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How to Tie the Thin Mint Bugger

Producer: Tim Flagler

The Thin Mint Bugger has proven itself to be a remarkably effective streamer pattern over the last several years. It’s basically your standard Woolly Bugger with a tricolored tail and a few little extras thrown in for good measure.

The foundation of the Thin Mint is a size 8 Lightning Strike SN3 streamer/nymph hook. Begin by mashing the hook’s barb, either in the jaws of your tying vise or with a small pair of needle-nosed pliers. In most cases, this is critical because it’s the only way a nickel-colored, 1/8” tungsten bead will fit around the hook bend. Make sure to insert the point of the hook into the small hole on the bead, with the wider hole facing rearward. Then, get the assembly firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.

.02 lead-free round wire is used to add some weight to the fly and to help stabilize the bead on the hook. With the spool in hand, get hold of the bitter end of the wire and start making touching wraps up the hook shank with your spool hand. After 10 or so turns, helicopter the wire to break it off close. Make sure the wire wraps slip easily forward and back on the shank.

Pick up a drop of superglue and apply it to the hook shank between the bead and wire wraps. Quickly slide the wraps forward, up into the back of the bead, and hold them there for a few seconds. Once the adhesive sets, tuck in the wire tail. The adhesive should stop all the wraps from simply spinning around the hook shank as you wrap.

For thread, I like UTC 70 Denier in rusty brown, but you can also bump up to 140 Denier and go with rusty brown or black, if you prefer. Get the thread started on the hook shank, behind the wire and, after taking a few wraps rearward, snip off the excess tag. Take thread wraps over top of the wire wraps to further anchor them. End with your tying thread at the back end of the wire wraps.

Black, brown and olive marabou are all used to create the tail of the fly. The olive gets tied in first. Prep a single olive marabou feather by stripping off the shorter fibers from both sides of the stem. Prep both a brown and a black marabou feather in the same manner.

Pick up the olive marabou feather and lightly wet it to make it more manageable. Measure to form a tail a full hook in length, then transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the hook bend. Begin anchoring the marabou to the top of the hook shank with tight wraps of tying thread. Once it’s locked down, snip the excess butt end off close. Pull up and toward you on the feather as you take thread wraps rearward. This will bind it to the top of the hook shank, as opposed to pushing it to the far side. Wrap all the way back to the start of the hook bend, then forward to the wire wraps.

Now pick up the brown feather and moisten it. Align its tip with the tip of the already tied-in olive feather. Bind the brown feather to the top of the shank with wraps of tying thread, in the same manner as you did the olive. Here, too, end with your tying thread at the back end of the wire wraps. Finally, repeat the entire procedure with the black marabou feather. This time, however, end with your tying thread in back of the bead.

Snip three or four strands of pearl Flashabou free from the hank. Align one end of the strands with the tip of the tail and begin anchoring the strands to the near side of the hook with wraps of tying thread. Continue taking thread wraps rearward, binding the strands to the near side of the hook as you go. End at the base of the tail. Pull the forward-pointing portion of the Flashabou back against the far side of the hook and take thread wraps to anchor it there. Then, make open spiral wraps back up the hook, stopping just shy of the bead. Snip the Flashabou on the far side of the hook off even with the end of the tail.

The Thin Mint Bugger has two ribs, the first is small copper wire, a 10” length is enough to make a couple of flies. Lay one end of the wire against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it there, all the way back to the base of the tail. Then take open spiral thread wraps back up to where you started.

The second rib is a single strand of pearl Flashabou. Tie it in on the near side of the hook just as you did with the copper wire.

Peacock herl is used to create the body of the fly, the longer, the better. Get hold of 5 or 6 herls and snip just the very brittle tips off square. Lay the snipped-off tips against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure them. As you’ve been doing, secure them all the way back to the base of the tail, but this time, leave your thread to hang right there.

Get hold of the herls and start making touching wraps with them, behind your tying thread, being careful not to break them on the sharp hook point. Lifting up on the thread with the herls will help to keep them nicely sandwiched together. When you reach the back edge of the bead, use tight wraps of tying thread to anchor the herls, then snip the excess off close.

Get hold of the Flashabou rib and begin making open spiral counter wraps with it over top of the peacock herl body. These cross wraps will greatly increase the durability of the herl. When you reach the bead, use wraps of tying thread to anchor the Flashabou then snip the excess off close.

A single rusty brown hackle feather is used to hackle the fly. With the shiny side of the feather facing you, snip off the lower, thick portion of the stem. You want the fibers to be about a hook shank in length. Snip the lowest fibers off to form a small triangular-shaped tie-in anchor. Strip a few extra fibers from the top side of the stem. Begin binding the butt end of the feather to the near side of the hook. Fold the very butt end back and take thread wraps to hold it back. If there’s any excess, snip it off close. This will ensure the feather is anchored to the hook really well.

Get hold of the feather’s tip with hackle pliers and start making touching wraps with it behind the bead. After 2 or 3 touching turns, angle the feather back and make more open spiral wraps rearward until you reach the base of the tail.

Now, get hold of the copper wire and use it to first anchor the feather’s tip, then weave it through the hackle feather’s fibers, cross wrapping the somewhat delicate hackle stem as you go. At the back edge of the bead, anchor the copper wire with tight wraps of tying thread and helicopter to break it off close.

Pick up your whip finish tool and do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish at the back edge of the bead, then snip or cut your tying thread free. A drop of head cement, here, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, applied to the exposed thread wraps will ensure they don’t come unraveled. Break or snip the excess hackle tip off close and the Thin Mint Bugger is complete.

I’m not exactly sure why the three color tail contributes so much to this pattern, but it really seems to. I know several anglers who won’t leave home without at least a half dozen or so Thin Mints stashed away.