The Un-Weighted Hares Fur Nymph (or, the UWHFN nymph, for short)
The most common variation of this fly and the one you will no doubt have heard of most often is the hare's ear nymph. Originally this fly was tied using fur from between and upon the ears of a hare. Fine, I won't dispute the fact that this is indeed some good shit, but you don't really need it, all we're really looking for is colour and texture. The ear fur/hair will produce a much spikier effect than that of the body, however, your choice is a matter of personal preference; there are literally hundreds of hare patterns ranging from the soft and pale to the dark and coarse, whichever you choose is neither here nor there, "all catch fish". Hares fur just has something; it is the fly everybody refers back to when new creations fail and is quite literally responsible for more grumpy trout than any other pattern in history.
The hare's ear (fur) is an uncomplicated, sombre looking pattern that is frequently taken for a variety of mayfly nymphs in its smaller sizes and anything from caddis to a dragonfly when upped in scale. It is a truly versatile fly.
What do I need?
Hooks - Partridge captain Hamilton nymph hook, sizes 18 to 8 (size 14 in this case)
Thread - 8/0 and finer or Roman Moser power silk in black or brown
Tail - G. Pheasant or natural Partridge.
Body material - Hares fur. You can use ready prepared hare dubbing from a shop or unprepared on the skin, I would advise that you look at both. Why? Cutting from the skin gives the option of creating different shades and textures depending on where it's taken and how much guard hair and/or under fur are combined in the mix. I like playing with dubbing, searching for the perfect mix by combining both or either commercial and home made varieties can be quite fun (sad, I know), you won't catch any more fish by doing this but if you are the imaginative type you may find it interesting. Alternatively, if you're not into pleasures of the fluff there are innumerable hares fur products available in all good fly shops that are equally well suited.
Rib - fine copper or gold wire
Thorax cover (wing pad) - Any darkish feather. Crow, Rook, Natural/Golden Pheasant (the latter in this case, again)
After proportion you will be aware of the importance of form in fly tying. Your nymph should not have a thin body of uniform length butting up against a bulbous thorax, but rather a smooth taper - thin to thick and thin again - like a carrot (albeit a deformed one with legs, a tail and a tapered end). Creating a tapered body over a flat hook shank always irritated the hell out of me. I'd apply the material only to find a bump in the place of a taper and a taper in the place of a bump. I spent so much time winding and unwinding, adding and removing that dubbing of any kind became nothing more than a chore. It is especially relevant during those agonizing times upon where you confidently begin your selection for the morning only to be struck down in your prime by a bad fur day.
It took a surprisingly long time (no surprise there) for me to realize that it needn't be this way. How? Simple, you pre-form your taper. By creating the shape prior to - or during - tying, all the pain and suffering associated with dubbing and many other material applications vanish, you simply wind on an even rope of dubbing, thread, floss, quill etc and it will take the shape of whatever you've put underneath it. The un-weighted underbody comes in two forms. One, pre-formed, and two, during tying. To create the former we simply start the thread, wind down to about a quarter way back from the beginning of the bend and wind back over towards the eye stopping about one wrap short of the initial start point. Wind down again but this time stop about three millimetres short of the previous stop point and back up to just short of the opposite end. Keep doing this until you have only quarter length of the shank to work with and wind over the whole lot to smooth out the bumps. You should now have a long steady back taper ending in a short steep front taper adjacent to the eye.
The latter, and today's choice involves tying in the tail and rib before you form the underbody. Because you will be winding over the tails waste end a significant degree of bulk will already be present and the number of thread wraps thereafter dramatically reduced.
And you thought I'd never shut up
Preparing the hook) - Place your hook in the vice, start the thread and wind down to the beginning of the bend.
Tail and rib) - Take your chosen tail material, in this case golden pheasant, brush the barbs of the tail back so they stick out at right angles to the quill (this will ensure the tips are in line) and cut three to six barbs. Now apply using the pinch loop method. For the rib cut a length of gold or copper wire and tie in next to the tail. Make sure you cut a good length, four to five inches minimum, you won't use it all but it's much easier to wind when you have something to hold on to. Once tied down, wind forward and form the underbody before returning the thread to the tail end.
Dubbing) - Now comes the fun bit, I'll let you decide whether you need wax or not. Take a tiny pinch of fur and hold it up against the thread, now with your thumb and forefinger roll the fur around the thread (in one direction) to bind it in place. You should now have a small section of rope. Repeat the procedure above - or below - this section a few times to ensure enough is present to complete the body (as with rib use more than you need, running out half way along is no fun at all). This is your first layer; it should be thin, level (ish) in diameter and will act as a base for further application. Why? Fur sticks to fur easier than it will to thread, if you want a thin layer of dubbing leave it at that, if not, keep adding tiny amounts until the rope reaches the correct diameter. In this case you will need no more than two *fine* layers of dubbing. When complete you should have a nice slim rope with a slight taper at the tip (by this I mean no more than 10mm) to ensure the body starts with a nice fine point.
Forming the body (abdomen) - Now whilst supporting the rope with your fingers, slide it up the thread until it meets the hook shank. Wind your rope up the shank in touching turns stopping roughly one thirds length away from where you started the thread. Unless you are a very good judge of length - as most men are - some of the rope will be left over; get rid of this by gently plucking it off the thread. The remaining stragglers should be re-twisted between thumb and forefinger and wound once more to lock in place. Body beautiful.
Winding the rib) - Take hold of the wire rib and wind between 6 and 10 times in open spiralling turns to the end of the body. Now tie it down with no more than three wraps of thread. I always like to keep my turns of thread to a minimum when tying down to ensure I don't create any unwanted bumps, I find a fine, flat and strong thread like power silk helps enormously with regard to this.
Creating a wing pad 1) - Take your pheasant tail and as before select approximately 12 to 16 barbs. Using the pinch loop method attach the bunch ensuring the fat ends of the barbs project backwards over the body and the tips over the eye. Wind forward towards the eye stopping just short and snip off the waste ends (the tips that is). Now smooth out the stump by winding forward a further couple of wraps and then go back to the base of the projecting barbs.
Dubbing the thorax) - Create another (shorter) rope of dubbing. This time apply your fur a little more haphazardly; we want a slightly scruffier appearance around the thorax area. Wind as before stopping just short of the eye and remove any left over fur from your thread.
Creating a wing pad 2) - now with your thread dangling behind the eye take hold of the pheasant tail barbs and pull over towards the eye, secure in place with no less than three or four wraps of thread and relax.
Dealing with the head) - Before you snip off the waste end it is worth pointing out that cutting at an angle will ensure a far easier and neater head to your fly. Why? Well pheasant tail barbs are pretty tough customers and will not squash down into a perfect rounded head with a simple tug of the thread - especially if you've used a large bunch as I have. As an experiment remove the waste barbs with a vertical cut and attempt winding over the block-ended stump. What you'll notice is that the thread will just slip over the edge with a firm "plunk!" Repeat the procedure but now cut the waste end at a forty-five(ish) degree angle. The thread will no longer be resting upon a cliff to fall off, but rather a hill to roll down. When you wind forwards the thread will still "plunk" a little, and it is dependant on the angle of the cut, but winding down and back over a slight slope provides a far neater head and will not require about thirty wraps of thread to hide the step. This is applicable to all cuts, try it upon removing the waste for the thorax cover, cut at the angle of the slope you created with the underbody and wind over. Ideally we want curves rather than lumps.
Whip and varnish) - Once you have formed a nice conical shaped head of roughly the eyes length, proceed with the whip finish and using a needle of some sort apply varnish to the finished article.
Varnish) - The most important rule of applying varnish is patience. A completely blocked eye and a crispy thorax are not becoming features of a good fly. Take your time and add little by little, coat by coat, all you really want is something to protect the thread. Whether it be the multi coat shiny head or the basic one coat rough and ready doesn't matter, it just depends on how much of a perfectionist you are.
You may notice upon finishing this fly that it has no discernible legs, not all nymphs have to have legs, you could just leave it if you want. However, movement is of great importance when it comes to tempting trout. Let me put this into perspective for you, if whilst walking past a bar at two o'clock in the morning you happen to notice brunette (bit classier this week) shaking her maracas in your general direction you'll damn well stop and look.
To suggest movement is to suggest life, to suggest life is to suggest food,
if our quarry agrees with our suggestions both the epitome of fly-fishing
and a new level of attractiveness to the opposite sex will be reached.
Adding the maracas effect to a fly is a simple matter in this case; all we
need is a dubbing needle or Velcro covered lolly stick - something rough or
pointed in other words. With your needle or Velcro patch either pick out or
rough up the fibres comprising the thorax area until you have plenty
sticking out all over the place. Whether you're twitching through a
Stillwater or tumbling through a riffle (please wear a life jacket) these
fibres will remain exceptionally mobile and will no doubt take innumerable
fish for many of seasons to come.
Some people find underbodies a great hassle but for me it's always helped, I sometimes make several before hand to speed me up (it doesn't if you think about it but it feels quicker). They needn't be anything special; it's not going to be seen anyway. It doesn't have to be out of thread or as fat as mine and you don't have to wind in neat touching turns, just spiral it on as rough as hell. All you want is a basic shape, something that will help with later procedures and add to the overall effect. You don't have to do it; in fact, I would encourage you to have a go at both. You may prefer one to the other, who knows, you may actually have a talent for sculpting fluff.
Play around with your dubbing (this may lead to blindness), make and try different blends. Creating legs out of dubbing offers huge possibilities - Spiky, soft, natural, synthetic. Despite this being a hares piece (Ha) have ago with any colour or style of material, don't just think of this as a set of instructions to tie one fly but rather a collection of components all with the ability to be used and changed around in any number of ways. Tie on your own terms, nothing in fly tying is set in stone - otherwise it may sink.
P.S. Lot's of hares were harmed during the making of this article.