Mickey Finn

Published Mar 7th 2013

The Mickey Finn is one of the all time classic streamers. Simple, beautiful and fairly easy to tie - and a catcher. Here's its history, the original tying recipe and a bunch of variations


Mickey Finn

A Mickey Finn or simply a Mickey, is originally not a fly, but a drink "spiced" up with a drug. It's most likely named after a bartender in Chicago.

The history of the Mickey Finn fly runs something like this: It was originally tied by Quebec fly tier Charles Langevin sometime in the 19th century. It was first known as The Langevin, but later renamed to The Assassin. This incarnation of the fly was popularized by outdoor writer John Alden Knight. Knight took another writer - Canadian Greg Clark - fishing and after such a trip, Clark announced that the fly was as dangerous as a Mickey Finn, referencing the drugged drink. This all took place back in the 30's and 40's and the name and the fame stuck, and the fly has been popular ever since.

Mickey Finn
Charles Langevin/John Alden Knight
Target species
Brook trout
Brown trout
Largemouth bass
Sea trout (sea run)
Smallmouth bass
Steelhead (sea run)

Hook4X long shank streamer hook
ThreadBlack 8/0
RibMedium oval silver tinsel
BodyFlat silver tinsel
WingYellow over red over yellow bucktail
EyesJungle cock (optional)
HeadTying thread

It's one of those flies that seems to be able to catch almost anything, and has been responsible for catching browns, rainbows, salmon, bass and many more species.

It's one of those flies that seems to be able to catch almost anything

The fly is simple: a silver tinsel body and a wing made of yellow, red and yellow bucktail. Nothing fancy and no exotic materials, but still a fly with class and beauty like few others.
The color combination is classic and very characteristic, and it's obvious to adapt these colors to different other styles of flies and see what you get.
So after having tied the standard Mickey Finn, I will venture into the land of "Mickeyfication" and tie a number of different flies using the materials and colors: silver, yellow and red.

Polar Mickey
My own first variation on this fly was using Arctic fox in stead of bucktail to get a fuller and softer wing. I personally still prefer the original materials, and the bucktail might seem stiff and lifeless when dry, but once wet and in the water, it is very mobile and makes a fly with lots of life and movement. At the same time bucktail is a material that is very hassle free and almost never fouls.

The original, the Polar version

Step 1 - thread - Start the thread right behind the hook eye
Step 1 - thread
Step 2 - rib - Tie in the rib on the underside of the hook shank
Step 2 - rib
Step 3 - cover tib - Cover the ribbing all the way to the hook bend
Step 3 - cover tib
Step 4 - and back - Take the thread back to the hook eye, forming a smooth thread base
Step 4 - and back
Step 5 - taper tinsel - Cut the tip of the tinsel to a triangular shape
Step 5 - taper tinsel
Step 6 - tie in tinsel - Tie it in with the silver side towards the hook shank
Step 6 - tie in tinsel
Step 7 - start winding - Wrap the tinsel towards the hook bend in touching turns
Step 7 - start winding
Step 8 - and back - When you get to the hook bend, start winding the tinsel back again
Step 8 - and back
Step 9 - touching turns - The tinsel wraps should be close, but not overlapping
Step 9 - touching turns
Step 10 - tie down - Tie down the tinsel with a wrap of thread or two
Step 10 - tie down
Step 11 - trim tinsel - Trim the remaining tinsel and cover the stub with a few wraps of thread
Step 11 - trim tinsel
Step 12 - wrap ribbing - You can wrap it the same way as the tinsel or counterwrap it
Step 12 - wrap ribbing
Step 13 - finish ribbing - Wrap the rib in 5-7 even turns and make sure it ends up under the hook shank where you tie it down
Step 13 - finish ribbing
Step 14 - tie down - Tie down the rib with a couple of wraps of thread
Step 14 - tie down
Step 15 - trim rib - Trim off the remaining rib and cover the butt with a few wraps
Step 15 - trim rib
Step 16 - first yellow bunch - Prepare a sparse bunch of yellow bucktail, trim it to length and tie it in
Step 16 - first yellow bunch
Step 17 - red bucktail - Prepare a sparse bunch of red bucktail and tie it in on top of the yellow
Step 17 - red bucktail
Step 18 - yellow bucktail - Prepare a final sparse bunch of yellow bucktail and finish the wing
Step 18 - yellow bucktail
Step 19 - form head - Form a small head, whip finish and cut thread
Step 19 - form head
Step 20 - varnish - Varnish the head with clear varnish a couple of times
Step 20 - varnish
Mickey Jiggy
Bob Popovics' Jiggy fly is an obvious contender for the Mickeyfication. Its basic shape is close and the wing material for the original is bucktail, so it's basically no more than using the yellow and red colors and you have the Mickey Jiggy. You can tie a ribbed tinsel body like I did here, or simply leave the hook bare as the original prescribes.

Mickey Jiggy

Clouser Mickey
If the Jiggy is an obvious contender, then Bob Clouser's Clouser Deep Minnow is almost more so. It also uses bucktail as the wing, so again simply using the Mickey Finn colors is the simple way of making a Mickey Clouser. Again the ribbed tinsel body is optional. It's barely visible under the winging material, and a streak of silver can be added in the form of a few straws of silver flash.

Clouser Mickey

Thunder Creek Mickey
So if a multicolor bucktail wing is the key to being a potential Mickey Finn, then Kieth Fulsher's Thunder Creek flies are also obvious to tie in Mickey Finn colors. A yellow bunch below the hook and a yellow and red above all pointing forward. As they are folded back the red winds up under the yellow. Add eyes to the varnished or LCR'ed head, and you have a Thunder Creek Mickey. I have added a ribbed tinsel body here also, but it's hardly necessary - and barely visible anyway. You can use a silver hook to add the silver streak to the fly.

Thunder Creek Mickey

Salmon Mickey
The next variation is a very far cry from the original, but still bears an obvious resemblance due to the color scheme. The fly is tied on a tube in the general Scandinavian style and uses bucktail for the first wing section like the orginal, but the last wing section has been made with a zonker strip rather than a bunch of hair. The fly also has a hackle, which the original never had.

Salmon Mickey

More Mickeys
Mike Martinek has adapted the Mickey Finn as a traditional whole featherwing streamer in the Carrie Stevens or New England style, and called the fly Mickey's Ghost. The body is simply the normal ribbed tinsel body, but the hair wing has been exchanged with a wing made from whole hackle feathers to create the characteristic vertical sides of the long NE streamers. Carrie Stevens actually originated a yellow/red streamer, which she called Mickey Doodle, and that might very well have been inspired by the Mickey Finn.
Below you also see the Bird Fur Mickey and a Mickey Biplane, which is tied as a flatwing streamer. The variations are literally endless - yellow over red over yellow over a silver body, and the heritage is clear.

More Mickeys

We have covered the Mickey Finn before in our streamers section - both the traditional bucktail version, a marabou version and even a Wolly Bugger version.

Mickey Jiggy

User comments
From: David - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted December 17th 2013

I was always told the original Mickey Fin had a gold tinsel body. Looks like I was wrong. It is one fantastic pattern!.

From: Dave - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted March 17th 2013

I love the Micky Finn streamer. It works for me any the time I use it. One day I was wading up stream back to the lodge all of a sudden I had a good hit.The fly came loose and fell back in the river, so you could say I caught the fish trolling.
I tie mine on TMC 300's 8 and 6. Some times I use gold tinsel in stead of silver tinsel. You can slip me a Micky any time... Dave

From: gert jan uijleman anthonijs · guijleman·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted March 11th 2013

nice article and so much variations

From: Kate - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted March 8th 2013

Great Mickey Finn variations. There are many famous Mickeys in the world, but fly fishing's famous Mickey Finn has/will
outlive all of the others. Mickey Finn is a much kinder version of the original American Mickey Finn beverage. They both
hook their victims. Thank you for revisiting Mickey Finn. Kate

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