The Blair Mouse Project
By Bob Kenly
!!!!!!!, if that's a mouse I'll eat it myself. In fact my first reaction
was it represented more like something my cat threw up wearing a life
vest and what's with those long different colored rubber legs? I had
been searching the web looking for a mouse pattern a client requested as
he was heading to a once in a lifetime trip to Kamchatka. I had clicked
on The Fly Shop's web site,
www.theflyshop.com, a source of
inspiration their catalog had provide me over the years for my own line
of tube flies specializing in Pacific salmon and steelhead. I even
laughed when I read the pattern's name, "The Blair Mouse Project",
probably named somewhat after a cult film I absolutely hated and didn't
have a clue what all the talk was about.
The pattern's originator, Will
Blair, happens to be the person who handles Russian and British Columbia
travel at The Fly Shop in Redding California. Having five years in
Kamchatka as a camp owner/manager and head guide was creditable enough
by my standards so I phoned him asking if he minded me converting his
pattern to a tube fly, which he graciously granted. He told me basically
The Blair Mouse was an invention born from necessity as finding tying
materials in Russia can be a daunting task at best and his are shaggier
than the commercial version, also the mouse is a huge success in
Alaska's Bristol Bay region, in his exact wording, "devastatingly
Being somewhat hardheaded I still
wasn't that convinced this would be the mouse pattern my client needed
but what the heck I had plenty of time to experiment so I tied a
prototype to play with. Staring at this thing in my vise for a few days
it dawned on me this might just be a better mouse pattern after all, in
fact bordering on pure genius, no cute little ears or eyes which
basically are more for effect than practicality. Taking the mouse to my
high tech testing tank (OK, so its my bathtub) pulling it back and forth
and one thing for sure it would make a wake alright, a very convincing
wake just like a real mouse would swimming for its life. The long rubber
legs, I didn't know what else to call them, added to the wake although
the different colors still eluded me but since the original is tied that
way, why mess with success is my philosophy. I took my borrowed creation
to the lake near my home in Southwestern Missouri for further testing.
Weighing almost nothing I could cast it all day long. It sat low in the
water, in fact most of the body was under the surface again just like
the real thing in trouble. Back home for more high tech testing (this
time my wife's clear glass vase, while she was out shopping) and viewed
the mouse as a fish would see it, yep! It looked like a mouse alright, a
shaggy Arctic mouse to be exact.
With obvious relief I notified my
client that I was successful locating the pattern which would insure
success after a long exhausting trip from his home in Florida to the
"wild East" of Russia but first I would want him to try it with his rod
and get his opinion. He was ecstatic with the overall performance and
look of the finished product. His only criticism was the overall size
was a bit too large for his 6-weight rod, scaling the fly down would be
no problem The search for my client's pattern solved I was off to tie
him his Russian trout flies.
So, other than big Arctic trout
what else could this fly be used for, how about hot pink or bright green
for Silver salmon ( without the legs of course). Or, a skating Steelhead
fly. I have a friend in Canada who's going to try a huge six inch one
for Pike (now this something I really have to see). At the risk of
"polluting" (written with an evil grin on my face) hallowed traditional
thinking, might not this fly make a good substitution for a skating
Atlantic salmon fly instead of the usual Bomber style flies?
Tying The Blair Project Mouse
Tube: Plastic, I prefer the HMH
5 inch trout tubes cutting them in half. If however you prefer a hook a
"stinger hook" in size #6 or #4 is a good choice.
Thread: I use a flat waxed 6/0
thread (since the thread is buried in the hair being exact in color
Body: My personal choice is Deer
body hair since its readily available in many colors close in hues to
real mice. But certainly there are many more choices to pick from, Blair
uses Antelope belly hair. Caribou (or Reindeer as its called in some in
some countries) and Moose are all acceptable choices.
Legs: I scrounged some rubber
skirt material from a local fishing shop using the same color scheme
Blair suggested, four black legs on the right side and four orange on
the left side. His reason for using this material in such a manner was
to give the illusion of the furious swimming action of mice in water, a
fact he observed first hand. As far as color choices went it was more of
a personal choice, contrast to be exact. His term "devastatingly
effective" was all the reason I needed to follow his lead.
Life Vest: 2 mm tying foam (even
though the catalog showed the foam to be white I chose a light brown
more for esthetic reasons than anything else). In reality the topping
has some very special factors which makes this pattern so effective.
First, it provides the necessary floatation. Second, it establishes the
overall illusion of a mouse with his head above the water. Finally
third, the front being at an angle acts as a plow device which gives the
swimming action and establishes the required wake necessary for
effective mouse patterns.
Remember, one thing when tying
this pattern, neatness doesn't count. In fact the shaggier the better,
Cold weather mice unlike the home grown verity have very stiff and
shaggy guard hairs to protect their soft undercoats which provide their
bodies with warmth.
When tying on tubes I always form a
small knot on the plastic tubes with a lighter, attach the hook keeper,
attach it with thread windings and epoxy the thread. Although this seems
contrary to conventional wisdom its something I've always done to
prevent the loss of the keeper. After drying insert the tube in your
tube device and start by making several wraps of thread where you're
going to place your first clump of hair.
Start by spinning a nice clump of hair
with the tips facing rearward on top of the tube, only about halfway or
slightly more around the tube is all that's required. Turn the tube over
and spin on another clump of hair, this time with with the butts facing
rearwards (I do this because mice tend to have a lighter color on their
bellies). Trim off the excess hair so that it forms a smooth transition
for the next clump of hair. Whip finish and cement the thread wrappings.
Again, do the same thing with the hairs
overlapping the previous clumps of hair. Trim the excess hair, whip
finish and cement the thread windings. Now is the time to add the legs,
four on each side and don't give me any grief about the colors or which
side goes where, just about any dark color will probably suffice. You
can always shorten the legs later but I usually leave them longer so
that I can tie them back with a small piece of aluminum foil (later
we'll be using some epoxy to cover the threads at the head and the legs
always have a nasty habit of landing in the wet epoxy while turning).
Now we put on the last clumps of hair
like before with the hairs overlapping. When you trim the excess butts,
trim the top close to make a smooth transition for the topping but leave
the buttom hairs a bit longer. After I whip finish I apply cement to the
threads and the bottom hair and fold back to protect the thread.
Now is the time to trim the belly
although I guess you could wait till the fly is finished. Trim the belly
flat so that the fly sits level in the water, I have used both a double
edged razor blade and scissors and find the scissors give me that ragged
look I find so pleasing.
Cut a piece of the foam in the general
shape shown (I make a cardboard pattern and prefit it to the fly, about
¾ of the length of the fly is about right).
Lay a thread base for the topping and
the tie on the topping to the tube (or hook). Prop up the lip at the
desired angle, epoxy the threads on top and under the topping making
sure you also epoxy the area around the neck area as this will be the
weakest point of the topping ( the epoxy soaks into the foam reinforcing
that area). Also place a small amount of epoxy under the lip to prop up
the lip at the desired angle. After dried cut the excess tube off.
The finished product. Should you need
to trim it a bit, go ahead you're not going to hurt it one bit.
Text by Bob Kenly ©