Odgen Smith GRHE

Why the Gold Ribbed Hares Ear?

It all started after a chance meeting with a former Honorary Secretary of the Dorchester Fishing Club, Lt Cdr D.B.Jeffery.

We met while fishing the Club’s water and talked about its long history. He wondered if I would be interested in seeing a photograph that he had of a 12 3/4 lb. brown trout caught by the Reverend in 1907. This fascinated me as I was already looking into the Club’s history and arranged a time when I could see the photograph.

There were two photographs in the frame, one showing the preserved trout and one of the keeper holding the basket in which the fish was finally landed. He agreed to let me borrow the pictures and copy them. Carefully opening the frame I discovered a typed document that was neatly folded behind the pictures. Gently I opened it and there before me was the Reverend’s own account of his epic battle. The river he describes is one with water depths of 8 to 10 feet and the nearest cottage 200 yards away. The water depths are now nearer 3 to 4 feet and houses built up to the waters edge. Nevertheless, away from the town, it is a delightful river full of ranunaculus and wild trout.

I was still in my infant years as a chalk stream dry fly fisherman and luckily could fish the same waters that the Reverend once mastered. If the Hares Ear worked then, surely it must still work now. I opened my copy of ‘A Dictionary of Trout Flies’ by A.C Williams and found the dressing for the Gold-Ribbed-Hare’s-Ear (page 182). Using this original dressing and with my rudimentary skills as a fly dresser, produced a few Gold-Ribbed-Hare’s-Ear.

Body: Dark fur from the roots of a hare’s ear spun on primrose silk
Ribbing: Flat gold tinsel
Hackle: Long strands of the body dubbing picked out with a dubbing needle
Whisks: three strands as hackle
Hook: 14 to 16 (size 16 hook seems to be the optimum size)

The next weekend I was fishing the shallows below Whitfield Hatches during an early season hatch of Blue Winged Olives. I paused after tying on my first Gold-Ribbed-Hare’s-Ear. What was this non-descript fuzz on a hook meant to represent? This is something that has been puzzling anglers throughout history. It has none of the credentials of a classic chalkstream dry fly – no perfectly matched split wings – no genetic cape hackle and no slim shining body. These thoughts; plus echoes of Halfords dismissal of this dressing, went through my mind.

I cast to a rising trout and as the fly landed it vanished from view. I strained my eyes and managed to spot the fly suspended in the surface film; this was certainly different from the pertly cocked split wing variety. The trout’s reaction was also very different and is stamped on my memory. Slowly and confidently the trout rose and sucked in the fly. I raised my rod and the fish was on. This I remember well, but the size of the trout alludes me – all I know is that both the trout and I were grabbed by this fuzzy fly.

Since that day I have become a ‘fuzz man’ and have relegated my genetic capes to the bottom draw (and no you can’t have them!), I much prefer now to use spun hair or soft feather hackle. These give my fuzzy creations, the all-important appearance of a cripple struggling to break free from the nymphal shuck. I presume this is why trout take this fly so confidently; they know it is not about to escape and can leisurely swim up and suck it in.

G.E.M. Skues was a great ambassador of the ‘damp’ fly and I thoroughly recommend his Dotterel hackle fly. G.S. Marrayat, another past Member of the Club (1879) experimented with imitating nymphs long before Skues had thought of them. It was correspondance during 1888 between Skues and George Holland ( fly dresser and an associate of Marrayat) that gave Skues ‘The germ of an idea’. It would be fascinating to think that Marrayat may have experimented with imitation nymphs on the Club’s water and it was these that gave Skues his inspiration.

If there were to be a King of the Fuzz, it would be Roman Moser. I have seen him only once demonstrate his skills as a fly creator, but it was a revelation to me. There he sat; surrounded by pieces of carpet and other strange materials, creating wonderful fuzzy flies that just oozed with life. My favourite sedge dressing (Delta Wing Sedge) is one of Roman’s. I think it should be a nymph pattern, but administer a liberal amount of Gink, it floats forever – and the trout just love it.

My current flies have evolved from the original Gold-Ribbed-Hare’s-Ear dressing. I now prefer to use rabbit fur, which suits the smaller flies and is a little softer. To make the small stumpy tail more durable, I use ginger/honey cock hackles fibres and I have replaced the gold tinsel ribbing with the new gold holographic material. The wing traditionally is made by teasing out fibres from the thorax. I achieve more floatability and life by spinning the fur on. Wax one of the modern micro threads (UNIthread 8/0) and gently attach the plucked rabbit fur to about 1-inch of it. Whip this over an undercoat of hot orange squirrel; the hair will flare out and produce a hackle full of life.

During our wonderful Grannom hatches I add a wing of golden olive polypropylene, this also helps in making the fly more visible against the early spring light. If the fish are concentrating on nymphs or my quarry is one of our large grayling, I change the hook from a lightweight barbless to a gold sedge one. Adding lead or a copper bead; makes a deadly nymph dressing. I still have a soft spot for the original dressing and always have some in my fly box, ready for action.

I have dabbled with other fur winging materials and I use a large sparkle dun when the mayfly are hatching. However, it is the ease with which the GRHE is to tie, that makes them my favourite. Using the many different colours found on natural rabbit fur, one could adapt them to represent the majority of hatching fly. Light colours for the pale wateries, slightly darker for the Blue Winged Olive and with extra orange squirrel dubbing, makes an excellent evening spinner dressing.

The Reverend’s trout was sent to London to be presevered by Mr Cooper of Radnor Street. I discovered from a fellow Member that it was still in existence in a large house just outside Dorchester. I wrote to the owners, explaining my interest in their preserved fish and enclosed a copy of the Reverend’s story. Within a week I was driving towards the house, ready to view this wondrous fish. The lady of the house is the granddaughter of the Reverend and she was with her father in 1959, when he landed the second largest trout taken from the Club’s water, 5lbs 4ozs. At last there before me was the fish in all its glory, enclosed within the case is the actual gut and fly that landed it. I was glad that I had moved over to the ‘fuzz’ side before I had seen this fly – because there tied on top of the thorax are two perfectly formed split wings
Halford was ere!