Notes: Don Gapen designed this fly in 1936 to imitate a sculpin, known as the Cockatush Minnow, to catch large Brook Trout on the Nipigon River in Ontario, Canada. He lived in Orillia, Ontario before moving to Anoka , Minnesota. His inspiration for this pattern came from watching Ojibway Indian guides using dead minnows caught along the river for bait. Bringing one of these minnows back to camp, Don tied up a dozen flies as an imitation. The original pattern had a tail of brown mottled turkey wing and a wing of Gray squirrel tail hair with mottled turkey wing segments on each side of it. The length of the wing was even to the tail. The collar was a clump of gray deer body hair that reached the bend of the hook and a head of gray deer body hair that was flared yet somewhat sparse and untrimmed, with some hair butts extending beyond the hook eye. The combination of high floating deer hair and the mottled colorations gave this fly a unique imitation of many bottom dwelling baitfish. It became one of the most popular flies for imitating sculpin but, today, is also used to imitate minnows, grasshoppers, stoneflies, and crickets.
The pattern has been modified with different materials for the underwing such as calf tail and synthetic fibers. The deer hair is substituted by dyed colors, elk, or antelope hair. The head is also much denser than the original pattern and modified by clipping to either float or sink the fly. With these different modifications, the Muddler Minnow could be used as a dry fly, streamer, nymph, or terrestrial. Many of these modifications can actually be attributed to Don Gapen, himself, during the 1940's and 50's. Dan Bailey, of Livingston, Montana, marketed the fly and was instrumental in achieving it's popularity. Dan also made some modifications to the fly to enhance it's ability with the large Browns of Yellowstone. He replaced the turkey wing with marabou and and the squirrel underwing with calf tail. This became the Marabou Muddler.
The Muddler Minnow can be used for both trout and bass. Small muddlers can also be used for crappies and sunfish. Applying some floatant to the fly on a floating line in a freestone stream and you will have an excellent grasshopper imitation. For bass, you can float it on the surface like an injured baitfish or use a sinking line so that it drifts over the weed bed and rock piles. Even though the pattern is an older one, the fly still catches fish as evidenced by being the 1986 winner of the Jackson Hole's One-Fly Tournment.