The Tale of a Fly: The Basuthu Basher and How to Tie it.


The Basuthu Basher is my version of a Dragonfly Nymph that’s tied with hare’s fur dubbing, and that has the eyes of a Red-Eyed Damsel. I’ve always liked taking the best of one successful pattern and incorporating that into another fly. My idea was that a Hares-ear nymph is a great fish catching fly, and that I would tie a brown Red-Eyed damsel using hares fur instead if marabou. This damsel then got fat and became a dragonfly nymph. There’s something very buggy about hares fur that fish can’t resist. Most of the flies I use have some red in them as a trigger, and I think that the red eyes that I borrowed from the Red-Eyed damsel are an important trigger. I also sometimes tie them with black eyes made from burned mono. They still catch fish, so maybe the red eyes are not as necessary as I would like to believe.

The Basuthu Basher is a killer in still waters and rivers, as are most big dragonfly nymph imitations. The Basuthu Basher has caught almost all of my big still water trout, and almost all of my biggest river trout in countries around the world. I caught big river trout in New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Kenya, Lesotho, and obviously here at home. Dragonflies are very common insects in all water systems, and what sizeable fish could resist a well presented dragonfly nymph. If fishing a river and I come accross a big and deep pool, I will tie on a Basher and fish it slowly as if I am fishing a still water. I usually weight the fly so it generally gets down pretty quickly. I usually fish it with a slow and erratic retrieve with long pauses followed by a few quick jerks. If that isn’t working then I use a very quick jerky retrieve and that sometimes gets the fish excited and induces a take. If I am fishing running water I cast it upstream and retrieve it back down slightly faster than the current. Swinging it down and across is also a very effective although to some a rather crude method of fishing. It’s only limitation as a pattern is its size and bulk. I tie it in a #6 or #8. When that thing is wet, it’s bloody heavy and difficult to cast with anything smaller than a 4 wt rod. I still manage to get it out with my 2 wt but it’s not a fly that I rush to use it I’m fishing light.

Some of my most notable catches on the Basher are as follows:

My biggest river trout in the Cape was a 21” brown trout in the Witels River. I would love to say I sight fished it using a dry fly, alas I had to resort to the Basher. I alt least saw the fish follow take my fly. It had been a very slow days fishing and nothing had come to the surface so I resorted to the Basher, which saved my day from being a blank day. I actually had a fairly good afternoon Bashing browns in almost every pool.

My biggest Rainbow trout in Lesotho have all been caught on a Basuthu Basher. My biggest was about 4Lbs that I caught 10 years ago in the Sani River at the top of Sani Pass. Most of the bigger fish of 3Lbs + that I have caught in Lesotho over the years have been using a Basuthu Basher, and mostly in the Sani River. The fly is actually named after Lesotho. Basuthu is the word used to describe someone who comes from Lesotho. It’s like saying a Scotsman. So my fly was named a Basuthu Basher because that was where it made its debut, and a hugely successful one at that.

My biggest Lesotho brown trout I caught only a year ago in a small highland stream. I didn’t measure it but I’m sure it must have been 23 inches. I stumbled upon that fish while running up a river that I was fishing for the first time. I had limited time and wanted to see as much of the river as possible. I wrote about it in a previous post called “A Trout Marathon and the One that Didnt get Away”. Now a 4.5lb + brown might not sound like a huge fish but it’s all about the where and the how. Had it been caught before the winter and the very dry spring, I’m sure that fish could have been 6 lbs! It is undoubtedly my most memorable fish I have caught to date, anywhere. It’s not always about the size, it’s how and where you got it. Sure it wasn’t on a dry fly, but it was still sight fished, in a crystal clear and very remote stream where I have never heard of anyone else fishing there before. I didn’t even know whether I would find any trout there, let alone a big brown trout. Here follow a few pics of that memorable day.wp-1449805899832.jpegwp-1449848120086.jpegwp-1449848120087.jpegwp-1449675473076.jpeg

I’ve had so many good days on rivers and dams using the Basher, but a large part of its success is purely the fact that I fish it often, I fish it with confidence, and I know how to fish it. A bead-headed wooly bugger would probably have worked just as well, but I like to think that my fly is at least imitating something, and it’s my own pattern so it’s special to me. I always give a few away to my mates, and they always rave about them but I never see them tying them for themselves. It is a simple fly to tie once you learn how to dub with hares’ fur, but I have yet to see anyone tie one properly. Here follows the Step by Step.


Hook size: #6-8

Thread: 6/0

Ribbing: Copper or gold wire

Body/Head: Hares fur dubbing or something similar, and Led wire for weighting.

Eyes: Red Chinelle or Marabou

Tail: Olive or Brown Marabou

Wingcase: Scud, brown

Step 1:

Tie in a nice thick marabou tail. Tie it Longer than you need as we will pluck it to the right length later.

Step 2:

Tie in a double strip of lead wire underneath the body. Start the wire at the front and take it half way to 2/3rds the way down so it weighs the front of the fly down a bit. This weight on the underside and to the front of the fly helps to ensure it swims upright and level. All big nymphs I tie are weighted in such a way, with either 1 or 2 strips of lead under the fly. If you need additional weight then I wind a few wraps around the front of the hook, over the strips.

Step 3:

Tie in some red or black eyes. I prefer red as I believe the red eyes are a better trigger. I didn’t have any thin red chinele so this is an alternative method. Tie a big fat wad of marabou over the top of the hook. Tie round the base of the marabou tufts to form a nice strong base to tie around.

Step 4:

Trim the marabou into little round eyes.

Step 5:

Prepare your Dubbing. I have a lot of premade dubbing mixes and several of Hares fur. The first dubbing I use for the body is a mix of more fluff and less of the guard hairs. Then I use the rougher Dubbing with more guard hairs and less fluff for the head.

Step 6:

Tie in some gold or copper wire for ribbing and dub the body. Use my dubbing technique, the “Kokstad Twist” which I wrote about previously, or any other method that produces a very buggy and scruffy finish. A dubbing loop would work well for the body. I developed my “Kokstad Twist” dubbing technique especially for tying this fly. I like to make the body quite nice and fat, so more than one layer of dubbing is usually required. I like to make the body and head clearly segmented so the body must be fat and then narrow it down.

Step 7:

Tie in the brown scud. I like to fold it over long ways so that when I stretch it over the head it’s a double layer.

Step 8:

Use the rougher dubbing mix to tie the head. The longer guard hairs in the mix are suggestive of legs. Dub in a figure of 8 around the eyes and build up nice wide head around the eyes.

Step 9:

Pull the scud tight over the head to form a wing case, and snip it off in the front. Tie the fly off and apply varnish.

Step 10:

Pluck (dont cut!!) the marabou tail to slightly less than half the length of the body. A dragon fly nymph actually has no tail to speak of, but the marabou tail gives the fly extra movement.


The following video will help you through the step by step and will be of assistance in the dubbing technique I use. The most important aspect about this fly is to get that very scruffy look, yet keep it neat. How ever you do your dubbing, just make sure it comes out as spikey as possible. I think my method is way more simple than any method I have seen and it gets the desired results.

Video of how to tie the Basuthu Basher

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One comment

  1. Awesome blog Rex,only came across it last week and it inspired me to dust off my kit and tie some of your patterns. Can’t wait to test them on my next trip. Keep the posts coming!


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