The author of this post, Jeff Hickman, knows rainbow trout. He spent a bunch of years guiding at Alaska West, and during that time he came up with a really popular mouse pattern called Mr. Hankey that’s now available from Idylwilde.
With the long winter ahead, we suggest you either tie some up yourself, or make a purchase and spend the rest of your time daydreaming about beefy ’bows eating up top.
My favorite way to fish for trout is with a mouse pattern. There is really nothing like seeing the huge mouth of a carnivorous rainbow break the water’s surface to engulf a helpless little swimming rodent fly. Plus it is also a ton of fun to “bang the bank”, throwing numerous casts tight to the high bank, with a swinging/stripping retrieve to simulate a mouse jumping in for a leisurely swim. One can’t help but get into character and be the mouse. “Meep meep” sounds and high-pitched mouse dialogue from the angler are proven to increase success rates.
At Alaska West on the Kanektok and Arolik Rivers, trout have a short growing season and therefore must eat a lot of protein while it is available. There also happens to be a healthy vole population, and though I have yet to witness any of them voluntarily swimming, they must on occasion, because the trout seem to have an acquired taste for them.
During my summers spent guiding at Alaska West I always struggled with finding the right mouse pattern – none of the commercially available patterns suited my needs. Most were tied on an oversized, wide-gapped bass hook. The other problem I had with all of the commercially available mouse patterns was they all had a down riding hook point, and these flies commonly result in hook ups to the tongue of the trout. Since many of these northern resident rainbow trout are 12-plus years-old, friendly catch and release is mandatory to protect these amazing fisheries.
Thus spawned the idea of the upward riding stinger hooked mouse pattern – Mr. Hankey. This gave the ability to put a trout sized hook on a large fly and gave an added benefit of hooking fish that nip the mouse’s butt safely in the upper lip.
About Mr. Hankey’s Design
Mr. Hankey rides in the water at about the same level as a live swimming mouse…after all, mice swim – they don’t walk on the water. The foam back keeps him on top and upright in the surface. His foam back has an added bonus of keeping a tally of trout eats, since the tooth marks are strong evidence of a productive fly. His rabbit fur body should be illegal in most states as it is as close to bait as you could get. His rubber legs wiggle in the water like an Olympic swimmer. His foam mouse ears and crystal flash whiskers are strategically placed to effectively catch anglers as well as fish.
- Pre-cut a Mr. Hankey-shaped piece of foam. I do not cut the shape of the ears until after the fly is finished.
- On a long shanked up eyed hook, use Kevlar thread to tie in a loop of 25lb Maxima Chameleon large enough to fit around a barbless number 4 Owner SSW hook.
- Use a thin strip of natural bunny hide with the fur trimmed as the tail.
- Wrap natural crosscut bunny strip forward half way up the shank and tie-off. Do not trim the remaining strip.
- Tie-in rubber legs on each side and pre-cut piece of 1/8” fly foam on the back, being careful not to cut through the foam with the thread.
- Fold the forward half of the foam back and continue to wrap the bunny strip forward towards the head. Tie-off bunny strip and trim. Tie down foam to create his head.
- Tie-in crystal flash on each side to create whiskers.
- Trim ears to shape, making sure they are even and not too large. Small ears are easier to cast accurately into tight mouse swimming holes.
Fishing Mr. Hankey
Always remember: to fish Mr. Hankey effectively, you have to be Mr. Hankey. This includes talking like a mouse. Please release all fish unharmed, with minimal handling and time out of the water.