The Rolled Muddler : As Told by Dennis Dickson
The Rolled Muddler… So what’s the big deal about that? Lots of guys know about the Rolled Muddler!
So there I was perusing through another sport magazine. I have gotten so bad over the years; I seldom even read a whole article anymore. It is more like I simply critique… Sad.
Here I was, standing there in the magazine isle waiting for my wife to finish up with the family shopping, when I come across this article about Fly fishing for B.C. Coho. What struck me wasn’t the fish, nor was it the river or its surroundings. It was the guide’s fly box.
On the one side he had a ton of different patterns; on the other was all Rolled Muddlers - all different sizes.
“That’s his go-to fly,” I thought. The other stuff is probably just for show.
I studied the fly. I believe this pattern was originated by Canadian great Barry Thornton. I noticed a small but significant wrinkle in the pattern, something different then what I was seeing in our local fly shops. This pattern had a crest of pearl Flashabou.
So naturally, I went back to the vice and tied up a few. When I started to fish with it, what struck me, was not only did the crest give this little baitfish pattern a livelier action, but as the fly came to rest in the retrieve, the Flashabou topping would reflect the iridescent flash just as a natural baitfish would. Nice! I had known for some time that there are millions of whitefish fry in the lower Stillaguamish - a favorite food source for many predator fish including, Sea-Run Cutthroat. This fly, tied with a golden bead became a dead ringer tied on a no. 8 or 10. I was stoked!
It didn’t take me long to check it out. As it turned out, I ended up one day, fishing behind a long time SRC local. This guy was floating along in his little pram, hitting every hidey-hole, and every dark corner where any self-respecting Sea-Run would hang out.
Now I have to tell you, just spending your day, fishing every bit of water this particular guy just covered, may be a good way to watch a lot of SRC get caught, but I knew from experience, it probably wouldn’t be from the end of my line. Normally, he and I would end up trading pools down the river. I resisted the temptation to row out into the next pool, downstream and purposely forced myself to fish behind him…. Fishing suicide!
I wasn’t surprised at all when a lovely Sea-Run came from behind a sunken log, this guy had fished just minutes before. No, I was shocked! The fish took the little Rolled Muddler down like it was all business.
The second through tenth fish proved, this episode was no fluke and I couldn’t help but notice the angler spending more time watching back upstream at me, than his own fishing. So, naturally, A couple pools down, I gave him one.
Epilogue: You can’t even beg our top SRC/steelhead guide Mike, into even fishing any other fly when chasing Sea-Runs in and around tidal waters. It’s that good.
Side Note: If I fish early season as well as the salt beaches when the salmon fry are playing, I think the silver bead-head gets the nod. Flash is more silvery like the out-migrating salmon fry, than a yellowish hue of gold bead Whitefish fly.
Check it out. When the rest of the fly fishing kingdom is throwing reversed spiders and the like, flip your little Rolled Muddler in there. Surprise can be a good thing.
Best of fishing,
Category: Pacific Salmon, Sea-Run Cutthroat
Hooks: Tiemco, Mustad, or Daiichi # 10 or # 8
Thread: White or Red 3/0 Monocord
Tail: Small clump of mallard flank or partridge
Body: Medium silver tinsel (gold for Whitefish version)
Wing: Mallard flank
Over Wing: 4 strands pearl Krystal Flash
Collar: Spun Deer Hair
Head: 3mm silver bead (gold for Whitefish version) / Spun Deer Hair
Note about Whitefish Fry
A popular version of the Rolled Muddler is the gold body and gold bead. White fish fry have a yellow hue and the gold sets this off. I tend to tie the wing and tail a little longer for this pattern. Size is not as critical as in the salmon fry, so I go for more action in the longer wing & tail.
Northwest native Dennis Dickson is a Washington fisheries biologist who also has enjoyed the opportunity of being a steelhead flyfishing guide for over 20 years. He and his staff share their vast experience, teaching their highly popular flyfishing schools and bringing anglers from all over the world to enjoy the thrill of flyfishing steelhead. Dennis and his guides, fish many clients throughout the year and his website, Flyfishsteelhead.com is among the most widely read Internet weekly steelhead flyfishing reports in the state of Washington. Dennis also has personally written over 40 articles and stories about steelhead flyfishing. Flyfishing has been good to Dennis; The writing is his way of giving something back.
1998 Photo (Dennis Holding Steelhead)