Views From My Side of The Vise

Views from My Side of the Vise
Paul Johnson

The Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE) nymph has been a constant in my fly box for many years now. Before I get to that, did you know that I actually started tying trout flies before I started trout fishing? The first trout I ever hooked in the Driftless was on a GRHE. Did you notice that I said hooked and not caught? Not long after that I had a very memorable day fishing on the Missouri River near Craig, Montana with a very simple GRHE.

Now where was I? Oh, yeah: the GRHE has always been in my fly box. I always had a supply of them, tucked safely in the back corner never to see the light of day. They stayed there until a couple years ago when I was on a multi-day fishing trip down in the Driftless with a couple buddies. One day, Jason was having a better day catching than I was. That’s not allowed, so I caught up to him and asked what he was catching them on and he said the GRHE. I dug into   my fly box, blew the dust off one of my GRHEs, tied it on and started to catch some fish.

The truth be told, I still do not fish this fly all that much. However, every time I do, I seem to consistently catch fish. Maybe this reminder will encourage me to use them more often.

I like to tie GRHEs on a size 16 1xl nymph hook with a gold tungsten bead. Most of the time I will add a flashback. I think it is a fly that is so versatile that you really cannot tie it wrong.

Do you think that maybe James Ogden and Frederic Halford really knew what they were talking about when they started tying and writing about the Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear in England over 150 years ago?

If you have any questions about this fly pattern or any of the flies that I tie, please let me know.

Paul Johnson

Waconia, Minnesota

Views From My Side of the Vise: September 2023

By Paul Johnson

Having recently retired I now have a little more time to reflect back on some of the things I have accomplished in my life. During this time of reflection I have come to the conclusion that the best ideas I ever had, I borrowed from someone else! That is how my favorite fly, the Purple Prince Charming came to be.

Several years ago Fly Tyer Magazine featured a fly pattern called the Prince Charming. I have always been a big fan of the standard Prince Nymph, so this fly caught my eye. As I recall, the original Prince Charming had a stubby marabou tail and an olive tinsel body. It had a wire rib, white goose biots for the wing and also quite a bold thorax with dubbing and several wraps of hackle. After studying the article and the step by step instructions, I tied some up and they looked okay, but I saw the potential for something better.

Since the fly was “just okay”, I borrowed that pattern and asked myself how to make this fly better. First thing to go was the marabou tail, which I replaced with Zelon. Next the abdomen, where the olive tinsel was out and replaced with purple stretchy floss. The wired ribbing and the white biot wings were fine by me. For the thorax, I did away with the dubbing and just made three full turns with standard dry fly hackle. That is how the Purple Prince Charming came About


In the past couple years, my Prince Charming family has grown and now includes Red, Olive, Hot Pink, Chartreuse and Copper. I will fish these flies from early spring through the fall. I encourage you to tie some up and give them a try.

Paul Johnson

Waconia, Minnesota


Hook: Size 14 scud hook

Bead: 2.8 or 3.0 mm gold tungsten

Tail: Mayfly Brown Zelon

Rib: Gold wire size Brassie

Abdomen: Purple bug Legs any stretchy floss

Wing: White goose biots

Thorax: Grizzly hackle sized to a #16 hook

Views From My Side of the Vice

Views From My Side of the Vise

May, 2023

Just over 100 years ago, Charles Adams and his son Lon were out fishing in northern Michigan. From what I have read, they were somewhat frustrated by not having the right flies to match a hatch. So they visited a local friend and fly tyer Leonard Halladay in Mayfield, Michigan. Mr. Halladay tried to come up with a pattern that would meet Mr. Adams’ needs and the Adams dry fly was created.

The traditional Adams is one of the few patterns that I cannot tie to my liking. I never seem to be able to get the upright wings tied in so they look right. I wonder if that’s why someone along the way created the Parachute Adams?

So let’s briefly talk about the Parachute Adams. I can tie this pattern pretty darn okay. Parachute-style flies are really not my favorite to tie, but I do tie them because they catch fish. Never one to accept “good enough” when it comes to my flies, I slogged (some would say stumbled) ahead in pursuit of a more perfect Adams. After years of exhaustive (and exhausting) research and experimentation at the bench and on the stream, my version of this classic is a mash-up of the original Adams, the Parachute Adams, the Adams Cripple from Blue Ribbon Flies and the Gray Haze Cripple from Walter Wiese at Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing that I call the Adams Special.

Hook: Size 16 or 18 dry fly hook

Tail: Mayfly Brown Zelon

Abdomen: Dun Bug Legs from Fly Tyers Dungeon

Wing: White Widows Web

Collar: Grizzly Rooster Hackle

For the abdomen on this pattern, I have settled on the dun-colored Bug Legs. I have not found this exact color from similar stretchy floss materials. The Bug Legs will not get darker when they get wet or covered in floatant. The poly wing is easy to see on the water just like a parachute post. The finished fly also maintains some of the same qualities of the traditional Adams. Give this pattern a try and see if it might not become your favorite Adams-style dry fly. Or you could decide to put your faith in one of the titans of fly tying who inspired my creation (Leonard Halladay, Craig Matthews or Walter Wiese) and use their version. I might sulk briefly, but I’ll get over it.

Paul Johnson

Waconia, Minnesota

Views From My Side of the Vise

I think most would agree that the top three nymph patterns would have to be the Pheasant Tail Nymph, the Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph and the Prince Nymph. I’ll leave it for you to decide which is #1, #2 and #3 because they all belong in your fly box.

In this column, I want to focus on the Prince Nymph. I have been tying and fishing with a Prince Nymph for many years. I learned somewhere along the way that the fly was created by Doug Prince.  What I did not know until I started to do some research on the fly was that its origins were right here in Minnesota. The original pattern was the Brown Forked Tail tied by Don and Dick Olson from Bemidji in the early 1930s. Doug Prince made some changes and renamed it the Prince Nymph which became widely available in the early 1940s.  

I personally like to tie Prince Nymphs, but I will admit that they are not the easiest fly to tie. The goose biots that are used for the tail and also the wing can create some issues. You can have a nice-looking tie going and with one poor thread wrap the whole thing can go south on you. This fly is one that you just need to work at and tie a fair number (dozens upon dozens) to get it down.

Tying the white goose biots in for the wing seems to create the biggest issue. It is somewhat difficult to judge the length of the wing and also to get them tied in straight. When you finally accomplish that, it takes 47 wraps of tying thread to completely cover up the butt ends of the biots and you are left with a big blob of tying thread.

What I have started to do is to use some dry fly hackle for the collar of the fly. After I get the white biots tied in, I tie in the hackle and make 1 ½ turns with it and that covers up the butt ends of the biots and gives the fly a nice finished look.

Give this a try and let me know if the Prince Nymph moves up your list of favorite flies to tie and fish.

Paul Johnson

Waconia, Minnesota

Views From My Side of the Vise

One of my favorite all-time flies is the Lage Stop & Go Soft Hackle.  This pattern was developed by one of the real treasures in our little corner of the fly fishing world, Randy Lage.

Several years ago, Randy was fishing some off-colored water on the South Branch of the Whitewater River.  He was using a fly he called the Caution Fly.  It was a soft hackle fly tied with a black body and gold wire.  The fly was not working as well as he had hoped so off he went to his fly tying vise.  Randy had just returned from a trip to Lake Taneycomo in Branson, so the materials for a local favorite fly from there, the Crackleback, were on the top of his tying kit.  So he pulled out a spool of green tinsel. Now what to add to it?  Red wire, some dubbing and a partridge feather.  Voilà, the Stop & Go was born.  Red and green, get it?

I was introduced to this pattern by Randy one evening at Laughing Trout.  Never one to leave well enough alone (a recurring theme in these columns), I had to make some changes.  So I switched to red tying thread and changed the thorax to Superbright Peacock Dubbing.  Now I have the Lage Stop & Go Soft Hackle.

I fish this fly from early spring to late fall.  Randy designed the fly to be fished using the typical soft hackle technique of casting down and across the stream.  I like to fish it as the bottom fly of a two-fly rig under an indicator.  

You should tie some of these flies up and give them a try.  It just might become one of your favorite flies as well.

Hook: Size 16 Scud Hook

Thread: 14/0 Red

Abdomen: Holographic Green Tinsel, size medium

Rib: Red wire, size Brassie

Thorax: Wapsi Superbright Peacock Dubbing

Wing: Hungarian Partridge