Ostrich Herl

One of my favorite fly tying materials,by Pat Neuner, Wapsi Product Development Manager.

Sow BugEvery fly tyer has at least one fly tying material that they would feel feel naked without.  For me that material is Ostrich Herl.

Sure ostrich herl has been around for a long time, and most of us probably have some tucked away in our fly tying materials—but how often do you use it.  I’m finding that I’m using it more and more – particularly as a substitute for dubbing in many patterns and as a tail in streamers.  Living near the White River in Arkansas, where we have a large population of midges, scuds, and sowbugs on our waters I tie the majority of the patterns I use locally with the material.

murray's hellgrammite

Ostrich Herl can be used several different ways.  It is a very good substitute for marabou and can be used as a tailing material.  It is slightly stiffer than marabou and that can be an advantage if you are tying flies to be used in heavy water – where a marabou tail can collapse.Murray’s Helslgrammite (pictured above) is an excellent smallmouth bass fly which utilizes Ostrich Herl for the tail.

Depending upon the color Ostrich Herl you choose it can be an excellent substitute for peacock herl on midge and nymph patterns.    The added benefit is the range of colors available which cannot be duplicated with peacock herl.

My favorite application for Ostrich Herl is as a full body material on nymphs, sowbugs, and scud patterns.  Like peacock herl bodies, several strands of the Ostrich Herl can be twisted together and wrapped forward as a “yarn” to cover the hook shank.  If tying a very durabile fly is important to you a small piece of Ultra Wire can be twisted with the herl to add rigidity.

Here are a few flies tied with Ostrich Herl that work well on the nearby White and Norfork Rivers:

Ray CharlesOH Midgescud

The Ray Charles Scud is a staple on western tailwater fisheries such as the Bighorn and works well in any water with a decent scud or sowbug imitation.  I fish it most often in tan, gray, hot pink, and hot orange colors depending upon the water flows.  For whatever reason the fly seems to work best when nothing else can trigger a strike.
The three patterns pictured above are my “go to” patterns for fishing the White and Norfork rivers depending upon water conditions.  The “OH” Midge (pronounced Ah midge) is simply a spin-off of the popular Zebra Midge.  Because Zebra Midges have become so popular on our tailwaters I’ve found that the fish have become somewhat conditioned to them so I catch more fish on this more subtle version of the fly.  I tie this fly in black, olive, gray, brown, and red in size 14 – 18.

I tie the Sow-Scud in only two colors:  tan and gray and its’ my favorite pattern for low water, sight fishing, or highly pressured fish.  The beauty of the fly is that it looks enough like both a scud and a sowbug to fool fish feeding on these crustaceans.

I hope this article will give you some new fly ideas using Ostrich Herl.