Given that the original Muddler Minnow pattern devised by Minnesota angler Don Gapen back in the 1930s to tempt the big brook trout of Ontario’s Nipigon River has its own wikipedia page, it’s not really surprising that there are so many variants. Paul Schullery  writes that the fly is thought to have been a modification of patterns used by native Americans and J. Edson Leonard  writing in 1950 remarks that:
Records, although very incomplete, show convincingly that North Carolina Indians had been making deer-hair flies long before the civil war.
Schullery also notes that the pattern gained such legendary status with North American fly fishers that it was the subject of satire in 1971:
The Flyfisher published a delightful historical parody about a mysterious Ludwig Moedler, said to have originated the fly in the 1800s.
It’s a pattern that has endured for so long because it’s successful, and more than a few anglers would place muddlers at the top of their list of most effective flies in almost any conditions. This is an adaptation of Rob Denson’s Redneck Muddler pattern, using hot orange rather than claret but keeping the ‘mirage’ body. There are limitless material and colour variations, however the essence of a Muddler pattern is the spun deer hair head and no true muddler would be complete without it. The more densely spun and tightly clipped the deer hair, the more buoyant the Muddler, and the more water it displaces when pulled below the surface as a lure.
Despite being invented in the 1930s, it seems to have been some time before the fly acquired a reputation in the UK. Tom Stewart  mentions that it had been used on the River Tweed by an American angler, residing in Edinburgh. However, it seems to have been on reservoirs and lakes that the pattern had its greatest success in the UK, John Veniard  writing in 1970 remarks
The American fly known as the “Muddler Minnow” achieved a remarkable list of successes in this country during the latter part of the 1967 season.
He notes that the use of deer hair was an old-established North American custom describing the method of creating a spun head as unusual and that the adaptation of hair as a body material called for what was then a little-known tying technique in the UK.
Muddlers can be fished in a number of ways on stillwaters. This particular pattern is an obvious top dropper fly for a bright day.
- Shullery, Paul. American Fly Fishing – A History. New York: The Lyons Press, 1987.
- Leonard, J. Edson. 1950. Flies. New York: A. S. Barnes and Company.
- Stewart, Tom. 200 Popular Flies. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1979.
- Veniard, John. Reservoir and Lake Flies. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1970.