By Don Fine
This is the fourth installment in our series aimed at learning fundamental fly tying skills. Our goal is to tie a series of freshwater artificial flies, with each successive month’s pattern increasing in complexity. We are thrilled to report that over 20 club members participated last month by tying soft hackle (wet) flies. If you missed any of our previous sessions, you can find them all here.
The fly pattern chosen for June is the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear nymph. The Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear (aka GRHE) is a traditional artificial fly imitating an aquatic insect larva (i.e. nymph). Many fly fishers consider the GRHE nymph to be one of their fundamental patterns to carry and use as a ‘searching’ pattern, particularly when fishing ‘new waters’ (i.e., an unfamiliar stream/river), because it mimics a number of mayfly nymphs.
The origin of the Hare’s Ear Nymph is not fully known. However, an English fly tyer is believed to have created the first hare’s ear nymph using hare’s ear dubbing* in 1910, as simply a modification on the long-lived Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear wet fly.
*Hare’s ear dubbing consists of a course blend of underbody fur, along with the guard hairs from the ear of a rabbit.
More information regarding the design and fishing of a GRHE will be found via our tying instruction sheet and instructional video which will be posted here no later than June 19. Tiers are also encouraged to watch other instructional (e.g. YouTube) videos found on the internet, under the search topic: tying a gold ribbed hare’s ear nymph.
Instructions for Tying Two Versions of the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph
- Hook – Mustad 3906B or equivalent, sizes 10-14
- Thread – brown, 6x or 140 denier
- Body – Dubbing – Hare’s mask (color – natural)
- Tail – Pheasant tail (PT) fibers
- Gold wire – medium
- Wing case – pheasant tail fibers or thin skin
- Lead (or lead free) wire -medium
Tying steps: Follow these steps for GRHE nymph version #1 Pheasant tail
- Insert hook in vise after pinching down the hook barb.
- Midway between the hook eye and bend of the hook wrap the hook shank with a section of lead wire (approximately 10 wraps) advancing the lead toward the eye. Cut or ‘helicopter’ twist the free portions of the wire at both the mid-shank and near the hook eye. Push the lead wraps forward toward the eye of the hook.
- Start thread wraps immediately behind the lead wraps and build up a ‘dam’ of thread to hold the lead wire in place, then advance the thread wraps over the lead up to the hook eye, reverse to the rear, stopping at the beginning of the hook bend, at a point (above and mid between the point and the barb of the hook.
- Secure 10-14 pheasant tail fibers and cut them from the feather stem. Hold the fibers in your left hand with approximately ¼” of the tips facing toward the rear of the fly. Secure the ‘bundle’ of fibers in place with several thread wraps at this location. (The fibers should all be on the top of the hook shank as they protrude from the rear of the hook). Advance thread wraps forward (over the butt ends of the PT fibers) toward the eye of the hook stopping just beyond mid shank and slightly over the lead-wrapped section of the hook shank. Leave the extending butt ends leaning forward.
- Wrap thread several turns back toward the bend of the hook and secure a 2” piece of gold wire to the far (away from the tier) side* of the hook, continue to make thread wraps over the gold wire toward the bend, stopping at the location where the tail fibers were first tied in. *(Placement of the wire on the opposite side of the hook facilitates making counter wraps of the gold wire after dubbing of the abdomen of the fly).
- Hold a small bundle of dubbing loosely in your left hand, moisten the tips of the right hand and then remove some of the dubbing from the bundle (being held in the left hand). Then using your right hand, twist a small amount of dubbing (counter-clockwise) onto the thread,* thus making a dubbing noodle approximately 1” long. *(The dubbing noodle should be relatively tight to the thread at both ends and relatively loose in between).
- Wrap the dubbing noodle forward to the point where the PT butts were previously secured, (i.e. just beyond mid-shank). Make 1 or 2 turns of bare thread at this point to secure the dubbing (abdomen) in place.
- Counter wrap the gold wire over the dubbing to segment the abdomen, stopping the wire just beyond the point where the PT butt fibers were previously secured. Make several thread wraps behind and in front of the loose end of the gold wire. Then ‘helicopter’ or cut the gold wire (wire cutters rather than tying scissors).
- Dub another section of the thread approximately 1” long, and (while holding the PT butt fibers out of the way) dub the thorax portion of the hook, forward to approximately 1/8” behind the hook eye. *(The diameter of the thorax should be about double the diameter of the abdomen. If not add more dubbing to the thread and overwrap the thorax to increase its diameter).
- Gently, pull the PT butt fibers forward and secure with several thread wraps immediately behind the hook eye. Carefully, cut off the excess fiber butts, make several additional wraps and whip finish the fly.
- *This last step is optional. A small amount of lacquer, UV resin or super glue can be applied to the wing case to make it more durable. Also, Sally Hansen’s “Hard as Nails” with sparkle is also excellent for treating wing cases on nymph patterns.
Follow the steps below for GRHE nymph version #2 Pheasant tail
- Steps 1-3 for version #2 are the same as version #1 above.
- Secure ~8 pheasant tail fibers and cut them from the feather stem. Hold the fibers in your left hand with approximately ¼” of the tips facing toward the rear of the fly. Secure the ‘bundle’ of fibers in place with several thread wraps at this location. (The fibers should all be on the top of the hook shank as they protrude from the rear of the hook). Advance thread wraps forward (over the butt ends of the PT fibers) toward the eye of the hook stopping just beyond mid shank and slightly over the lead-wrapped section of the hook shank. Carefully cut off the loose butt fibers.
- Follow steps 5-8 from version 1 above, for insertion of gold ribbing and dubbing of the abdomen.
- Advance thread forward to just behind hook eye. Then cut a small section of thin skin material (approximately 1 ¼” long and ¼” wide) and peel off the paper backing from the thin skin. At one end of the thin skin, trim it with scissors to create a blunt arrow point.
- Hold the thin skin on the top of the hook shank with the pointed tip where the tying thread is hanging. Make thread wraps over the thin skin toward the bend of the hook, stopping about mid shank (or where the initial dubbing of the abdomen stopped). At this point the uncovered thin skin should be protruding either to the rear of the fly, or slightly raised above the hook shank.
- Dub another section of the thread approximately 1” long, dub the thorax portion of the hook, forward to approximately 1/8” behind the hook eye. *(The diameter of the thorax should be about double the diameter of the abdomen. If not add more dubbing to the thread and overwrap the thorax to increase its diameter).
- Gently pull the thin skin forward toward the hook eye (tight without stretching it), and make several (3) wraps of thread over the loose end of the thin skin, securing it at the forward end. Clip off the excess thin skin and make additional thread wraps and finish the head of the fly, with either whip finishing or half-hitching.
- (Optional) Apply head cement, lacquer, UV resin or super glue to the wing case to make it more durable.