- Fly tying or fabric dye
- Plastic pail
- Dish soap
- Rubber gloves
- Stainless steel pot
- Candy thermometer
- Hot plate
- Bamboo tongs
- Foil pie plate
The fly lure has a long history in the sport of fly-fishing. Tying artificial flies has become an art form as well as part of the fishing experience. Natural materials like deer hair are a common element. Available naturally in white, brown and gray, dyeing can also create deer hair with a variety of vibrant colors.
Choose a piece of deer hair to color. Hair still attached to the hide is the easiest to dye. Deer hair is naturally white or cream on the belly and brown or gray on the body. White or cream fur is the best for bright colors while body fur is best for deep brown or black dye.
Clean the section of deer hair. Grease, natural oil and dirt will reduce the effectiveness of any dye. Use the one-gallon plastic pail and soak the deer fur in a soapy water solution. Use two tablespoons of dish soap per quart of water and let the fur soak for two hours. Rinse with clear running water to remove all traces of soap. Leave the deer hair to soak in clean water while you prepare the dye bath.
Prepare the dye bath in the stainless steel pot with dye and vinegar. Do not use an aluminum pot, as it will react with the dye. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the color. Use one teaspoon of powder dye per quart of water, or mix according to manufacturer's directions. Blend powder dye with hot water into a paste first, and then add this paste to the water. This helps the color to dissolve completely. To set the color, add vinegar to the dye solution in a ratio of three teaspoons of vinegar per quart of water.
Heat the dye bath on the hot plate. Place the candy thermometer in the dye and heat until it reaches a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the dye bath at this temperature for the entire dyeing process. Remove the deer fur from the rinse water and place it into the dye. Stir with bamboo tongs every 10 minutes, keeping the fur in the dye bath for 45 minutes.
Remove the fur from the dye bath with the tongs and rinse in cool running water. Place the deer hair into the foil pan to dry. Once dry, use an old brush to groom and smooth the fur.
You can experiment using unsweetened drink crystals as a dye. Use one 0.2-ounce package per cup of water and proceed as you would with a commercial dye.
Black is a difficult color to dye. After the 45 minutes dyeing time, let the dye bath cool overnight with the fur still in it before rinsing. You can also try bleaching the fur using a solution of two parts 20 percent hydrogen peroxide and one part non-sudsing ammonia. Let the fur sit in the bleaching solution for several hours, then rinse thoroughly with clear water.