Hair of the Dog

Coyote hair makes two new saltwater patterns come to life.

[by Drew Chicone and Joe Mahler]

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, ARTISTS HAVE FOUND INSPIRATION from their surroundings. For example, when Van Gogh moved from bustling Paris to Southern France, his work changed. He didn’t quit painting, but his palette became influenced by his new environment, and he created such works as the Sunflower Pieces and Starry Night. In much the same way, when circumstances placed saltwater-fly designer Drew Chicone in the middle of Arizona, a land that hasn’t seen a saltwater fish since the Permian period, he didn’t stop designing saltwater patterns, he simply found new inspiration. That’s what artists do.

Drew examined a coyote pelt during a bowhunting trip in the desert. He noticed the beautiful and subtle tones; they reminded him of the sand, shells, and crustaceans of the sub-tropics. Drew all but abandoned the hunt to get back to the tying bench and start creating his salty imitations. He commented, “I had heard of coyote hair—mostly tails—being used for making streamers, but never gave it much thought. I quickly realized that coyote has a wider spectrum of colors and texture than almost any other fly-tying material.”

Back at his bench, Drew quickly designed new bonefish patterns using coyote hair. The first was a fly called the Coyote Ugly. We introduced the pattern at a fly-fishing class at Abaco Lodge in the Bahamas. It is easy to tie and quickly became a favorite of the students.

 fly-tying class at Strip-Strike University.

Author Drew Chicone is leading a fly-tying class at Strip-Strike University. Could the setting be better?

With the instant success of the Coyote Ugly, it seemed only natural to apply the lifelike qualities of coyote hair to a tarpon fly. Drew tuned his pattern called the Calypso Coyote in a testing tank, and guides torture-tested the pattern from the Keys to Belize. It is another successful fly.

“The coarse coyote fibers maintain the baitfish profile when stripped through the water,” says Drew, “and the black-tipped guard hairs precisely mimic the signature black tail of a finger mullet.”

A Versatile Material

If you haven’t tied with coyote hair, it might be time to add it to some of your favorite patterns. The guard hairs on the back of the pelt average between 2 to 3 1/2 inches long, and up to 5 inches long in the patch between the shoulders, which is called the mane. The soft, supple body hair is excellent for spinning in a dubbing loop to create a thick, full body. Drew also uses the shorter hair for the wings on bonefish flies such as the Squimp, Gotcha, and Crazy Charlie.

body-hair coyote-tail

The guard hairs closer to the neck, as well as the end of the tail, are tipped black and are perfect for making large baitfish patterns. The color of coyote hair matches a mullet, but it also has length and the perfect balance of stiffness and flexibility. Unlike most natural materials, the long hairs found on the tail and neck are coarse, so they will not foul or trap air. These hairs become supple when saturated and have a lifelike swimming motion when stripped through the water.

The coyote lives throughout North America, Mexico, and Canada, and has even been found below the Panama Canal. Unlike many other predators that have decreased in numbers, coyotes have thrived in the past 150 years. Once found only in the western plains, they now inhabit most of the continent and have invaded farms and cities where their diet has expanded to include squirrels, discarded fast food, and even household pets.

While coyotes are prevalent across the United States, the fur isn’t exactly a staple in every fly shop. A little research online will provide some sources. Like all natural materials, coyote fur can vary greatly in quality. Drew buys whole pelts from a furrier and divides them for personal use and resale.

Drew Chicone is a regular contributor to this magazine. For more information about his patterns and much more, check out his website, www.saltyflytying.com. (If your local fly shop doesn’t stock coyote hair, Drew offers it for sale on his website.) Joe Mahler is an author, illustrator, and fly-casting instructor. He resides in Fort Myers, Florida. This is his first contribution to our magazine.


Hook: Gamakatsu L11S-3H or a similar saltwater hook,
size 6.
Thread: Beige Danville 6/0 Flymaster.
Eyes: Large EP Crab & Shrimp Eyes, and a large tan bead.
Legs: Sand barred Sili Legs.
Flash: Black and tan Krystal Flash.
Coyote body fur.
Adhesive: Loon Outdoors UV Clear Fly Finish Flow.

Tying a Fish-catching Coyote Ugly Shrimp


Hook: Gamakatsu SC-15 2/0 or a similar saltwater hook, size 6.
Thread: Danville 6/0 Flymaster, beige.
Eyes: Black plastic bead chain.
Head: Pearl Diamond Braid, bonefish tan.
Flash: Krystal Flash, bonefish tan.
Tail: Coyote tail fur, and cream and tan marabou.
Body: Enrico Puglisi 1 1/5-inch-wide Foxy Brush, UV coyote.
Adhesive: Loon Outdoors UV Clear Fly Finish Flow

The Calypso Coyote is a Hot Tarpon Fly