An Australian Classic – Zwar’s Geehi

(The photo here is from the VFFA book Time Flies, and was taken by Vlad Bunyevich)

This fly is truly a wonderful Australian fly. It is often called the Geehi Beetle these days but is more correctly called Zwar’s Geehi. It was written up in our June 2007 newsletter, so is well and truly ready to be featured again in our Fly of the Month segment.

According to Rick Keam's notes in Time Flies this fly was originally created sometime before World War II by VFFA country member Keith Zwar. Since then it has certainly become a standard inclusion in most Australian trout fishers’ fly boxes.

Keith managed his family’s tannery at Beechworth in north-east Victoria, where he was also at one time the Mayor. In one modern Australian fly pattern book, and in more recent online articles citing it, he is elevated to ‘Dr’ Zwar. Now Keith was neither a medico nor the holder of a PhD, though many fly fishers would have happily awarded him one for the pleasure his fly has brought them.

A bit of related trivia is that the writer/actor/director Adam Zwar is connected to Keith Zwar’s family.

Here is a photo of Keith (standing on the right) taken at Reid’s Hut on the Geehi River in March 1929 (photo provided by Rick Keam).

Keith Zwar is on the right. This photo was taken at Reid’s Hut on the Geehi River in March 1929. Rick Keam provided this photo, which was given to him by Keith’s son David.

Materials for the Geehi:

Hook: #14 - #8 dry fly.

Thread: Originally specified as brown, 6/0 or 8/0.

Tail: At least six golden pheasant tippets no shorter than the hook shank.

Body: For hook size 14, three good quality peacock herls twisted together and wound on as a rope. To maintain body thickness larger hook sizes require four or five herls.

Rear Hackle
(Palmered): Coch-y-Bonddu (substitute furnace, plain red-brown, or ginger)

Front Hackle: Coch-y-Bonddu (substitute furnace, plain red-brown, or ginger), wrapped densely. (Note that the rear palmered hackle is smaller than the front hackle, perhaps about two-thirds the size of the front hackle.)

Rib: Fine gold wire, fine gold twist, or (originally) brown tying thread.

Tying Procedure:

  1. With the hook in the vice run close turns of thread from behind the eye to just before the hook end.
  2. Tie in the golden pheasant tippets for the tail.
  3. Also tie in a short length of fine gold wire for the rib.
  4. Wind the thread back along the hook shank to a point about a third of the hook shank length from the eye. Tie in the palmer hackle at this point.
  5. Wind the thread back towards the bend and tie in the peacock herls that will form the body. Wind the thread back along the shank to just behind the palmer hackle.
  6. Twist the herls to form a skinny rope and wind this rope carefully up the shank to just behind the palmer hackle. Take the thread there and tie the herls off, then trim the waste.
  7. Carefully wind the palmer hackle in close turns towards the rear of the fly. Keep holding the hackle in your hackle pliers at the end of the hook shank and secure it with a turn of the gold wire rib. Then wind the gold wire as a rib through this hackle back towards the eye to hold it in place. Use the thread to tie off the gold wire and trim away the waste.
  8. Now tie in the front hackle (which is a bit bigger than the palmer hackle) and wind close turns up to the eye of the hook. Tie it off, whip finish and add a small drop of head cement to complete the fly.