The Modern Thief
More than seventy years ago, Don Gapen created one of the most recognized and effective fly patterns in existence. The Muddler Minnow was designed as an imitation of a sculpin minnow to fool the large, carnivorous brook trout of the Nipigon River. It was, of course, immediately successful.
As the years went by the Muddler Minnow was found to have a similar effect on brown trout, rainbow trout, and, especially, smallmouth bass. An interesting bit of fishing trivia is that Jesse Gapen, Don Gapen’s father, planted some of the first smallmouth bass in Minnesota’s shield lakes. Along the way the Muddler Minnow gained marabou wings, mylar tube bodies and multiple colors. Always it kept the spun deer-hair head and flattened deer hair collar, however. And that was a problem. Deer hair floats; sculpins do not. And spun deer hair can be challenging for a lot of tiers.
Years later the Gapen family would again manage to create a classic pattern, this time it was Don’s son, Dan. The pattern was called the Thief, no doubt because its inspiration was blatantly stolen from the Muddler Minnow! What changed was the substitution of a chenille head for the buoyant spun deer hair of the original fly, a change to a silver body to add a bit more flash, and the addition of a red hackle fiber tail. All told, the changes made for an easier tie and lost none of the effectiveness of the original Muddler Minnow. The Thief is still used, but it never gained the popularity or legendary status of its older sibling. Much is the shame. It’s a great pattern.
The Thief isn’t perfect, though. First, it rides hook-point down, which can generate a lot of frustration if you’re fishing a rocky creek or wooded oxbow. If the Thief is weighted with wraps of lead wire, it tends to sink bend-first. This is a bit unnatural. In short, the Thief is a good fly, even if it’s not ultimately refined. Enter the Modern Thief.
The Modern Thief is my take on a great fly. I’ve added the attributes of another classic pattern, the Clouser Deep Minnow, making this Modern Thief inverted and snag resistant. Also, the lead eyes make for a nicely flattened head with a good strong lateral development.
Hook – Daiichi 1750 or any 4xl ring eye hook, size 2 to 10 (size 6 shown).
Thread – Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail – Red or claret hackle fibers.
Weight – Small or medium lead dumbbell eyes
Head – Black chenille
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TYING STEPS click on pictures for larger view
Till next time, tight lines and soft water…