The Griffith’s Gnat is one of those patterns that nobody brags about fishing, tying, or even having in their fly box. Admittedly I was one of those anglers, and I’m not sure what it was, maybe an age thing or just the overwhelming modern information of updated patterns, that people talk about more.
Whatever it was, has changed for me, and I will now confidently tell you that I tie and fish the Griffith’s Gnat on a regular basis.
It’s one of those patterns that just rises and catches fish. It has been called the WOOLEY BUGGER of the dry fly world. It is super easy to tie and represents a whole selection of emerging or spent flies as well as terrestrials.
What’s not to like?
Why the Griffith’s Gnat is So Great
Why a fly works so well is always an interesting topic of conversation. In this case, the Griffiths Gnat is just a buggy-looking fly, and its spectrum of imitations is vast. Originally designed and tied to imitate a cluster of hatching midge larva or black flies, it is now said to cover a larger selection of trout food choices.
I think the main contributing factor to the Griffiths Gnat is that it rides midway in water film, much like a hatching larva would. The heavily hackled body is what does the trick for this. The pattern’s size also makes it such a deadly fly. In my opinion, most dries are often too big, whereas the Griffiths Gnat is generally a small pattern, size #16 or #18.
Ask yourself why the Woolly Bugger is so deadly. Well, it’s just a buggy-looking fly, and that’s exactly what the Griffith Gnat is.
A Little History on the Griffith’s Gnat
George Griffith originally developed the pattern. George was one of the founding members of TROUT UNLIMITED, an organization that still to this day does impactful work for our environment and fisheries.
The pattern was designed to imitate a micro midge cluster or adult midge, depending on the size the pattern is tied in. It is a great pattern to fish when the going is slow, and the trout need something different to look at. If the classic BWO doesn’t work, then this is when you tie on the Griffiths Gnat and expect big things!
Guide Pro Tip: Midge patterns like the Griffith’s Gnat can be amazingly effective. If you’d like to learn about my MUST HAVE midge patterns read this article. 👉 Favorite Midge Patterns (That Work)
The main issue I have with fishing the Griffiths Gnat is that I battle to see the bloody thing. This is an issue for many anglers. A simple solution to this issue as suggested by George is to fish the pattern in tandem with a bigger, more visual fly as an indicator. This isn’t uncommon, and I fish many of my micro soft hackles in this way.
A simple ‘truck and trailer’ style rig with a 10-15cm drop from one fly to the next is all that is needed.
What Fish Does a Griffiths Gnat Catch?
George Griffith originally designed this fly pattern for trout. His home waters were known for beautiful brook trout.
A cluster of midges or something similar has been the suggested imitation, but I am of the opinion that a small beetle or ant could also be passed as well. That is what makes it such a deadly pattern.
How to Setup for a Griffiths Gnat?
As with most things in fly fishing, the modern fly rod can do many things, and most entry-level to medium-skilled fishers will have one fly rod for small streams. With this said, you can fish your normal setup, whether it be a 7’6, a 10’ rod, or anything in between.
A floating line is needed to fish the Griffiths Gnat or any dry fly, really. The leader length needs to be as long as you can manage to fish comfortably and consistently. For a 9’ rod, I would fish a 15’ leader. It is important to remember you need to be in full control of the flies throughout the drift. There needs to be little to no drag induced in the drift. DRAG IS DEADLY! If your fly has drag through the drift, the fish won’t eat it. It’s that simple.
Tippet- When it comes to tippet size, you want to fish the lightest tippet you can get away with. Fish the tippet that you are comfortable with and the size that you are confident in fighting fish on. It’s pointless using a 7X tippet if you aren’t used to fighting fish on it. It will pop on most big runs until you are familiar with it.
Anything from a 5X to 7X tippet size will be fine when fishing the Griffiths Gnat.
Guide Pro Tip – Understanding what the fish are eating and when is the key to success. It’s always best to use the environment and surroundings to help identify what the fish are eating. For more on this topic, read Entomology of Trout Food
What Does the Griffiths Gnat Represent
The Griffiths Gnat was originally tied to imitate a cluster of small midges or a few larger ones. I’m of the opinion that it can represent a whole lot more, though. A small beetle, or bug, the smaller ones could pass as sunken ants. There are many possibilities. Whatever the trout think the pattern represents, I don’t really mind as long as they eat it.
Griffiths Gnat, Favorite Size and Color
The Griffiths Gnat needs to be a small pattern. It needs to be tied on a #16 and smaller. The optimal size would be #18, in my opinion. This is the size I fish on my local waters. I usually trail the pattern behind a larger, more visible dry fly, such as a CDC and Elk Caddis or something similar.
The smaller the pattern you fish, the more difficult it is to see it on the drift. Given its dark natural colors, it’s sometimes impossible to see. The truck and trail method is a great way to fish the Griffiths Gnat productively.
Where to Buy Griffiths Gnat
You can obviously get your flies from whomever you want to support or whose flies you enjoy. The Griffiths Gnat from Umpqua is great. They also tie a version with a highly visible post in the middle, which works like a bomb!
What I like about their versions is the hackle isn’t too long. What tends to happen on the larger commercially tied flies is the hackle used is too big, and the fly tends to ride too high in the water film. A quick solution is to cut the fibers shorter or in line with the hook point, but I’m not a huge fan of this as I like the pointy parts of the hackle to be submerged and not those stubby, stiff unnatural-looking fibers.
Ventures Fly Co. 40 Fly Assortment Has a Great Selection of Flies
This assortment has most of the flies needed lay the foundation for an effective fly box. the most common dries, nymphs and streamers. Check out the on water video review on YouTube – HERE
As I mentioned in the beginning, and as you know, all my articles are very subjective, and there are obviously many other ways and means to do things. This is what works for me, and what is the most productive approach on the water?
How to Tie Griffiths Gnat
This is a very simple pattern to tie. The key point is to ensure the hackle fibers aren’t too long.
- Hook- Mouche 8426 #16-#20
- Thread- Griffiths Sheer, Black 14/0, or any lightweight flat waxed thread.
- Body- Peacock herl, Look for the longest strands with the densest fibers.
- Hackle- Sideline Hackle, the correct size of the hook is important. Slightly longer is ok, but not too long.
- Secure hook in the vise.
- Tie in a level thread base, ending at the hook bend.
- Tie in the hackle, thickest base first, concave of the feather facing away from you.
- Tie in the two strands of hackle for the smaller flies, and tie in the tips for a smaller profile.
- Wrap thread forward until behind hook eye.
- Wrap peacock hurls forward.
- Wrap the hackle forward, creating a segmented body.
- Tie off and whip finish.
I don’t use head cement on any of my dries. This is entirely up to you.
Guide Pro Tip – Fishing with the Griffiths Gnat is very similar to fishing with any other midge patterns. Would need to keep the drifts drag-free and preferably fish the pattern with a sighter fly in front. Learn more about drag-free drifts in this article. 👉 Learn How to Dead Drift
It is pretty straightforward, but if you would like to learn more, please read How to Fish with Midge Patterns
One Last Cast with the Griffiths Gnat
With the modern advancements in fly tying, patterns, and fly fishing in general, one often forgets about the bygone days, methods, and patterns.
I am just as guilty as many when it comes to wanting to learn new things, but sometimes it pays to take a step back to relearn and fish what we did many years ago. We will all be very surprised by the results.
The Griffiths Gnat is a great example of how the old is still relevant and productive.
If you don’t have any in your dry box, get some quickly!
Looking to Learn the Tips and Techniques for the Fish You Love to Chase? I’ve Got You Hooked Up Below
- I love chasing brown trout, big lake run monsters, night time trophies and memories of big boys that got away. Read 👉 The Complete Guide to Fly Fishing for Brown Trout
- The Complete Guide to Fly Fishing for Rainbow Trout 👈 Steps through the gear, flies and setup for casting flies rainbow trout.
- I’m not sure if any fish is more beautiful than a brook trout. Learn how to find and fish for these beauties 👉 How To Fly Fish for Brook Trout
- The perfect evening for me is floating in a canoe on a tiny lake at that “Magic Hour” around sunset and casting to Bluegills. Read 👉 How To Fly Fish for Bluegill
Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.