Updated
200
9-05-15
Swedish version
   

The Arctic Mouse
by Bob Kenly

  Farley Mowat, the renowned Canadian environmental author, claimed in his book Never Cry Wolf a large carnivore such as man could survive on mice and to prove this bizarre theory he spent considerable time during one summer devouring mice cooked in one form or another. None of this scientific experimentation seemed to impress the local Arctic inhabitants who knew long ago wolves, foxes, birds of prey and fish relished the chance to feast on these protein rich rodents.

  Mice patterns in one form of another have long been a favorite of fly fishermen everywhere especially the more popular deer hair mouse. Known far and wide as a sure way to tempt big hungry trout, bass and pike, the deer hair mouse has long stood the test of time.

  During a conversation with Dennis Harms of Chugiak, Alaska, he complained that most mice patterns especially the deer hair mouse did not reflect the true nature of a mouse in the water. Direct observation by him has shown the Arctic mouse to be a very poor swimmer who struggles hard to barley keep its nose above the surface thus putting itself in dire danger of either drowning or being eaten. Dennis's chief complaint about the deer hair mouse, even though easy to cast, floats too high on the water to accurately imitate a swimming mouse with most of its bulk beneath the surface.

  Reflecting on our conversation I made several attempts to produce what Dennis described but falling short of an acceptable solution and shelved the whole idea to a later time. In a letter to Davy Wotton of Wales I recounted Dennis's story and forgot the whole thing until Davy wrote a piece in Fly Tyer magazine, which offered a perfect solution to the mouse dilemma. Davy's idea was really simple, a mouse constructed of cross cut rabbit or other fur. True, it will absorb water and be difficult to cast but it does look and act like a true mouse. Modifying Davy's pattern to a tube fly was easy for me, finding a source for charcoal gray rabbit skin was harder but a local shop found some natural skins from Wapsi in Mountain Home, Arkansas and that's been my source for these skins. Although I use rabbit I'm sure other locally obtained pelts will do just as well as long as it reflects a true mouse color.

  I've given several samples of the Arctic Mouse to several friends and they've all reported good results where ever they tried them, my doctor even catching brown trout during the daylight hours in Montana which is very unusual as mice tend to be nocturnal.

  Cutting Rabbit Skins Cutting rabbit skins, especially cross cutting strips can be a frustrating exercise at best but not having been able to purchase cross cut strips at the required width and color taking on the job myself was my only option.

  To cut a single strip I lay the skin on a table with the fur side down and using a straight edge make a cut on the skin with a single edge razor blade. The trick is not to cut all the way through the hide but just enough to score the hide. If you cut all the way through the hide to the fur you'll be cutting the fur and ruining the strip. Lift the skin and tear it gently along the cut, if you haven't made the cut deep enough you can gently cut the strip you've scored with a razor. After the first cut, again lay the straight edge on the pelt and make another cut so you'll have a 3/8 inch (9.525 mm) wide strip approximately 6 inches (152.4 mm) long. One strip is usually all that's needed for a one mouse.

  Tying the Arctic Mouse Tying this mouse isn't very difficult, in fact it's probably much easier than most mice patterns. Think about this, the final product is a totally panicked rodent swimming for his life not something that's going to be framed. Even though I'm tying this mouse on a tube it can also be tied on a suitable long shanked hook.

 

Step 1. Make a tail from a piece of dyed rabbit strip, I like leaving a tuft of hair on the tip, tie it to the tube with thread and cement.

Step 2. Tie on a piece of the cross cut rabbit strip next to the tail and the fur facing aft to the hook. Start wrapping the strip slightly overlapping each wrap to form a thicker body. Tie off with thread and cement wraps.

Step 3. From a suitable material cut a pair of ears. These can be cut from felt, chamois etc although I prefer a soft plastic material called "Thin Skin". Since I like the ears to be laid back over the body which again gives the appearance of a struggle I cut both ears so they are one strip. However, if you prefer you can cut both ears separately.

Step 4. Attach the ears to the body with both laying back.

Step 5. Now it's time to form the head, again there are several choices such as spun deer hair, or wool but I like taking the fur from the pelt, placing the under fur and guard hairs together in a dubbing loop and winding it on the tube or hook. Trim the hair with a pair of curved scissors to form a head. Again, it's for a fish, no fine art; close enough is good enough. The big thing here is to form a dense head.

Step 6. Cement on eyes, mouse eyes are usually just black dots but I like those small movable plastic dolls eyes as they add to the, "I going to eaten by a big fish" panicked appearance. I put my whiskers on right at the nose and epoxy the thread windings. For whiskers I like a plastic tailing material called "Fibbets" which comes in colors or can be colored with marking pens.

Step 7. That's it, as you can see what looks like a very complicated pattern is really very simple yet one which very closely resembles what it's supposed to, a rodent trying to navigate a stream full of danger. When people ask me how to fish these mice I tell them to cast to as close to the bank as possible and strip it across the stream just keeping it's head above the water. After a while the fly will become water soaked and you'll have to tie on another but despite this finding a more realistic pattern will be hard to do.

Good Luck, Bob Kenly 2000
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