No greater endeavor connects to our sport as that of wrapping fur and feather upon a hook in an artistic fashion to imitate an insect or other food forms. From the short hair on a the ear of a domesticated hare to the synthetic yarn that carpets are made of, a plethora of materials can be manipulated in such a way as to look and behave like an artificial insect that fools fish. Fish foolery is my ceaseless preoccupation and conjuring more ways to do so provides me with endless hours of fascination, yet sometimes, I cannot escape the basics in which all fly boxes are built upon. Here I hope to share some of my favorite fly patterns with you and compare some modern patterns that have a very solid foundation in the classics.
I have adopted the common philosophy over the years that fly patterns that look like something edible to a fish but not little like anything in particular hold a greater appeal to me than fly's tied to imitate a specific insect. I know that I certainly am not alone in this philosophy. With that being said, I also have fly boxes loaded with specific patterns to imitate specific insects within specific spatial temporal instances so that I can accurately imitate when a mayfly is struggling in the surface film or the ovipositing female caddis dive towards the bottom to deposit an egg sac. There are times that either/or will be of importance, specifically, during times when fish are keyed into a specific insect or stages of emergence. This list will be focused on my favorite fly patterns that do not specifically imitate a specific hatch, but rather, if I were limited to only a handful of patterns in which to rely upon to carry me through the season and every situation I may encounter. This list is the foundation for discovery, you can alter each of these patterns in size color and materials to change them up and improve upon their efficacy.
I have chosen this list of patterns based on their ability to be modified in such a way as to cover more bases than the original. You can alter the size color and add various flourishes to each of these patterns so that you may end up with an entire array of fly patterns based on just a handful or recipes. Learning to tie each of these flys will put you in the upper echelons of fly tying masters.
Hare Ear Nymph
The Hares Ear Nymph in its basic form is one of the oldest patterns in this series of short articles. Today, it is hard to keep up with the variations that exists. Stripped to its basic form with a just a simple hare's mask fur body blended with some antron at the factory, we have what is now called a Walts Worm. The Walt's Worm does a fine job of imitating a host of aquatic invertebrates and I believe it’s original intent by Pennsylvania angler Mr Walt Young was to imitate the aquatic cranefly larva. In its simplicity, the Walt's Worm earns the top prize in imitating almost anything and everything that a fish could ever wish to come tumbling into his feeding lane. Rib it with pearl mylar tinsel and add a hot spot of orange and you have a sexy Walt's Worm.
Changing the size and color of a basic Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Nymph will cover all the rest of your bases. Large dark olive can imitate anything from dragonfly or damselfly nymphs, even green drakes nymphs and many caddis larva and pupa. Adding a brass or tungsten bead or adding weight to the fly can send the fly into the deep dark abyss. I now tie a size #10 tungsten bead head jig version in light tan and dark olive that I use as my anchor fly on a multi fly rig. Tied in a tan color, the heavy beadhead jig version does well at imitating the spring stonefly nymphs, while the dark olive just as likely imitates anything from cranefly larva to green drakes.
Adding a flash back over the thorax and a collar of partridge hackle adds two more “strike triggers” to the fly. With these modifications, we now have a Guide's Choice Hare's Ear.
Is the Guides Choice more effective than a simple Walt's Worm? I have yet to decide in my daily angling, but, if professional fly fishing guides like it, why not throw it into your box? I tie this version in large tan, olive, golden olive and natural fro size #6 to #14
My version of the Copper and Hare is a hybrid hares Ear Soft Hackle with a furry collar. A variety of sizes and colors seem to cover an entire range of all possible food sources from large black stoneflies, golden stoneflies, caddis larva, caddis pupa to the full range of mayfly nymphs.
Pictured from left to right:
- #8 Black
- #10 Natural Tan
- #12 Golden Tan
- #14 Olive Green
- #14 Pale Olive
- #16 Yellow
- #18 Caddis Green
Next time we look at the Pheasant Tail Nymph