Saturday, October 25, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Mickey Finn Owns Interesting History

Tied and Photographed: Chuck Robbins
A Mickey Finn (or Mickey) is a dope-laced drink “slipped to someone unawares in order to incapacitate them.

The history of the Mickey Finn fly is rather vague. Apparently named after a nefarious bartender on Chicago's South Side, well versed in wasting patrons. But most seem to agree it was first tied by a Canadian, Charles Langevin in the 1800s and called the Langevin Fly...what else?

In the early 1900s William Mills and Son, an upscale New York City tackle store, which sold, among other high end fly fishing items, Leonard Rods, sold the Mickey as “Red and Yellow Bucktail.”

In the 1930s John Alden Knight (he of solunar tables fame) took Toronto Star columist, Gregory Clark, fishing and after an apparent fantastic day he labeled it Assassin.  A short time later having heard Rudy Valentino had been killed, “after being slipped a Mickey Finn,” he renamed the fly and soon after penned an article in Hunting and Fishing Magazine toting its charms—an especially “deadly fly for catching brook trout, largemouth bass and bluegill.” Later champions toted its virtues for catching brown trout, garfish, steelhead, sea run cutthroat and smallmouth.

The article hit the streets in fall of 1937, just in time for the New York Sportsman show. By shows end some 300,000 Mickey’s were reported tied and sold before it closed.  Weber Fly Company reported sales exceeding 1 million in the first quarter 1938.

Only the fish know for sure but certainly one reason for its long-lasting appeal among fly fishermen is “simply pretty, easy to tie, looks good in the box and even better in the water,” as one my old fishin’ pals puts it.

John Alden Knight tutored “simply cast it quartering upstream, let it sink a little, then strip it back”.

See, dopey fly, dopey tie, dopey method, nothin’ to it.

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