The aim of this blog is to connect fly-tyers all over the world, to share, techniques, patterns, information and knowledge.

European Roe Deer Hair, tools and top tying tips part 1

This is one of my most popular posts, that I made when I first started blogging, but here it is again in three parts, updated with new techniques  and images.

Deer hair is normally described as hollow, This doesn´t mean that it´s hollow

like a drinking straw, but that each hair is built up of hundreds of small air filled

cells.

Image

This type of hair structure is most defined in deer from areas with an

extreme winter climate. The result, the colder it is, the better the spinning

qualities, with some exceptions. The hair from our own reindeer and the north

american caribou. In order to achieve optimal insulation, these hairs hold so

many air cells that they have a tendency to be brittle, and break under the

pressure  of tying thread.

A cross section of European Roe deer hair which I photographed with the help of a microscope at X40. You can see that the hair isn't hollow as most people believe, but filled with many small air filled cells.

A cross section of European Roe deer hair which I photographed with the help of a microscope at X40. You can see that the hair isn’t hollow as most people believe, but filled with many small air filled cells.

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The winter coat of the Norwegian roe deer has many air filled cells and is ideal for spinning, packing and clipping. 

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While the hair from the summer coat is somewhat stiffer and extremely fine. A first class hair for tails and winging dry

flies. 

The colour varies from light red brown on the summer coat to dark grey

with darker barred tips on the winter coat. 

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The best hair for spinning is found

on the back of the roe along the spine. This hair is extremely dense, not at all

brittle, and floats like a cork. The chalk white hair on the rump is excellent for

dying, or for patterns that require white deer hair.

You should also be aware that the roe mask has a diversity of hair that is

difficult to equal. Here you will find hair in many different lengths, shades of

brown and coarseness. Ideal for dry´s from # 10 and down to the very smallest

comparaduns. Anyone who ties caddis flies shouldn’t be without a roe mask.

If you know a hunter or a game keeper, try and secure yourself a whole roe

skin, you wont be disappointed.

My top tools for deer hair:

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Hair stackers:

These are a must if you want neat, tidy and well balanced flies. I use three,  a small one for tails and wings, a medium one for heavier wings and spinning and a long one for streamers, tubes and salt water patterns.  The stacker you choose should be well engineered. Its extremly important that insert and inner tube are flush and that the stackers are heavy and robust.

4 Cut a large bunch of deer hair. The most common mistake in tying this popular pattern is to use too little deer hair. Remove all the under wool and short hairs with a dubbing comb.

Friction free Comb:
This is also a very important tool for removing the underwool and shorter hair from bunches of deer hair before stacking.  The comb I use is made from  deer antler wich is friction free, plastic or metal combs have a tendency to load with static , causing the deer hair to stick to it.

14 With an old toothbrush, remove all the soot from the head.

Toothbrush:
This is a great tool for so many things! Removing under wool from hair bunches, brushing out hair after spinning but before trimming, and removing soot after singeing. I wouldn’t tie deer hair flies without this.
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Scissors:

Throughout my many years tying flies, I quickly understood that one of the most important tools are the scissors you use. During this time I have accumulated several dozen pairs of scissors, in all forms, shapes and sizes, but if I am honest, I have only four scissors that are constantly in use. 

1. A pair of small extra fine pointed cuticle scissors for all the small detailed work and thread.

2. A General purpose serrated scissors for cutting tinsel, wire and heavier gauge materials.

3. A pair of long bladed straight scissors for larger jobs like preparing materials for dubbing loops.

4. A medium pair of sharp pointed serrated scissors for deer hair work.

Tomorrow I will be publishing the best techniques for making deer do what you want it to do!

3 responses

  1. Hi Barry, do you know of any suppliers over there that carry a roe deer skin and/or mask? Tough to find over here stateside; we just have the whitetail and mule deer mainly.

    July 24, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    • Hi Matt, Sorry but I don’t. I hunt myself, but only keep one summer skin and one winter. The masks are real difficult to remove because they are so close to the bone. But I dont see why whitetail wouldn’t do! All you have to make sure is that its shot during mid winter, preferably after a long period with cold weather, this will result in the best natural hair for spinning. But if you have difficulty you can try contacting Chris Helm at http://www.whitetailflytieing.com

      July 25, 2012 at 8:47 am

  2. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and also the rest of
    the website is very good.

    November 18, 2013 at 6:28 am

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