Scruffy, weighty and darned useful for river and stillwater fly fishing alike, the Hare’s Ear is one of the truly indispensable patterns in any angler’s box. It’s also an absolute piece of cake to tie, even if you’re all thumbs at the vice. In fact, you could argue that the scruffier the finish, the better the fly. In his new series of step-by-step fly-tying guides, Dom Garnett shows you how to tie the Beaded Hare’s Ear.
Tying your own flies
So far in this series, we’ve shown you a dead simple dry fly, along with an equally straightforward hackled wet fly. As we move into autumn, though, our next fly is going to be a slightly weightier affair. Quite literally, with the addition of a small brass bead.
The practice of adding small metallic beads to flies seems to have been going on since Izaak Walton was in nappies, but to this day it remains a really simple way of adding extra mass and attraction to all sorts of different flies. Few are more universally effective than the Hare’s Ear.
Scruffy does it
Like all the flies in this series, the Hare’s Ear (sometimes abbreviated to GRHE –“Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear) is not an incredibly realistic creation. It’s suggestive or “general fit”. It’s not origami or master craftsmanship – it just looks seriously edible in the water. Don’t be fooled into thinking its rough simplicity makes this fly inferior to the amazing little works of art you see in glossy magazines and tying shows. Does it resemble a shrimp? Or perhaps a caddis larva? The fish seem to care even less than we do, because more often than not they’ll try to eat it.
In fact, my older brother and I experimented over many seasons comparing different flies. He got the tying bug bad, making Rhyacophila, Heptagenids and the rest (typical scientist, he gets off on this stuff). But the more we fished, certainly on our wild streams at home, the more apparent it seemed that a scruffy fly, finished in five minutes flat, would routinely outfish some incredibly accurate little work of art. And when you cast that scruffy five-minute fly into a tree, there’s less wailing and gnashing of teeth.
What am I driving at here, then? Well, I don’t want to denigrate realistic fly tying. It’s beautiful, creative and clever. It’s like painting a wonderful portrait, rather than just quickly taking a selfie. If you fish on rivers where the fish are very selective or see a lot of angling pressure, it can be useful, too. But for most of your fly fishing, the Hare’s Ear is a simple, brilliant pattern you just have to have!
What you need to tie the Hare’s Ear
There are loads of variations on the classic Hare’s Ear fly. You can mess about with different dubbings, beads and the rest. You can add fancy tails or a thorax. Once you’ve sussed it, go ahead and knock yourself out. For now though, we’re going to make this most basic of fly patterns seriously easy to tie with a few basic tools and ingredients.
One notable main material is the namesake “hare’s ear” dubbing. Yes, you can substitute this for modern dubbings, but do try it with the real hare’s fur first. Nothing is quite so beautifully spiky and full of life. Buy yourself a full, natural “mask”. Yes, it’s a bit grim. If you live with any vegetarians, you might want to hide it so they don’t freak out.
Take a look at the material though, and marvel at it for yourself. There are lighter and darker coloured bits of fur. There are softer and spikier parts too. All of this can be used- if you pinch firmly with thumb and forefinger and tear out in little pinches. Less is always more with dubbing!
Here’s what you need:
|Hook:||Nymph or grub hook, size 12-18|
|Head:||Brass or coloured bead, to suit (typically 2mm-3.5mm)|
|Thread:||Tan or Brown|
|Rib:||Silver or gold wire|
|Body:||Dubbed hare’s mask, natural|
Tying the Hare’s Ear, step by step
Further Hare’s Ear tips and variations
If you fished little other than the fly I’ve just shown you, you could catch plenty of fish from streams and small stillwaters alike. In fact, the trout won’t begrudge your lack of artistry one bit. Keep your flies nice and scruffy and fish them where the trout expect to find things like shrimp and hog lice (i.e. the weedy margins of a small lake, or the bed of the stream) and you won’t go far wrong. On rivers, this tends to mean trundling along with the speed of the current, whereas on small stillwaters I like a picky figure of eight retrieve.
The simplest of Hare’s Ears will catch plenty of fish. That said, it’s fun and useful to add some extra touches to your Hare’s Ear flies. My favourite twists are:
- Use a different type of bead. Try hot orange for dirty water, for example, or tungsten for extra weight.
- Hackles and tails aren’t strictly necessary, but can add extra attraction. Partridge fibres or Coq de Leon make lovely tails and legs. Or add a CDC hackle for extra, wispy movement when wet.
- Dubbings are also wide open for experimentation. Original hare’s mask is excellent, but you can get sparkly substitutes that are easier to dub. You could even add some brighter colour, such as red or orange, just behind the bead as a bit of a “hot spot”.
- Of course, different hooks will also give different effects to your fly. You can tie a Hare’s Ear on any straight nymph hook, but a curved shrimp hook gives a lovely effect too.
- But perhaps the biggest change for many anglers has been the switch to “jig hooks” (like the right-hand fly in the shot above). This design of hook will make the fly fish “point up” and seems to reduce snagging the bottom on rivers, while many believe it also leads to more hook-ups when fish bite.
- Don’t forget to tie your flies in a good spread of sizes, too. I find a size 12 ideal for rainbows, especially for trying the edges of smaller, weedy lakes. Meanwhile, a size 16 with a smaller bead is ideal for most small to mid sized trout and grayling fishing on the river. That said, weeny little Hare’s Ears in sizes right down to a 20 can be superb for roach and dace.
Wherever you fish, you’d be hard pressed to find a more useful all-round fly pattern than the good old Hare’s Ear. Happy tying and fishing!
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