The Hare's Ear Nymph is used widely throughout the world having
many variations. No one knows with certainty who
originally designed the fly but it is believed that Frederic Halford popularized the pattern in the late
1880s as a dry fly with upright Duck Quill wings and Brown and Grizzly hackles.
The nymph pattern may go back to earlier years of Izaak Walton in 1676 where he describes three patterns tied by Charles Cotton utilizing Hares Ear fur in the 5th edition of Compleat Angler. Although the pattern has a long history, it truly did not become popular until the late 60's when there was a trend to focus on the use of nymphs in fly fishing.
Polly Rosborough wrote about his version in 1969 and Joe Brooks discussed the pattern in 1972. In 1986, Randall Kaufmann stated in The Fly Tyer's Nymph Manual that; "The Hare Ear Nymph is the most popular nymph pattern in the fly fishing world. It can fished anywhere, anytime, with just about any method and the angler will have a reasonable chance of hooking trout." The Hare's
Ear Nymph is known as a generic nymph in that it represents many mayfly and caddis nymphs and, therefore, is often used as a
searching pattern. Its shaggy appearance resembles many species of nymphs when they shed their skins or
shucks as they progress into the next stage of their life. The occasional long hair coming from the body
will assist fooling the trout that your fly is alive as the it moves in the water.The more scruffy this
fly is, the better it is at catching fish. Many different colors are used but, primarily in the Sierra, we use
natural, tan, brown, and olive. It can be fished either weighted or unweighted.
The Hare's Mask is the traditional source for the dubbing. The tail is made of guard hairs that are clipped from
the area between the eyes of the mask. The underfur is removed by pinching tightly to the guard hairs, keeping them
relatively even, and gently pulling away the underfur. The abdomen is made up of hares fur from the cheeks of the
mask which is softer and a lighter color than other areas of the mask. This area also tends to have less unruly guard
hairs. The thorax is meant to be shaggy and buggy, so I find the best fur to be located on the forehead of the
mask. Often the forehead will have darker hair as well. Both the abdomen and thorax dubbing fur should be blended
separately prior to tying the pattern. There are a number of commercial dubbing mixes available but often they use
rabbit body fur, not Hare's mask. Some of these dubbings will also incorporate Antron, Poly, and other materials.
The ribbing is often Gold Oval tinsel but, on the smaller sizes, a fine gold wire might work better. This ribbing gives
the pattern it's acronym, GRHE (Gold Ribbed Hares Ear) which you'll often see posted. Use of a gold bead was a
new variation when the beads became available during the 1980's. Another variation, you will often see is the use
of Pheasant Tail fibers, grouse, or hackle fibers for the tail. The GRHE incorporates a wingcase of
mottled Turkey but some variations will use Peacock Herl, Pheasant Tail, or Mylar. Turkey can be fragile on this pattern and you will often see an epoxy or cement finish applied upon the wingcase. Utilizing rubber legs has also been a popular varitation to the nymph. John Atherton, a prominant fly fisher in the 1930's and 40's, added a Kingfisher Blue hackle as a wingcase and this "hot spot" improved the GRHE pattern. He described the pattern in his book, "The Fly and the Fish" (1950).
If the fly is greased, it floats and provides an excellent imitation of
large, hatching mayflies and caddis fly pupae. The most common method of fishing this popular fly is on a
dead drift. The nymph is cast upstream and allowed to drift within the current. This is a most effective
short-range technique and takes are usually seen as a splash at the surface. When this fly is immersed, the stiff fibers in the dubbing stand out and imitate the legs of an insect. Fish this lure below the surface with or without a small strike indicator and split-shot to help it sink. The Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear
has also proven it's effectiveness in lakes. Fished very slowly near the bed of the lake, it is particularly
attractive to brown trout.
The Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear nymph (GRHE) is used to represents a wide range of aquatic insect larvae. The pattern is especially good at representing lighter colored species of mayfly and caddis. It is very useful on still water and moving water for targeting numerous species including amongst others: trout, grayling, panfish, and carp. To imitate darker insect larvae, you might do better with a dyed-black, dyed-brown or dyed-olive variation of the fly pattern.
Guy Jeans of Kern River Troutfitter's came up with an excellent variation on the Hare's Ear with his Kern Emerger
in 2004. It has it's own page within the flybox.