Once I moved to Colorado and learned the effectiveness of nymph fishing, I discovered that a hare’s ear nymph was a magnificent producer in all seasons and all times of the day. Adding a beadhead to the hare’s ear nymph simply enhanced the fish catching appeal of this traditional fly. For the last four years I entered each new fishing season with an inventory of at least 100 beadhead hare’s ear nymphs; a testament to my trust in this productive fly.
During 2014 I noticed a shift in my favorite nymph option as I began to knot a salvation nymph to my line more frequently than a hare’s ear, and in the late stages of the season I selected an ultra zug bug ahead of a beadhead hare’s ear. I can recall numerous occasions when I fished a beadhead hare’s ear and salvation nymph in tandem, and the fish seemed to demonstrate a distinct preference for the salvation. Perhaps the position of the fly had an impact on their relative effectiveness, and I generally placed the salvation on the point with the hares ear presented as the top fly. I have always believed that the point fly tantalizes fish because it exhibits more movement as it is only attached to a leader on one end. Nevertheless I gradually concluded that the salvation nymph was outproducing the hare’s ear, and consequently I developed a higher level of confidence in the new flashy kid in my box.
These evaluations are never very scientific, and I pondered why fish would shift from preferring one fly compared to another. Are trout going through some sort of evolutionary shift in appetite? This theory is highly unlikely. Did I shift the timing of my fishing to seasons or times of the day when fish seek a different food source? The Arkansas River has historically been a haven of hare’s ear gobbling brown trout, and I did not fish that river as frequently in the early season as in previous seasons. This may have been a factor. Could it simply be that much of the success stems from how much confidence a fisherman has in a given fly? Confidence yields time on the line, and time on the line results in more hours in the water in front of fish. In all likelihood all three flies are attractive to fish, and the relative success depends on how frequently I attach them to my line.
This discussion of hare’s ear effectiveness begs the question; what does a hare’s ear nymph imitate? I believe that it is a general nymph imitation that effectively represents various mayfly nymphs. In addition, the soft hackle legs, tan-gray color, and buggy guard hairs also make it effective during periods when there is an abundance of subsurface caddis activity. A salvation nymph is more narrowly an imitation of mayfly nymphs, but the one advantage it possesses is more flash and tiny rubber appendages. Perhaps the additional flash attracts more fish particularly when paired with a beadhead hare’s ear on the same line. In an effort to test this theory, I tied a few new hare’s ear nymphs this winter with a strand of pearl flashabou in the middle of the wing case. I have not resorted to the following pattern yet, but the idea is floating in my mind. I may combine the best qualities of a hare’s ear and salvation and call it a hare’s nation. I envision the buggy hare’s mask dubbing for an abdomen, but then I would use the flashback black and flashabou for a top layer and wing case that covers the entire fly. For the thorax perhaps I would use black peacock ice dub and then finish the fly with soft hackle legs instead of the fine silli legs.
I counted my remaining stock of beadhead hare’s ear nymphs and discovered that I had 51 in inventory. Given the shift in preference from hare’s ear to salvation, I decided to tie 29 and bring my season opening total to 80 rather than the historic standard of 100. In addition I tied 15 for my friend in Kansas City.
Will the salvation nymph continue to outshine the beadhead hare’s ear nymph in 2015? Will the ultra zug bug become my new hot fly? Can the beadhead hare’s ear rebound and return as the pre-eminent fly in my fly box? I look forward to spring so I can begin to determine the answers to these questions.