Top 12 nymph flies for catching trout

by | Nov 20, 2015 | Tips | 0 comments

Nymphs for Trout

There are a million nymph patterns on the market now and as Tom Harman, former owner of Harman’s Fly Shop here in Sheridan used to say “They’re all guaranteed to work…just not on which day!”  The myriad patterns and there variations can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to choosing which ones to bring along on your next fly fishing outing. I know opinions will be numerous and vary from one fishery to the next but here are my top 12 nymph patterns for trout that should always be in your fly box.

A Rainbow Trout Fooled On A Pats Rubber Leg Stone Fly Nymph

A beautiful rainbow trout that was fooled by Pat’s Rubber Leg Stone Fly nymph

The List

1. Pat’s Rubber Leg Stone Fly Nymph~First developed by Pat Bennett to represent the many species of Stone flies. A very lively pattern constructed of two materials, Chenille for the body and Super Floss for the legs. This fly has caught more fish for me than perhaps any other. Size #4-10. Black, brown, black and brown, olive, or tan.

Pats Rubber Leg Stone Fly Nymph





2. Prince Nymph~This tried and true classic often tied with a bead head is still tough to beat. Twisted peacock herl body, brown goose biot tails with a white biot over wings to represent a nymph  stone fly.  It is also effective where Caddis are present. Size #10-18

Bead Head Prince Nymph Trout Fly





3. San Juan Worm~Some will undoubtedly sneer at this entry but the simple fact is they work!  Since the beginning anglers have been fishing for trout with worms. This is the simplest of flies made of a single section of chenille lashed onto a hook.  It is often fished during high water but can be a day saver when all else fails. Size #8-16

San Juan Worm Trout Fly





4. Pheasant Tail Nymph~ This imitative May fly pattern created by UK river keeper Frank Sawyer is another one of the oldest nymph patterns created.  The newer version is tied differently than the original; often tied with bead head and a mylar flashback wing case. Copper wire is wrapped on the hook shank as weight and as a rib to represent the segmentation of the abdomen. Pheasant tail fibers are twisted together with the copper rib for added durability. Extra wraps of copper rib are used to bulk up the thorax rather than peacock herl on the more modern versions.Size #10-18

 Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymph





5. Hare’s Ear Nymph-~Another traditional nymph pattern that imitates May fly nymphs as well as several aquatic insects such as Caddis larvae, Scuds and Sow Bugs. Constructed from a blend of soft under fur and stiff spiky guard Hare’s Ear fibers to represent legs. Tails are a often a small clump of slightly longer Hare fibers. The abdomen is reinforced with a gold rib and a wing case of Turkey wing fibers tied over the thorax. I like to pick out the thorax fibers a little to improve the bugginess! Size #14-18

 Bead Head Hare's Ear Nymph Trout Fly





6. Copper John~Modern master tier John Barr created this to imitate general stone fly or may fly nymphs. Split goose biot tails, a copper wire abdomen coupled with peacock herl thorax.  An epoxied flashback wing case combine to make this bug a fast sinker and great searching pattern. size #14-18

Bead Head Copper John Nymph Trout Fly






7. Lightning Bug~Larry Graham came up with this general May fly imitation. Typically found with a bead head. Pheasant Tail fibers for the tail along with pearl mylar abdomen and a copper rib. A Peacock herl thorax with Pheasant Tail fibers and mylar folded over as the wing case. The tips of the Pheasant tail fibers are then folded back as legs. Size #14-18

 Lightning Bug Nymph Fly





8. Electric Caddis~Legendary angler and Henry’s Fork guide Mike Lawson came up with this simple and effective pattern to imitate free swimming Caddis larvae. A tubular shaped abdomen is dubbed using a blend of antron and rabbit. Pearl mylar is folded over the abdomen and ribbed with copper. A small hare’s ear head completes this easy productive caddis pattern. Size #14-16

 Electric Caddis Nymph Trout Fly





9. Sparkle Pupa~Gary LaFontaine dove into the pools of the Big Hole River to watch how trout reacted to his creations. This pattern represents the pupal stage of the Caddis fly as they emerge to become adults. This pattern looks a bit odd compared to a lot of caddis patterns with it’s bubble of antron encasing a sparsely dubbed abdomen. The antron traps an air bubble that represents the carbon dioxide bubble a Caddis fly produces to emerge. Antron is tied in as a trailing shuck, the abdomen is then sparsely dubbed. The antron is  wrapped around and forward over the abdomen to form the bubble. A small head is of hare’s ear or antron is dubbed as a head. Size #14-18

 Lafontaine Sparkle Pupa Trout Nymph Fly





10. Psycho May~ Created by Zach Thurman this modern May fly imitation with a tungsten bead has become a favorite of mine. Pheasant Tail fibers are used for the tails. It has a slim thread abdomen with fine rib to represent segmentation but adds durability. A dubbed matching thorax is topped with a black plastic wing case, synthetic wing fiber and fine crystal flash are folded back as legs to complete this imitative May fly pattern. Size #14-18

 Psycho May Nymph Fly





11. WD-50~ A top tailwater pattern, which imitates May flies. Mallard flank fibers dyed to match color are tied in as tails. A slender thread abdomen is wrapped up to the thorax dubbed to match the color of the abdomen. Pearl mylar is then folded over the thorax to make the wing case. Size #14-18

Wd-50 Nymph





12. Zebra Midge~ Usually tied using a silver tungsten bead head. This pattern imitates Midge larvae. A simple thread body with silver rib are all that’s needed to create this popular Midge pattern. Size #14-18

Bead Head Zebra Midge Trout Nymph





(Baker’s Dozen) Red Fox Squirrel Tail Nymph~Angler/author/artist Dave Whitlock created this killer searching pattern that imitates May flies, Stone flies, Caddis, Scuds and Sow bugs. A small clump of Red Fox Squirrel Tail fibers are used for the tail. An abdomen of blended Red Fox Squirrel fibers is dubbed as an abdomen and strengthened with gold rib. Thorax is dubbed with greyer muted color Red Fox Squirrel body fibers. Often tied with a Hungarian Soft Hackle collar and/or a bead head this is a great searching pattern. Size #6-16

Bead Head Red Fox Squirrel Tail Nymph Fly



Presented with a standard two fly nymphing rig or even better with a Drop Shot or Pogo nymphing leader and I think you’ll find these flies to cover most nymphing situations well.  Now that you know some of the most effective patterns for nymphing don’t miss our top tips for fishing nymph patterns here, and as always if you like to learn first hand our guides are great teachers!  Book a trip If you are new to fly tying and would like to learn how to get started check out this helpful article ” Choosing the best fly tying starter kit” Thanks for reading and Happy Angling!


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