Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Recycling Your Squirrels: Fur

    For fly tiers like myself, squirrel fur can be a very frugal substitute to the conventional rabbit fur dubbing that can be purchased specifically for fly tying.  Squirrel fur is suitable for fly tying and has been emerging on the market in the last several years as a cheaper alternative to rabbit.
    Before you can begin making squirrel dubbing it is necessary to have a preserved skin to work with.  When skinning your squirrel, begin under the tail, make a long cut up the center of the belly to the shoulders, and make four diagonal cuts along the inside of the legs to the feet.  Nail the raw skin, flesh side up, to a piece of plywood with finishing nails and apply a generous amount of salt to pull moisture from the skin and keep it from rotting.  After a few days, scrape the salt from the skin, and remove from the board if dry.  If the skin is still moist, repeat the salting process.  You now have a preserved squirrel skin that can be reused until all the hair is used.
    First, the method that provides the highest quality dubbing involves a bit of machinery.  Using your hands, or a wire brush, gather a good amount of squirrel hair, including both the underfur and the guard hairs.  After you have gathered enough fur, run water over it to prepare it for the next step.  Next, use a blender on the pulse setting to blend your squirrel fur to the desired consistency.  After blending, fluff the fur out by running it through a grinder and allowing it to dry.
    The easy alternative to the blend and grind method above takes relatively no time at all.  Just pinch a good handful of underfur, and a few guard hairs from the dried skin, mix, and store in a handy pill bottle.
    Without any coloring, natural gray squirrel dubbing is ideal for fly patterns requiring gray dubbing such as the Adams, Adams Parachute, and Mosquito patterns.  Just like with rabbit fur, squirrel fur can be dyed to accompany any popular fly pattern.

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