Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Soft-Hackle Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear

     Though I have featured the Hare’s Lug & Plover, a popular British version, it occurred to me that three years into writing the Soft~Hackle Journal & I have not yet archived my own take on the Hare’s Ear. Versions of the Hare’s Ear have been in use for the entire history of Anglo fishing literature, & no doubt were fooling English trout well before the advent of print. I’ve overlooked the ancient pattern, fearing redundancy, considering it already covered ad infinitum. Forgive me. And some things do bear repetition. There might be kids reading who really need to know this.

Example: Once had a guy show up to fish with a boxful of neatly tied flies (beadheads on all of em) & not a single plain old Hare’s Ear wet of any kind in his box. The guy had strong ideas about what works. He let me know he’d fished Patagonia every year for twenty years. But the upper Columbia redband, being canny wild trout, were not appreciating his impressive resume or his beaded enticements. Spotted sedge stormed from the reach, & the trout preferring the emerging pupae accumulating just beneath the surface film. The beadhead caddis ‘emerger’ the guy insisted on did not present the way the trout wanted it, the gold beadhead serving to sink the fly too quickly out of the preferred zone, & that soon became obvious while fish tailed all around us. He made a face when I opened my box & offered him the wee Hare’s Ear, but took it without a word, tied it on, & was soon into a nice UC redband. To be fair, the guy was a passionate angler, he was simply temporarily stuck in a frame.  

Moral of the story (if I may paraphrase): He who lives by one thing will, on some days, die by that thing.

If you don't already, I’d suggest you carry a couple beadless Hare’s Ears with you & be able to meet a spectrum of circumstances & hatches they will cover. Can’t go wrong with a soft-hackle Hare’s Ear when meeting spotted sedge hatches – & the same pattern tied with an olive abdomen covers grannom, as well as others. And the pattern is equally useful fished for both mayflies & the smaller stonefly species. The Hare’s Ear imitates nothing, yet looks like everything – a delightfully utilitarian, ambiguously dangerous combination, bottom to top.     

There is no disputing the fish catching mojo of rabbit face as a tying material, evidenced by the many versions of the Hare’s Ear we see – with & without hackle or tails – with hare’s mask the only material in common.  And I think there may be as many versions of this fly as there are tyers interpreting it. 

The version featured here is my own take, though I doubt the material list is original. It may be tied without tailing to simulate sedge larvae & pre-emergent pupae, though I fish the tailed version as an emerger during sedge hatches, as the tailing serves to represent a trailing nymphal shuck. I tie them both weighted & not.

S-H Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear

Hook: #10-#18 Daiichi 1150

Thread: tan UNI 8/0

Tail: mallard flank, wood duck or gadwall – 3 to 5 fibers (This is a departure from the popular guard hair tailing, & I think an improvement.)

Rib: oval gold tinsel – metallic rod-wrapping thread is good

Body: reddish hare’s mask taken from the base of the ears, dubbed on a loop of the tying thread, wound to the head – overwrap with gold ribbing to the head, then add a bit of dubbing mixed with guard hairs from the ear & wind on a short thorax (I wind a short thorax on all my soft-hackle nymphs to create silhouette & mass & to keep the hackle flared away from the body.)

Hackle: ruffed grouse, & partridge or brahma hen are good – & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:      


  1. Super buggy. I'm going to have to work harder at getting guard hairs in my body dubbing. I've not been getting enough to get this much body presence.

    Great example. Thanks.

  2. Spike, the fly, a #14, enlarged in the pic looks like mayhem, but the first fish you catch on a fresh one will grind off the excess & make it just right.