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Deeter: Fly Tying with Roadkill and Domestic Pet Hair

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April 07, 2010

Deeter: Fly Tying with Roadkill and Domestic Pet Hair

By Kirk Deeter

The price of fly tying materials can be pretty steep. So the frugal angler must be resourceful.

For example, last fall I watched a drake mallard make the mistake of flying too low and too slow in front of a UPS truck. The result was street pizza (of the non-edible variety)... but I got a good Ziploc baggie full of chest feathers, which now make great dry fly wings. Squirrels are fairly abundant roadside casualties where I live in Colorado. We have some black squirrels, whose tails make fine nymph dubbing... but you have to be quicker than the ravens, crows, foxes, and coyotes to get a really good specimen.

Domestic pets make great fly materials also. I have two dogs and a cat... the best fly tying resource of the lot is my Vizsla, named "Reba" shown here because she's a neurotic redhead. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Vizslas, they don't grow enough hair to clip with scissors, but if I rub my hand on Reba's back (which she never minds), I end up with little red stubble hairs stuck to my fingers. One evening as I was tying flies at the kitchen table, she came over to visit... I rubbed her back... noticed the stubble... just happened to have some 6/0 thread hanging from a hook in the vise and some dubbing wax nearby... and in 10 minutes or so, the "Hungarian Bird Brain" nymph was born. It's basically pheasant tail with a rough- dubbed fuzzy body, and it actually catches fish. Kinda cool too... a fly that combines the feather of the pheasant, and the fur of the dog that pointed it. But I only tie a couple every year. I wouldn't want Reba to get too cold.

I wonder what domestic pet would provide the best fly tying material...

And what roadkill is the fly tier's bonanza?

Deeter

Comments (25)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 1 week ago

My wife's cats love a good scratching, but taking dubbing off them while tying is tough, they get after the feathers and start screwing up my tying bench worse than I do myself....Also prevalent is the barn cats, we hae a variety, but catching them to take samples is tough.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have tied a few flies with hair from my golden retriever. Have yet to fish with them, but worked great for tying! No danger of the material running out either.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spartan88 wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I am sure I will get some unpleasant comments..... but we used to have a pet rabbit. She had black hair and shed more than any dog I have ever met. I quit tying flies by the time we got her though.

I have a feeling my brits shed hair would work well too. White and orange.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I've used some hair from the tail of one of my cats (adams gray), and I've found a lot of turkey feathers, but far and away the best thing to ever happen to my fly bench was taking up waterfowl hunting.

yrs-
Evan!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spiaailtli wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I really enjoy these short bits of fly talk.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from littleshagshag wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Although they're uncommonly domesticated, occasionaly Whitetail fawns and turkey's would have to be a choice favorite. But i'm with "spiaaitli", these little tid bits about fly tying really do make a good angler and great angler. There's nothing like getting good advice from my friends at Field n Stream.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I was wondering if you had a bird dog for cast and blast. Nice.

There is a fun read about roadkill tying materials, written by a true character - Fish with What You Find, by Dr. Jim Gilsdorf. It is a compilation of articles Jim wrote for his local Trout Unlimited chapter's newsletters. He describes typical roadkill, which ones are preferred for tying, and how to go about collecting it without arousing suspicion. Jim also builds bamboo fly rods, often donated for conservation organization banquets. He's a good guy so consider this my unabashed plug for his book.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Not a pet, but I got some hair from the shoulder and head of a buffalo and gave it to my buddies that tie. I guess the shoulder hair makes good dubbing and the hair from the head works for streamers. They tied up one fly for bluegill that consists of materials from buffalo, beagle, and lab. Looks good too!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WVOtter wrote 4 years 1 week ago

My dog and cats have great promise...but I'm waiting to get my hands on some of my wifes hair. Redhead! That ought to make for some nice accent material on a streamer or something.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from aadstowe wrote 4 years 1 week ago

well harley is the pet parret that tells me to "answer the d**m phone fool!" i have some of his bright green and orange feathers that i will use someday, and if it works,i will make the harley phone fly

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from taylor1 wrote 4 years 1 week ago

i think it would be fun to tie a fly with your own hair. see how that works out

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigjake wrote 4 years 1 week ago

My wife darn near left me when I plucked her pet canary, after he died of old age of course.She never complains when I serve fresh BBQ'ed Brook Trout and Atlantic Salmon though...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have thought about it but never have tied a fly with pet hair.

On occassion I have plucked a roadkill bird or two. I remember striking an owl with my truck and going back for a feather or two. I think if I took the whole owl I would have broken the law. I'm not sure about that.

Most of my tying material not purchased from the store comes from years of hunting. I still have wood duck feathers from 10 years ago, more turkey and pheasant than I could use in a lifetime and of course plenty of deer and elk.

There is another catagory not mentioned. I'll call it the "bb gun out the back door" catagory. I don't think I have to explain that any further except to say some of the best feathers are not sold in stores.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Flyartist wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Wife had a purebred Himalayan cat named Cassandra. The undercoat makes fantastic dubbing which I used to make a variation of a hares ear, named it a "Gold Ribbed Cassandra and it was a killer fly for rainbows on the Cheat River in WV. All my buddies wanted some everytime the cat came near I was at her with a pair of scissors. She got pretty raggedy after a while and while my wife was somewhat upset at the loks of her designer cat she really hit the roof when after the cat died I have her pelt tanned. I still have some of her fur in a bag in my desk and have used some of the long fuard hairs for Crazy Charlie bonefish flies and have caught many bones on these.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ekern wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have a ziplock bag full of my Chocolate Lab's hair. My unproven and untried theory is that the oils in the fur will make for some good nymph dubbing. Just haven't taken the time to tie a few. She loves her brushings and if it works, who knows, maybe there will be a market!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tim_y wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have a soft coated wheaten terrier. Her coat is a nice mix of light and dark tan with some black hairs thrown in the mix. I always save a bit when she gets shaved. It's actually the only dubbing that I use for my hare's ear and hare & copper variations.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tim_y wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have a soft coated wheaten terrier. Her coat is a nice mix of light and dark tan with some black hairs thrown in the mix. I always save a bit when she gets shaved. It's actually the only dubbing that I use for my hare's ear and hare & copper variations.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 1 week ago

tim_y,

I also have a Wheaten Terrier. Great dogs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 4 years 1 week ago

i've tied flies with hairs from my lab and lots of pets that belong to friends and family. most of them just want one for keepsakes but i use them and they do work. what's the best way to take off a squirrel tail and treat it for future use? never done that but would like to.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Miz RC wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Possession of non-game bird feathers is a federal crime, even if you find them loose or pluck them from roadkill, and whether they are from a bald eagle, a blue jay that molted in your backyard or were dropped by a captive flamingo at the zoo. A silly law, but one that prevents poachers from claiming that they just "found" those bald eagle feathers out in the woods.

My aunt once took a hummingbird that had crashed into her window to a taxidermist to get it stuffed, thinking it would be a beautiful conversation piece for her mantel...he read her the riot act about even bringing the thing into his shop. She tried another taxidermist, thinking the first one was a sort of nutball, and got the same treatment.

While she was First Lady, Hillary Clinton was once given a dream catcher by an admirer, who was subsequently arrested when a federal official who was watching the news coverage of the gift spotted illegal feathers among the legal ones in the dream catcher. Even tribal members must obtain permits to possess eagle feathers and the like.

It's unlikely that you would be prosecuted for tying a few flies with illegal feathers obtained from roadkill, but don't fool yourself into thinking that it's legal to do so.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from troutguy2 wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Wow, let's take inventory of the tying material box/bin. Scraps of hide from deer, elk, antelope that fed my family after they were taken in fair chase hunts. Hair and dubbing (shed)from almost 40 years of owning Labs, chocolate, yellow and black, both current and long deceased. Boraxed and salted capes, wings and tails from pheasant, chuckar, bobwhites, huns, blues, sharpies, prairie chickens, mallards and teal shot over the aforementioned labs. Pine and Abert Squirrel pelts, shot back when my boys were first getting into hunting. But no road kill. But maybe the most creative use of pet hair in fishing that I have seen was when my Daughter-in-law was fishing on the ranch by herself and realized she had no yarn strike indicators. Having to improvise or do without, she noticed the scruffy, shedding spring coat on her female Husky "Gia". She plucked a large tuft out, rigged the rubber band, greased the hair, and proceeded to catch fish! She said it floated just as long as the polypropolene yarn she normally used, and actually drew a strike or two! Good piece of improv!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fly_flinger wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have (2) Blue Merle Australian Shepherds. Although the color is called Blue Merle, it's actually black, white and grey. I've tied Adams dries and a few nymphs including scuds. We have tons of scuds in the limestoners of PA and fish take them all day long. Depending on the stream, scud colors can be pink, grey, olive, brown or a combo of all. I've caught a few on my Aussie Grey Scuds. I haven't used the Adams enough yet but am pretty sure it'll catch fish too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from garyfisherman wrote 4 years 6 days ago

I have pet ducks, quail, and a rabbit....I got an unlimited amount of material!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kramsdell wrote 3 years 49 weeks ago

This is such a crazy post, i was jsut thinknig about this the other night when i was buying materials at Gander Mountain. I have a greyish/black cat and a white dog and i started eyeing them up. the cat hair would make nice for caddis, and the dog for some feathers or somthing. But how do i explain to my mom why i am cutting the cats hair off LOL!. Also we have alot of dead dear on the road, if i can get the stomach to go cut a nice size patch off ima git r dun, prob throw up while doing it but thats okay. Saving me some money. Wish i was into fly typing when i went elk hunting in montana! i woulda brought abck alot of mule deer and elf furs. owell (whistle Whistle) cmere cat and dog...snip snip...!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Stone wrote 23 weeks 1 day ago

I don't know about dogs, but there is a much easier way to collect hair from cats than chasing them around with scissors. Virtually all cats, especially the long haired varieties, love being brushed or combed. If you use a flea comb you can kill two birds with one stone (flea combs don't work for an infestation, but they are great at preventing them). The hairs are not quite so orderly, but your cat will love you and your wife won't get flip out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from bigjake wrote 4 years 1 week ago

My wife darn near left me when I plucked her pet canary, after he died of old age of course.She never complains when I serve fresh BBQ'ed Brook Trout and Atlantic Salmon though...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have thought about it but never have tied a fly with pet hair.

On occassion I have plucked a roadkill bird or two. I remember striking an owl with my truck and going back for a feather or two. I think if I took the whole owl I would have broken the law. I'm not sure about that.

Most of my tying material not purchased from the store comes from years of hunting. I still have wood duck feathers from 10 years ago, more turkey and pheasant than I could use in a lifetime and of course plenty of deer and elk.

There is another catagory not mentioned. I'll call it the "bb gun out the back door" catagory. I don't think I have to explain that any further except to say some of the best feathers are not sold in stores.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 1 week ago

My wife's cats love a good scratching, but taking dubbing off them while tying is tough, they get after the feathers and start screwing up my tying bench worse than I do myself....Also prevalent is the barn cats, we hae a variety, but catching them to take samples is tough.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have tied a few flies with hair from my golden retriever. Have yet to fish with them, but worked great for tying! No danger of the material running out either.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spartan88 wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I am sure I will get some unpleasant comments..... but we used to have a pet rabbit. She had black hair and shed more than any dog I have ever met. I quit tying flies by the time we got her though.

I have a feeling my brits shed hair would work well too. White and orange.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I've used some hair from the tail of one of my cats (adams gray), and I've found a lot of turkey feathers, but far and away the best thing to ever happen to my fly bench was taking up waterfowl hunting.

yrs-
Evan!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spiaailtli wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I really enjoy these short bits of fly talk.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from littleshagshag wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Although they're uncommonly domesticated, occasionaly Whitetail fawns and turkey's would have to be a choice favorite. But i'm with "spiaaitli", these little tid bits about fly tying really do make a good angler and great angler. There's nothing like getting good advice from my friends at Field n Stream.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I was wondering if you had a bird dog for cast and blast. Nice.

There is a fun read about roadkill tying materials, written by a true character - Fish with What You Find, by Dr. Jim Gilsdorf. It is a compilation of articles Jim wrote for his local Trout Unlimited chapter's newsletters. He describes typical roadkill, which ones are preferred for tying, and how to go about collecting it without arousing suspicion. Jim also builds bamboo fly rods, often donated for conservation organization banquets. He's a good guy so consider this my unabashed plug for his book.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Not a pet, but I got some hair from the shoulder and head of a buffalo and gave it to my buddies that tie. I guess the shoulder hair makes good dubbing and the hair from the head works for streamers. They tied up one fly for bluegill that consists of materials from buffalo, beagle, and lab. Looks good too!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WVOtter wrote 4 years 1 week ago

My dog and cats have great promise...but I'm waiting to get my hands on some of my wifes hair. Redhead! That ought to make for some nice accent material on a streamer or something.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 4 years 1 week ago

i've tied flies with hairs from my lab and lots of pets that belong to friends and family. most of them just want one for keepsakes but i use them and they do work. what's the best way to take off a squirrel tail and treat it for future use? never done that but would like to.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from aadstowe wrote 4 years 1 week ago

well harley is the pet parret that tells me to "answer the d**m phone fool!" i have some of his bright green and orange feathers that i will use someday, and if it works,i will make the harley phone fly

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from taylor1 wrote 4 years 1 week ago

i think it would be fun to tie a fly with your own hair. see how that works out

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Flyartist wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Wife had a purebred Himalayan cat named Cassandra. The undercoat makes fantastic dubbing which I used to make a variation of a hares ear, named it a "Gold Ribbed Cassandra and it was a killer fly for rainbows on the Cheat River in WV. All my buddies wanted some everytime the cat came near I was at her with a pair of scissors. She got pretty raggedy after a while and while my wife was somewhat upset at the loks of her designer cat she really hit the roof when after the cat died I have her pelt tanned. I still have some of her fur in a bag in my desk and have used some of the long fuard hairs for Crazy Charlie bonefish flies and have caught many bones on these.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ekern wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have a ziplock bag full of my Chocolate Lab's hair. My unproven and untried theory is that the oils in the fur will make for some good nymph dubbing. Just haven't taken the time to tie a few. She loves her brushings and if it works, who knows, maybe there will be a market!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tim_y wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have a soft coated wheaten terrier. Her coat is a nice mix of light and dark tan with some black hairs thrown in the mix. I always save a bit when she gets shaved. It's actually the only dubbing that I use for my hare's ear and hare & copper variations.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tim_y wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have a soft coated wheaten terrier. Her coat is a nice mix of light and dark tan with some black hairs thrown in the mix. I always save a bit when she gets shaved. It's actually the only dubbing that I use for my hare's ear and hare & copper variations.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 1 week ago

tim_y,

I also have a Wheaten Terrier. Great dogs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Miz RC wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Possession of non-game bird feathers is a federal crime, even if you find them loose or pluck them from roadkill, and whether they are from a bald eagle, a blue jay that molted in your backyard or were dropped by a captive flamingo at the zoo. A silly law, but one that prevents poachers from claiming that they just "found" those bald eagle feathers out in the woods.

My aunt once took a hummingbird that had crashed into her window to a taxidermist to get it stuffed, thinking it would be a beautiful conversation piece for her mantel...he read her the riot act about even bringing the thing into his shop. She tried another taxidermist, thinking the first one was a sort of nutball, and got the same treatment.

While she was First Lady, Hillary Clinton was once given a dream catcher by an admirer, who was subsequently arrested when a federal official who was watching the news coverage of the gift spotted illegal feathers among the legal ones in the dream catcher. Even tribal members must obtain permits to possess eagle feathers and the like.

It's unlikely that you would be prosecuted for tying a few flies with illegal feathers obtained from roadkill, but don't fool yourself into thinking that it's legal to do so.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from troutguy2 wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Wow, let's take inventory of the tying material box/bin. Scraps of hide from deer, elk, antelope that fed my family after they were taken in fair chase hunts. Hair and dubbing (shed)from almost 40 years of owning Labs, chocolate, yellow and black, both current and long deceased. Boraxed and salted capes, wings and tails from pheasant, chuckar, bobwhites, huns, blues, sharpies, prairie chickens, mallards and teal shot over the aforementioned labs. Pine and Abert Squirrel pelts, shot back when my boys were first getting into hunting. But no road kill. But maybe the most creative use of pet hair in fishing that I have seen was when my Daughter-in-law was fishing on the ranch by herself and realized she had no yarn strike indicators. Having to improvise or do without, she noticed the scruffy, shedding spring coat on her female Husky "Gia". She plucked a large tuft out, rigged the rubber band, greased the hair, and proceeded to catch fish! She said it floated just as long as the polypropolene yarn she normally used, and actually drew a strike or two! Good piece of improv!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fly_flinger wrote 4 years 1 week ago

I have (2) Blue Merle Australian Shepherds. Although the color is called Blue Merle, it's actually black, white and grey. I've tied Adams dries and a few nymphs including scuds. We have tons of scuds in the limestoners of PA and fish take them all day long. Depending on the stream, scud colors can be pink, grey, olive, brown or a combo of all. I've caught a few on my Aussie Grey Scuds. I haven't used the Adams enough yet but am pretty sure it'll catch fish too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from garyfisherman wrote 4 years 6 days ago

I have pet ducks, quail, and a rabbit....I got an unlimited amount of material!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kramsdell wrote 3 years 49 weeks ago

This is such a crazy post, i was jsut thinknig about this the other night when i was buying materials at Gander Mountain. I have a greyish/black cat and a white dog and i started eyeing them up. the cat hair would make nice for caddis, and the dog for some feathers or somthing. But how do i explain to my mom why i am cutting the cats hair off LOL!. Also we have alot of dead dear on the road, if i can get the stomach to go cut a nice size patch off ima git r dun, prob throw up while doing it but thats okay. Saving me some money. Wish i was into fly typing when i went elk hunting in montana! i woulda brought abck alot of mule deer and elf furs. owell (whistle Whistle) cmere cat and dog...snip snip...!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Stone wrote 23 weeks 1 day ago

I don't know about dogs, but there is a much easier way to collect hair from cats than chasing them around with scissors. Virtually all cats, especially the long haired varieties, love being brushed or combed. If you use a flea comb you can kill two birds with one stone (flea combs don't work for an infestation, but they are great at preventing them). The hairs are not quite so orderly, but your cat will love you and your wife won't get flip out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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