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"California Nugget"

By Ernie Harrison
California, USA
Photo by the Author

California Nugget

I find it interesting how a chance encounter can have a major effect on the way you do things. I was in San Francisco for a training class and started talking to another student at lunch. I don't know how the conversation about fly-fishing got started, but this fellow started telling about meeting Jack Horner at the San Francisco Fly-Casting Ponds. Jack was sharing his knowledge in an area of the ponds known as Horner's Corner. He tied a fly called the Horner Deer Hair and he certainly pulled out a plum when he stuck his thumb into his bag of fur and feathers to tie it.

The fellow said Jack was very specific about using six evenly spaced turns of thread to tie the abdomen. I wish I could ask Jack about his fly and why exactly six turns of thread, but unfortunately he is no longer with us. My memory of Jack lives through a chance encounter with someone he so graciously shared his knowledge with.

Jack also created the Humpy.

The story goes that a Horner Deer Hair became worn and the thread forming the six body segments was broken as was the deer hair forming the lower part of the body. The broken hair swung back into a tail and the upper body hair puffed up into the now familiar hump.

I like to call the revised version the "California Nugget" because when the sun is low in the Western sky the fly glows like a golden nugget and I never fail to strike it rich on California's "Mother Lode" trout streams. ~ Harrison

Materials List:

Hook: Mustad 94840 size 12 or 14.

Thread: Black.
Wing: White polypropylene and deer hair .
Body: Deer hair.
Hackle: Grizzly.

Tying Instructions:

Tie the white polypropylene yarn in at the wing position. Let it stick out over the hook eye and trim to the proper length. Cut the deer hair and even the tips in a hair stacker. Trim off the butt ends leaving the hair twice the length of the hook shank. Hold the deer hair on the hook shank with the tips extending beyond the back of the hook and the butt ends even with the place you tied in the polypropylene. Do not overlap the deer hair and the polypropylene. Tie the deer hair to the hook using a spiral wrap back to the bend in the hook and take three overlapping turns to hold the deer hair in place.


Let the bobbin hang at the bend of the hook and use both hands to pull the deer hair forward on all sides of the hook shank. The tips of the deer hair should be even with the tip of the white polypropylene wing in front of the hook eye. Hold the deer hair firmly against the hook shank with one hand and take six evenly spaced spiral wraps back to the wing position. Take three overlapping turns at the wing position to hold the deer hair.


Let the bobbin hang at the wing position. Use both hands to pull the white polypropylene wing and deer hair tips up to form the wing. Hold the wing in an upright position with one hand and take five wraps of thread around the bare hook shank tight against the front of the wing. Take three turns around the base of the wing before letting go. The wing should now stand in a vertical position by itself.


Tie in a grizzly hackle at the wing position and take three turns of hackle behind the wing and three turns in front of the wing. The hackle should be the same length as the wing. Finish off the head with a few turns of thread and whip finish. Apply head cement and fan out the wing so it mixes with the grizzly hackle on top of the fly.

Fishing the Fly:

I have changed the fly slightly by adding white polypropylene to the wing, which makes the fly easier to see. Use fly floatant to give it a high bouncing action. Cast it into fast water at the head of pools and let it drift down along side the tongue of white water. If I could use only one fly this would be the one. It works well wet or dry, if it sinks, fish it on through the run. I have caught some of my larger trout by doing this. ~ Ernie Harrison

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