One can’t write about a guide to flies and how to tie them without including the famous Hares Ear Nymph, GRHE, as known by most these days.
This iconic pattern was probably one of the first patterns I learned to tie and fish. It has accounted for many fish over the years, and if I was to be honest, it deserves a fly box of its own, in my opinion.
Everything about this pattern is fishy, and as most anglers would say, it’s a no-brainer to have a few in your fly box.
Originally tied to imitate a mayfly nymph, more on this later, if tied in larger forms, it can double as an attractor pattern, especially if a trigger color is tied into it.
Whichever way you choose to fish the GRHE, it will work and is a podium finisher in my mind. So, without further due, let’s dive right into what makes the GRHE so great, how to tie it, and how to fish it.
Guide Pro Tip: If you want to impress your fly fishing friends use the acronym GRHE. It stands for Gold Rib Hare’s Ear, this is some OG knowledge.
Why the Hares Ear Nymph is Great
What makes this pattern so great? By looking at it, you can see that it is a buggy-looking pattern and should convince any fish to eat. The hares mask hairs are what makes this pattern so deadly. The hare’s mask has long been the fly tiers friend, and many an old pattern has this material in it.
I think the natural movement of the hair does the trick. What’s great about the mask is that you can get your dubbing from it and the guard hairs for the tails, on dry flies, the wing posts, etc.
PRO TIP – adding a bead to this pattern really does give it an ultimate look and finish. Honestly, I don’t think I have any without a bead. I have them in 2.5mm, 3mm, and 4mm sizes.
The tail is what does it for me. Its movement and the way it holds tiny bubbles within the fibers is a huge trigger for fish.
A Little History of the Hares Ear Nymph
The hare’s ear nymph is one of those patterns that nobody really knows how old it actually is or who first tied it. Old script may have been found here and there describing a similar pattern from way back when, but it didn’t have the same name as today. It may have just sounded similar.
What we do know is this, the Hare’s Ear Nymph was first thought out as a dry fly and later altered by a gentleman by the name of Frederic Halford. It is said that Frederic popularized the pattern in the 1880s as a nymph-style pattern, but it wasn’t until the nymphing era that the GRHE really took off. In those times, it would be found in almost all angler’s fly boxes.
The likes of Polly Rosborough, Joe Brooks, and Randall Kaufmann have all written about this pattern over the past few decades. It is undoubtedly the most famous fly pattern around and one that has so much history it could actually have its own book.
With all that is said about the GRHE, it was originally designed to imitate the mayfly nymph but has since been dubbed a Generic Nymph. A Generic Nymph is a nymph pattern that doesn’t imitate something specific but rather an array of insects. The GRHE covers all mayfly and caddis nymphs, and when tied in the larger, darker forms, it will also cover a stone fly nymph.
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What Fish Does a Hares Ear Nymph Catch?
The beaded and normal versions of the GRHE nymph were thought out and tied with trout in mind. After all, back in those early days, it was only trout on the target board. The rest of the species were thought to be a waste of time. These days things couldn’t be more different, and for the good, I think! Trout are still on the top of the list; well, if you have them in your area else, it’s what swims in your local waters.
The GRHE will catch anything, in my opinion. It’s just got all the triggers, and the fish that I have presented it to have all devoured it without hesitation.
How to Setup a Hares Ear Nymph
The GRHE is a classic nymph and should be fished as such. You can fish it as a single nymph either under an indicator or as a single nymph. Other ways are double nymph on a Euro nymph method.
For the Euro nymph technique, the GRHE can be fished as the point or dropper fly. Lastly, the nymph can be fished on a dry dropper rig. This method of trailing behind a dry fly has caught many fish for me in my local waters.
If you are prospecting with the GRHE as an attractor pattern, then fish it like you would a slow streamer almost. Long, slow retrieves with a decent pause in between. The odd twitch in between all of this does the trick sometimes.
What Does the Hares Ear Nymph Represent
First thought to imitate a mayfly nymph, the GRHE nymph has now been classed as a generic nymph that covers more of an array of insects.
The caddis, pepping caddis, and smaller stonefly nymphs are all represented by the GRHE pattern.
I’m of the mindset that the fly’s bugginess generally covers everything a fish sees in food and, as such, makes this a very effective fly pattern.
Hares Ear Nymph Favorite Size and Color
The buggier, the better for my GRHE nymphs. I like them in tans, browns, and black. Beaded options are my preferred choice to fish. The un-beaded version also has its uses and is a very deadly pattern to fish.
Below is a list of my top three GRHE nymphs.
- Jig GRHE FLASHBACK– this is my go-to pattern for this type of fly. I’m a big fan of fishing my nymphs in a jig style. With the upturned hook, you get fewer hang-ups and more hookups. Fished in sizes #16-#14.
- GRHE GOLD BEAD– this is the classic version with a gold tungsten bead. This version is also great to have in an un-beaded for the super skinny waters. Keep the color natural and the sizes small #16 and one up or down.
- Hare on Fire– this is my prospecting version of this pattern. It has great triggers with the additional hotspot beads and legs. I fish this one slightly larger in size # 14-#12
Where to Buy Hares Ear Nymphs
If you have read any of my previous articles on the flies and how to tie and fish them, then you will know that I’m a huge advocate for supporting local shops and boutique craftsmen and women. With that said, if you don’t tie your own flies, please support your local fly shop, and if you don’t have a local shop, please buy online from a reputable boutique store.
How to Tie Hares Ear Nymph
- Hook: Size 12 Wet Fly Hook
- Thread: 8/0 Brown
- Rib: Copper Wire
- Tail: Hare’s Mask
- Body: Hare’s Mask
- Wing case: Turkey Tail
- Thorax: Hare’s Mask
- Optional: Gold Beadhead
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- Secure the hook in the vice. If you have a bead, then place the bead first, then secure the hook in the vice.
- Wrap a solid thread base, ensuring a gentle taper is formed, ending at the hook bend.
- Tie in your guard hairs as the tail. Note here to keep them shorter than long and thicker than thin.
- Tie in your gold wire.
- Make a dubbing noodle and wrap it forward 2/3rd up the hook shank.
- Tie in your stripped turkey tail fibers to form a thorax.
- Make a new dubbing noodle and dub the thorax behind the hook eye or bead.
- Pull the turkey wing fibers forward to create a thorax.
- Whip finish.
PRO TIP- You can create a hotspot red or orange collar at the last point of the fly. Simply wrap over your thread to create the collar.
One Last Cast with the Hares Ear Nymph
To conclude, the GRHE doesn’t only have a rich history and has led to many a fly variant and hybrid over the years, but it also has accounted for many a fish.
It truly deserves a spot in your fly box or, at the very least, think of it to learn how deadly it actually is.
Happy Fishing, tight lines!
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Sources and Credit
- A big thank you to Umpqua for picture use. Umpqua – “World’s Best Flies”