Posts Tagged ‘nymphs


buggy & suggestive…



Little Black Nymph

Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee Jest and youthful Jollity, Quips and Cranks and Wonton Wiles, Nods and Becks and wreathed Smiles.” John Milton

“Reason is a supple nymph, and slippery life a trout by nature.” D.H. Lawrence

“The Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty” John Milton

Macro-Photography-Fly Tying-Nymph-Dark-SwittersB

The fly is comprised of a size 14 nymph style hook, 8/0 black thread, Starling feather barbs for the tail, copper wire rib counter wound, black ostrich plume abdomen and thorax, black hen hackle fibers for  the wingcase and a Starling feather wound at front for legs. Very productive little fly in sizes 12-16.


Photography: the scale of early season fly tying

photography-scale-fly patterns-penny-SwittersB~

photography-fly tying-macro-nymphs-SwittersB


Planning Ahead: Time to Start the Inventory

The holidays are over and the probable grey skies of Winter have settled in (in certain parts of the world you are gleefully venturing out into your Summer’s delight) and the doldrums loom. Wanderlust inserts itself. Each year, I suggest fly tying classes at shops or a community college or club. Also, there are now a lot of worthy on line tutors to peruse and learn from. Now is a good time to start charting out what you need to tie for the next season and to set to work to fill the fly boxes with those patterns. First, an inventory is in order.

Fly Box Cubes SBThis inventory will in large part be eased by how organized you started last year and maintained that through the season. If you finished like me…somewhat disorganized…then the first part of the process might be to reorganize your fly boxes/containers according to your normal labeling: nymphs, dries etc. or perhaps even more specific than that. Some years I over organize and other years I go simple (say two boxes “nymphs/wets” & “dry”) and ease my mind from too much analysis. Either way make it your comfortable way. 

SwittersB tying  1992

Ah ‘Vintage’ SwittersB tying, circa 1992 or so, in an old photo darkroom.

Once your inventory and fly tying to do list is complete then inventory your materials for each pattern and enjoy the process of preparing for the coming season. This time of year, I often make discoveries of what I tied and never used, what I tied with high hopes and was a fizzle for that season at least.

My wife dreads this time of year because this is when I tend to spread out, now that the holidays are over, into parts of the house that are warmer and less isolated. Messes can ensue and then the banter commences. This year I will try to contain my tying and subsequent macro photography work to more manageable limits…at least that is the good intention.

BWO PMD 16 SwittersBThese types of patterns, PMD’s and BWO’s (Pale Morning Duns & Blue Winged Olives) with exacting quill and biot bodies and upright wings and perfect tails are mentally challenging for me and may I say this heretical comment…they have never proved worth the fuss in effort for me over 30 years of tying. I try this every few years and do so because well, you are suppose to be able to tie and fish such patterns because they are ‘better’ imitations. Hmmm? 

I think it’s part of the art form of fly tying that challenges us to tie exacting patterns to perfect our skills and be able to say we can/did tie such classic styles. For me the practical intrudes and perhaps laziness too. I derive no satisfaction from tying exacting patterns: Atlantic Salmon artsy flies or these detailed dry flies. Just me though. Have at it if it gives you that crafting pleasure.


Fly Tying: Starling & Ostrich Nymph

SB Starling and Ostrich SwittersBStarling & Ostrich Nymph, Size 18 

Ostrich & Starling SwittersB


Mayfly Basics

drake-dunA short piece re Mayfly Nymphs and their progression of life…a refresher of sorts

The piece discusses gills, habitat and how~where certain nymphs live. This benefits the fly fisher and fly tier with where to present your fly and how to tie certain patterns. 


Damsel’s: Sleek and Seductive

While on Stillwaters fly fishing, we often see the delicate cousins of the more aggressive Dragon flies…the Damsel fly flitting about in the reeds and shoreline structures. Newly emerged they are often pretty blues, browns and greens. The subsurface life of these attractive insects is equally appealing for the fly fisher too.

The above photo of the Damsel ‘nymphs’ provides perfect detail for the fly tier looking for exactness or simplicity. Sleek, segmented, bulbous eyed, long legged and tailed one can see the proper proportions and just where the undulating damsel would have appendages,etc. 

damselssbMy suggestions re Damsel nymphs (Instars) is to fish them slowly amongst the shoreline structures and picture intermittent propulsions like a fish would move…wiggling, undulating. The materials you use to tie (or someone else used) will help facilitate the suggestion of life. Here is a BC piece re Damsel nymphs.

Tie up some sleek, life like Damsels and fish them with confidence. Tie them in the  length range of 3/4″ to 1″ and keep them slender. Floating or Intermediate lines work best. Present them parallel to the shoreline or even swimming toward the shoreline or reeds as opposed to out into the deeper part of the lake. Study up on how the Damsel moves/propels itself. Also, imagine the journey to emerge out of the water and how you would present your pattern amidst the climbing nymphs.

damsel caught

This beautiful trout was caught close to a shoreline of cat tails this past Summer. An olive colored, size 10 damsel nymph fished on the drop near the reeds did the trick.


Fly tying the emerger pattern (visualize)

The fly fisher fishes top to bottom and strategizes on what food sources are in the water and what the fish might want to eat. Part of this enjoyable game is tying (or buying) the fly that represents a stage of life in that watery world and presenting it to entice. It is helpful to visualize your offering as it entices…such is the ’emerger’ fly pattern. The pattern can be just below the water’s surface or hanging in the film (half in/half out) preparing to emerge or perhaps stuck in the process (stillborn) and highly vulnerable. I offer up three photos: The first one, I apologize because, I cannot source it (perhaps someone will note and comment) and the other is a pattern I tied of an emerger pattern.

emerger dry fly source unksnowshoe-emerger-swittersbThe ’emerger’ pattern is most often depicted in this manner. However, an unweighted nymph, or an nymph pattern with a tuft of something protruding from the wingcase can be fished just below the surface as an ’emerger’ with great effectiveness too. Query Google Images “emerging nymphs” and you can see numerous patterns. Ignore the freaky women ’emerging’ as nymphs from the water shots. 


Emerging Nymph:

mayfly-emerger ian martin

Floating Nymph-Emerger by Ian Martin


Winter Fly Fishing (Rick Hafele’s Advice)

“Nymph fishing on a winter morning will certainly hone your skills for nymph fishing other times of the year. The sluggish metabolism of winter fish means their takes are softer and subtler than ever. It also means they won’t go as far out of their way to take your fly. Thus reading the water and being able to detect the softest takes is critical if you hope to hook some winter trout. I find a strike indicator essential for such nymph fishing. I also find that casting as short a line as possible to effectively fish a piece of water improves my odds of detecting a strike and setting the hook quickly – seems fish can spit out a nymph just as fast in the winter as in the summer. Also keep moving and fish new water. Since many fish won’t be actively feeding you need to cover as many fish as possible to increase your odds of finding one ready to take a fly.”  (Hafele’s Laughing Rivers)

Short sleeves are gone in the Pacific NW. But, with some diligence and thinking, Trout can be had. Like Hafele, that idea of hammer smashed finger tips (the sensation) requires some serious mind control. Identify which streams might be open year round and then contemplate what might hatch in the Winter and after that what searching nymph patterns to use. Presentation, holding water, short lines, soft bites. Caught/Released.


Two Bits of Nymphs

The nymph is a size 16 variation of a hairs ear nymph and a lightning bug nymph. I thought it would be fun to stack them onto a quarter and see how the macro lens worked. Someday I will get it right. In the meantime, you get the idea.

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July 2020

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