Based on our preferences and experiences, we have a tendency to bucket ourselves according to what “type” of person we see ourselves as. Like "I'm a... Chevy/Ford/Dodge...kinda guy." Burgers, Pizza, or Enchiladas. Sedan, coupe, or pick-up.
When it comes to natural materials for tying fly fishing flies – especially nymphs – it comes down to pheasant tail, hare’s ear, or peacock herl....PTs, GRHEs, or Princes. Which is the best? Yes. All deserve a place in the Hall of Fame just like Elway, Montana, and Marino. As for the GOAT of natural materials, we will leave that as an open debate.
Hare’s ear is, without doubt, one of the very best. Although best known for his Twain-like humor, John Gierach is also a formidable fly tier. In his book “Good Flies: Favorite Trout Patterns and How They Got That Way,” Mr Gierach makes no bones about his favorite nymph: “My favorite nymph by far is the Hare’s Ear...and I have to think that has something to do with the material itself…it's such perfect cryptic coloring that if you drop a Hare’s Ear on the ground right at your feet, you’ll probably never find it. That is exactly the kind of coloration a nymph afraid of being eaten by a trout would want to come up with.”
How We Use Hare’s Ear Dubbing for Tying Fly Fishing Flies
There are numerous variations and forms of Hare’s Ear dubbing. For example, Hare’s Ear “Plus” is one of the numerous variations that has a synthetic dubbing additive. As for packaging, you can buy individual packs of Hare’s Ear dubbing, or you can buy a twelve-compartment dispenser containing various colors. The simplest form is to buy an entire hare’s mask.
We like the entire mask, which allows us to do a couple of different things:
We will keep an entire hare’s mask from which we will cut directly from regions that might apply to whatever we’re tying at the moment. If we want a spikier dubbing, for instance, we will cut generously from one of the ears. If we are in need of longer, softer fibers, we go to the cheeks.
We will shave another entire hare’s mask using a set of hair clippers (given the option, we like the cordless version). The clippings then go into an inexpensive coffee bean grinder and whirled around until well mixed. This is a great dubbing by itself as well as a great base for other blends. By the way, you might want water or tea when you come to our shop.
Here’s an example of a very successful fly fishing fly that is almost entirely constructed using only a hare’s ear dubbing base:
Sexy Walt’s Worm is simple, easy to tie, uses few materials, and imitates numerous types of insects depending on the hook size. Our type of fly pattern.
Slightly more complex, hare’s ear dubbing is a great foundation for soft hackle fly fishing flies. Here’s our favorite hare’s ear soft hackle, the HDA Fav:
Here are all the materials we use for the HDA Fav:
The Flexibility of Hare’s Ear Dubbing for Tying Fly Fishing Flies
There are numerous commercially available hare’s ear dubbing blends. If you employ the "hare’s mask and coffee grinder approach" mentioned above, the options are limitless. Adding UV Rainbow dubbing, as Mr Egan has suggested, has been very successful for us.
Whether or not Hare’s Ear is the GOAT of natural materials, it deserves a place in your fly box.