. Doh!

01-04-2002, 10:14 PM
Mark... I just finished two flies.. and followed Morrison to a key.. I had no packing tool so I used my fingers but by keeping the shank thread bear except for my tail material I was able to pack it nice and tight. I stacked the hairs just as Morrison did by putting the ends in the stacker first ,stack it then cut the ends... but also cut the other ends as well.... Both flies came out beyond my expectation ..One had two different colors horizontal the other had white on the bottom and a different color on top with a complete red front.. top and bottom. The Key was the use of the razor blade.. Cut the blade to use only one side.. Bend it in a semi-circle shape and cut toward the hook... incredible... all nice and even and perfect.. no gouges as a scissor might do. I used the scissors for trimming the neck. NEED TO BUY MORE DEER HAIR:eyecrazy:

01-05-2002, 12:19 PM
Hi Mr. President

Just a tip on the curved razor cut. Purchase the single edge razor blades produced for small paint scrapers as the have a steel band on the non cutting side and will hold any shape you bend into it. Even using them as they come from the box is easier with extra material to hold on to.

Just my .02 saltRon

01-05-2002, 02:15 PM
Salt Ron.. I will check it out.. I am noticing that I can only use the razor for maybe three flys.. after that if gets too dull. Went to the hardware store today and got some wide frame washers for packers.. three of different sizes but they can fit over the hook eye.. It was great paying for them ,.06 cents for all three... great looks from those waiting in line... I said, " just like the good old days". I could actually buy something useful for under ten cents. Looking at Ted Lewis's flys in Ververkas book... my project for today.

01-05-2002, 03:26 PM

I had a washer in my basement and I tried it out as a hair packer. It worked very well. The result - the tightest deer hair fly that I have tied to date. Thanks for the tip.

John - Ted Lewis' flies look great in Veverka's book. I received the book yesterday (Dad - if you read this - realize that I will get you "your" book very soon:) ). Anyway, I find Lewis' choice of eyes for the deer hair flies interesting. I started putting epoxy eyes on the sculpins I am tying for the freshwater swap. The epoxy eyes look way better than the Plastic Eyes that I was using (plastic eyes with a plastic post). I see that Lewis prefers the epoxy eyes also. They look far more realistic than the Plastic Eyes. Doll eyes may be the best choice of all though. They would provide a nice rattle when stripped.

I think that I will tie Sedotti's Slammer this evening. Nice looking fly...

For now - it is time to tie fly swap fly #7.

Thanks again.


Dble Haul
01-05-2002, 08:45 PM
Mike, I'm glad that the hair packing is going better. Now I'm really interested in seeing your swap fly!

John, Saltron beat me to the punch with the suggestion of the single edge razor. It seems that with the assortment of washers and razors in the hardware stores, they could have their own mini tying sections. :hehe: Now it seems that I should be getting my hands on a copy of Veverka's book......

01-05-2002, 08:56 PM

Well - the "post washer" flies are coming out so well that I am going to have to tie 2 more tomorrow and keep some of the previous swap flies for myself. The "pre-washer" flies would catch fish but they are not nearly as pretty as the post washer flies.

I cannot stiff you guys with marginal flies after all of the good tips that you gave me!


01-25-2002, 10:01 PM
Try to get ahold of a copy of Jimmy Nix's video on tying bass bugs. It will provide with detailed instructions and how to's for working with deer hair, spinning, stacking, packing, cutting, etc..


01-25-2002, 11:37 PM
I would also check out the videos put out by Dave Whitlock, they are excellant

01-26-2002, 07:41 AM
I was thinking about stopping by Hunter's Angling in New Boston, NH today. They have a great store and a great selection of fly tying videos. They suggested a few videos to me also. I might just buy one. I thought that I had everything that I needed by the time the smoke cleared at the Marlboro show...

If I do buy a video then I know that I will watch it a few times and then it will collect dust fora few years before I view it again. That is a shame. Perhaps the members of this Forum could set up a video library and we could trade videos at Claves and get togethers. That would be awesome.

Maybe I will try to set up an informal video swap at the casting clave.