A fly that has always found a home in my fly box is the Griffith’s Gnat. Created by one of the founding fathers of Trout Unlimited (George Griffith) the pattern imitates tiny midges, midge emergers, midge clusters..even tiny mayflies. Its a simple pattern, but very effective.
This fly has saved the day for me more than once. I fished it to midge, BWO, mosquito and blackfly hatches. (yes, blackflies!) Being a fly tier, I can’t resist the temptation to tinker with things a bit. I’ve made gold bead-headed #14 and #16 Griffith Gnat nymphs, dubbed-body versions with dun hackle palmered to imitate cream midges, BWOs…anything small that rides low. They have all caught fish, but the original dressing has been the best so I stick with it.
I fish this fly on a long leader to finicky risers, ideally in slow/flat water. The fly in the tying sequence below is a size #20 for photography purposes, the sizes I fish most are #22-#26. The last photo shows this fly at the top with some of the actual gnats I’ve tied in the past and fished.
A note on tying small flies:Try to scale everything down, make sure you have good light. Position the hook so that you have the maximum amount of working room around it and use as few wraps of fine thread as you can. Even 12/0 thread can build up fast if you use too much. Herl:Some herl is big enough to fill the hook gape, blowing the proportions. Look through your herl and select one or two that have shorter fibers. Hackle:Fine hackle in these sizes is usually short and a bit more fragile than larger feathers. The first time you palmer it forward, you may find its too short.
Carefully unwind it and palmer again with more open wraps. When fishing #24 and #26 flies, I use a pc. of 7X tippet that is usually at least 20" long. Its so light that it pretty much guarantees that it will land lightly (and a bit more slowly) than the rest of the line/leader. This is a big help. If you can see where it landed, you can follow the drift and have a pretty good idea of where the fly is. (because you most likely won’t see the thing) Set the hook when you see a rise where the fish "should" be. You’ll probably have a very surprised trout on the other end!
Tying The Griffith’s Gnat Pattern
Hook:Tiemco #101 size #18-#26 (any fine wire dry fly hook)
Start your thread and wind back to the bend. Prepare a grizzly hackle feather and tie it in. I add a drop of diluted head cement too the tie-in point, but this is optional.
Tie-in your peacock herl.
Wind the peacock herl forward in tight wraps and tie-off just behind the eye of the hook.
Palmer the grizzly hackle forward as shown, tie-off.
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