Welcome to Beginning Fly Tying

Part Eleven

An Introduction to Fly Tying:

All Time Favorites - Hare's Ear and Pheasant Tail

By Al Campbell

If you had to pick the most popular nymphs of all time, you'd be hard pressed to find two nymphs more popular than the Pheasant Tail and Hare's Ear. I would venture that more fish have been caught on these two nymphs than any other ten nymphs combined. The secret to their success is probably in the fact that these nymphs do such a good job of imitating a wide variety of aquatic nymph forms.

The Hare's Ear is a good pattern to imitate a caddis larva case or a mayfly nymph. Don't stop there though, it also does a good job imitating a stonefly nymph or damsel fly nymph. I guess it's success is due to the fact it doesn't look exactly like anything, but it does look a lot like everything in the nymph world. Add the fact you can use dyed hair and synthetic fibers in the dubbing mix, and you can produce a nymph that looks like almost anything.

The Pheasant Tail nymph is almost as versatile as the Hare's Ear. Substitute dubbing for the peacock herl in the thorax area, or use bleached or dyed pheasant tail feathers, and you can make a nymph that looks like anything you want to imitate.

That's right, I suggested substituting materials. These are basic, standard patterns, but you have the freedom to alter them to meet your needs. That's why so many people take up fly tying in the first place; they can create flies that better fit their needs by changing a standard pattern a little. You are in control here. It's your fly, and you have the freedom to make it any way you want to, as long as you aren't tying for commercial purposes. (Commericial tyers must consistantly produce the same fly the buyer ordered.) So get creative if you want, you might be surprised by the results.

Hares Ear - List of materials:

  • Hook: Wet fly, regular or 1x long. Eagle Claw L063; Mustad 9671; Tiemco 5262; Daiichi 1710.

  • Tail: Guard hairs from a hare's mask (the face and ears of a hare -rabbit).

  • Body: Coarse dubbing from a hare's mask or a mix of hair and synthetic fibers.

  • Thorax: Dubbing, may be the same as the body or a different shade or texture of dubbing.

  • Wing case: Fibers from a turkey tail feather or any similar feather.

  • Rib: Gold wire. (Copper wire can be used to add a different effect.)

  • Thread - 6/0 or 8/0, color as desired for effect, traditional is black or brown.

    Tying steps:

  • 1. Start the thread on the hook. Clip a small patch of hair from a hare's mask and remove some of the long guard hairs. Save the rest of the hair for later, and tie in the long guard hairs as a tail. The tail should be approximately half as long as the hook shank.

  • 2. Tie down the gold ribbing wire to the hook.

  • 3.Blend some hair from the face and ears of a hare's mask, leaving the guard hairs in with the under-fur. Dub a body approximately half the hook shank long.

  • 4. Wrap the gold wire around the body, evenly ribbing the body into segments. Tie off the wire and trim.

  • 5. Select 6 to 10 fibers from the tail feather of a turkey or a similar feather to serve as a wing case..

  • 6. Tie in the wing case on top of the hook as shown.

  • 7. Dub a thick thorax of the same dubbing you used for the body.

  • 8. Pull the wing case tightly over the thorax and tie off behind the hook eye.

  • 9. Trim the wing case fibers, build the head, whip finish and cement the head. Brush the body and thorax with an old toothbrush to pick out the dubbing a little and make the fly fuzzy.

  • Pheasant Tail - List of materials:

  • Hook: Wet fly, regular or 1x long. Eagle Claw L063; Mustad 9671; Tiemco 5262; Daiichi 1710.

  • Tail: Three to six fibers from a pheasant tail feather.

  • Body: Six to ten fibers from a pheasant tail feather.

  • Rib: Copper wire. (Gold wire can be used if desired.)

  • Thorax: Three or four strands of peacock herl. (The coarse fibers from a peacock tail feather)

  • Wing case: Pheasant tail fibers, (an extension of the body material).

  • Legs: Pheasant tail fibers, (an extension of the wing case).

  • Thread - 6/0 or 8/0. Color as desired (traditionally black or brown).

  • Tying steps:

  • 1. Start thread. Remove three to six fibers from a pheasant tail feather and tie in as a tail.

    Tail should be approximately 1/2 to 2/3 as long as the hook shank.

  • 2. Tie in ribbing wire.

  • 3.Select six to ten pheasant tail fibers and tie down to the hook, tips first.

  • 4. Wrap the pheasant tail fibers forward to approximately 2/3 of the hook shank. Tie the fibers down but don't trim them.

  • 5. Rib the body with the wire, wrapping the wire the reverse direction you wrapped the body.

  • 6.Fold the fibers you used for the body back toward the hook bend and tie down.

  • 7. Tie in three or four peacock tail fibers (herl) for the thorax.

  • 8. Wrap the peacock herl to form a thorax. Tie off the herl and trim.

  • 9. Grab the pheasant tail fibers you folded back in step 6, and pull them over the thorax to form a wing case. Tie the fibers off behind the hook eye, but don't trim.

  • 10. Split the pheasant tail fibers into two bunches, tying each bunch back along the sides of the hook to form two clumps of legs, one on each side of the hook.

  • 11. Trim each leg clump at approximately the back of the thorax. Whip finish the fly and cement the head.

  • You can modify each of these flies by adding a bead head or changing some of the materials or colors.

    By now, you've learned some tying skills, so it's time to get a little creative. It's one thing to tie a fly, but entirely another to design a fly. In the first case, you are merely tying someone else's creation. In the second case, you are creating a fly that is similar to something else, but designed to meet your needs.

    There's nothing wrong with tying these flies on a longer or shorter hook, substituting hair for feather or feather for hair, or using synthetic blends or fibers in the body or thorax. For instance, a flashback nymph replaces the wing case material with a piece of pearlescent tinsel.

    You've worked hard to learn the skills you have, now it's time to use them creatively. You might be surprised by the results you can obtain from a little creative experimentation.

    See ya next week. ~ Al Campbell

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