When I was a young pup, I liked to use a muddler minnow to imitate a
grasshopper. Being young and foolish, I made it a practice to catch fish
by dragging it through any likely hole. It was especially effective in
the pockets under grassy banks where the big browns hid looking for an
As soon as I learned that my fishing method was improper and couldn't
work, my success rate fell dramatically. Eventually I discovered that
not all conventional wisdom was really wisdom after all, and if it
worked, it was acceptable even if it wasn't considered conventional. As
soon as I returned to my unconventional approach to fishing, my success
rate climbed dramatically. Did I mention that I'm not always
conventional in my approach to other things?
One particular stream in Montana was a favorite youthful haunt of mine.
It harbored some big brookies, occasionally over four pounds. As far as
I'm concerned, any time you can catch a few brookies over 20 inches is a
good time, and this stream usually gave up one or two on every visit. At
the time, I didn't realize how special my favorite fishing spot really
Although I occasionally used other flies, most of the time it was a
muddler on the end of my leader any time after mid July. I'd let it
drift and then pull it under any over-hangs I could find. It was a rare
day when I didn't get a hit in every likely spot and a few unlikely spots
too. Once in a while a big brown would add to the excitement, but the
usual catch was brookies.
Eventually others discovered my little stream flowing through that
grassy valley and the biggest fish were removed by shortsighted
fishermen. I suppose the reason it wasn't discovered earlier was how it
looked. It had no trees, just wild rose and a few willows near the bank.
It wasn't very big and the water was often a little discolored by
The last time I drove past that little creek was about five years ago
while I was visiting my family. The old county road that once provided
access to the stream has been closed and a sign indicating a fee fishing
enterprise was hanging on the gate. I suppose that's the wave of the
future, but it doesn't thrill me. I often find myself wondering if a
muddler twitched near an undercut bank would still fool a big brookie.
I wonder if the fishing is anything close to what it once was. I'll
probably never know. However, through all of this I did learn that a
muddler minnow can be used successfully as a hopper imitation, and that
convention isn't always the only way to approach a fishing situation.
Sometimes the unconventional approach is just what the fish are looking
Speaking of convention, I'm usually a bit unconventional in the way I
tie my muddler patterns. The original pattern calls for gold tinsel as a
body material, but I usually use green mylar for the body. Most muddlers
use an under-wing of some sort of hair. I usually don't tie an
under-wing. In fact, I frequently omit the tail too. I don't think it
really matters if you tie it exactly like the original, as long as it has
a hair head and some sort of body that resembles the original a little.
If the fish don't care, then neither do I.
For those folks who live a long way from trout, the muddler is a great
bass fly. In small sizes it's a dandy bluegill pattern too. Pike,
catfish, walleyes and carp can be fooled by this pattern too.