Griffiths Gnat Variations by Michael Dell
I like tying simple flies that work. If a fly has more than 3 materials, then there should be a good reason for the extra stuff. I can appreciate the fly tyers art in complicated flies, but I don’t have a lot of patience anymore. And I abhor the idea of changing up one material or colour and claiming a new fly has been invented. I like the old patterns. This is why the Renegade and Bi-Visible will always be in my fly boxes.
From my point of view the Griffith’s Gnat is a perfect fly. Two materials: peacock herl and grizzly hackle with iridescent flash and the illusion of movement. But I always think: can this be improved?
One of my experiments was to use dyed grizzly, specifically olive dyed.
Years ago, on a stream in Jasper, my buddy said he thought when I caught one trout on a size 20 that it was a fluke. But when I caught the second one he realized I might be on to something.
Olive Griffith’s Gnat
Hook: dry fly size 12-22
Body: peacock herl
Hackle: olive dyed grizzly
The only challenge with tying this pattern is finding the dyed hackle to match the size of the hook. I try to undersize the hackle so the tips are equal to the gape of the hook. But oversizing will work too. This pattern in small sizes can represent a Blue Winged Olive or a Trico or a cluster of midges.
But why stop here? How about an Adams Griffiths Gnat with mixed brown and grizzly hackle? Or a Bi-Visible Griffiths Gnat with dark hackle over the back 2/3 of the body and light hackle over the front 1/3.
What if the peacock herl was eliminated? A black thread body with grizzly hackle in size 14-16 makes a good imitation of a Winter Stonefly female buzzing across the water laying eggs. This could be called a Reduced Griffith’s Gnat or an Un-Bi-Visible. Credit goes to Don Andersen for telling me about this fly and its uses.
What about a red thread body? What would it imitate? I don’t know but I do know that the Sierra Bright Dot with a red center is an effective cutthroat pattern. Instead of Fore-and-Aft hackle just palmer the hackle the length of the body and let the red show though the hackle and at the head.
Red Reduced Griffith’s Gnat Variant
Hook: dry fly size 12-22
Simple flies, easy to tie. This is what I like. I don’t claim to have invented these variations because I am sure that someone, somewhere, has tied these before.
Hook: streamer size 2-8
Thread: 6/0 colour to match materials
Weighting: non-lead wire
Body: Leech yarn
Body: Polar Chenille
Wrap the shank with the non-lead wire. Leave spaces at the rear and front for tying on and off the materials. Wrap over the non-lead with thread, building a dam at front and back to prevent it from shifting on the hook. Glue the non- lead wire and continue to wrap thread over to secure it.
Tie on the leech yarn and the polar chenille at the rear. Wrap them forward together while keeping the fibres swept back and the polar chenille in front of the leech yarn. After tying off you can tease out the fibres that got tied down.
Optional: Add a cone head for weight. Colour to match or contrast with body colour.
I saw this fly demonstrated by Rob Clarke many years ago at a seminar for Northern Lights Fly Fishers. It is easy to tie, effective, and you don’t feel bad if you lose one in the rocks.