9 January – Tying Flies

It’s cold, grey and windy. Time to tie some flies for the new season. The lakes open in March. The Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE) nymph and Black Spider are my favourite flies. I use them a lot and they therefore catch the majority of my trout.

Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear

This fly has a long history. In 1886 Frederic M. Halford published Floating Flies and How to Dress Them. He included the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear. In 1910 G. E. M. Skues listed the Hare’s Ear pattern as a wet fly in his classic Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream. The history of this pattern therefore neatly tracks the Skues – Halford debate.

The modern pattern featuring a gold bead and wide gold ribbing is, in my opinion, a lure not a nymph. I don’t use beads. I use rabbit fur and various wire ribbings for this pattern.  Rabbit fur is plentiful. Lead copper and gold coloured wire are cheap and more durable than tinsel or Lurex. The tail of the fly is made from the coarse guard hair which is pale brown with dark tips. The body is dubbed with a mixture of guard hair and the soft blue under fur. The ribbing sinks into the body which secures it and gives a segmented effect. Lead wire ribbing makes the fly sink and I sometimes add lead wire under the thorax for very deep pools. The thorax is mainly guard hair, loosely dubbed and picked out with a needle. I don’t bother with wing cases. This pattern should look scruffy and is more successful in sizes 12 and 14. I find trout take this fly confidently throughout the season.

Black Spider


This fly has no history, I invented it. The Black Spider is a generic pattern that is a mixture of nymph, emerger and dry fly. It floats indefinitely because it is made with black Neoprene foam. The type of closed-cell foam that wetsuits are made from.

The body is tied in at the bend of the hook over a bed of black silk. It is brought forwards without stretching and is not ribbed. The foam retains its buoyancy and is the shape of a beetle or corixa. A small black hen or Partridge hackle completes the pattern. This pattern floats without dressing and will support a short length of sunken fluorocarbon tippet.  It’s great for educated trout and the takes are usually violent.

Both of these flies are best fished dead drift on the river or stationary on the lakes. I need to tie a few of each size, I tend to lose a lot in the trees.