The use of hares’ ear is probably as old as the art of fly dressing itself! Despite much research, I can’t find much more information than that. The most renknowed pattern to use this material as part of its dressing is the Gold Ribbed Hares’ Ear fly which is widely believed to have been developed sometime in the 1800’s.
It was a favourite on chalkstreams where Skues used it very skillfully and Halford added an upright wing just to keep in with his preference of fishing a dry-fly. In its modern (!) guise, the tendency is to add a tungsten bead and fish it on the river bed to simulate a cased caddis, dependant on the size of hook used of course. Moreover, it covers a multitude of invertebrates from Gammarus to agile darters, stonefly nymphs and BWO’s. Hares’ ear as a tying material does seem to cover a whole spectrum of items. Here’s a couple of variants tied on jig hooks:
Once again, it often pays to vary the colour of the bead. Occasionally, brighter colours can work like this Pink Bead Hares’ Ear:
On migratory fish rivers, one of the largest eaters of fish eggs are caddis larvae, cased or caseless. The change in bead colour can simulate a caddis with a fish egg in its grasp. I’m sure we all know that where there is spawning fish, egg patterns, egg sucking leeches and the like are all very effective at spawning time to catch fish. Here’s a small precocious brownie that succumbed to the flies’ allure:
Although I’ve mentioned caddis and a few other invertebrates, in its original version without a bead, the Gold Ribbed Hares’ Ear is an excellent imitation of the Medium Olive, the teased out hares’ ear simulating the nymph as it emerges into a Dun. It’s attractiveness and success is not only confined to rivers; on still-waters it’s an excellent imitation of both pond olive and lake olive nymphs.
I like it’s style, I like it’s inclusiveness and versatility; it imitates something and everything. If I was only confined to two patterns of fly to fish for trout and grayling with all season through, this undoubtedly would be one of them. I just hope those Hares don’t mind losing the use of their ears for our benefit!