Fly of the Month: Orange Asher

For those of you who regularly attend our monthly meetings, you have heard some of the jokes concerning me and the Orange Asher. These puns owe their origin to my relentless promotion of this curious fly for at least the past 20 years.

I was introduced to the Orange Asher at Chicago Lakes in the late 1970s by an angler who was pounding up fish after fish on her fly and bubble. She graciously shared the pattern with me. And upon returning to civilization, I made a beeline for what was then Gart Brothers to secure my own stash. I too fished the fly on a spinning rod with a bubble before advancing to the stage of fly fisherman.


As years went by, the Orange Asher became increasingly more difficult to find in sporting goods stores and fly shops. Shop clerks were ignorant of the pattern, This was not surprising given their emphasis on short-line nymphing the tailwaters. These experiences forced me to learn how to tie flies so that I could have a never-ending supply of the orange fly.

Some of you are probably thinking, “If this is such a miraculous pattern, why haven’t I heard of it?” The answer: probably because you don’t fish stillwaters. Although not limited in effectiveness to stillwaters, the Orange Asher really comes into its own on high lakes and ponds. The reason for this is simply because the pattern works best when the angler is trying to imitate a single adult midge; and this is done more frequently on stillwaters where midges form the bulk of hatches. Few stream fishermen consistently fish adult midges. When they do, they are more apt to imitate a cluster of midges and fish a larger Griffith’s Gnat.

On stillwaters, the Orange Asher in sizes 16 to 20 effectively imitates the newly hatched adult midge when riding high on the water. When fished in the film, it imitates the adult struggling to free itself from the pupa. Strip it in the film when trout are sipping midge pupae and it will produce vigorous strikes, even though only dimples may be visible on the surface. If you are having problems keeping it sunk, tie a few with bead heads or affix a tiny split shot to your leader right at the fly. The Orange Asher is also an effective searching pattern when fished on most still-waters. Its brilliant color undoubtedly attracts attention.

In tailwaters and larger freestone rivers, I have caught rainbows, cutthroats, brookies, and browns on the Orange Asher. I have found it to be most effective in smaller sizes and when fished in pools, in back eddies, and along seams – generally anywhere the current slows and adult midges are apt to be present. Stripping it near the surface and across current at dusk can produce some unexpected fish. Use the Orange Asher as a substitute for its paler cousin, the Griffith’s Gnat.

Although locally popular, the Orange Asher fails to appear in most fly tying manuals. Invented by Jack Howarth of Colorado Springs, the original pattern was tied tailless, with black thread and orange floss. Here is my variation of the original recipe. Tight lines and GO ORANGE!

Hook: dry fly, No. 14 through 20 Thread: 8/0 orange Tail: grizzly hackle fibers Body: orange scud (26) Ligas dubbing Hackle: grizzly tied in tip first at the hook bend and palmered.

Options: A brass bead converts this pattern to an effective wet fly, to be stripped in the surface film during midge hatches. One can also use two hackles to give the fly extra buoyancy.

- Ron Belak