Sunday, January 06, 2013

Of Nymphs and Nymping Part 2

Ok, so I've put forward my argument as to why a north country river fisher should have a go at the upstream nymph. I'll now have a look at the basic design of fly that has stood me in good stead over the years.

Nymph Design
Some readers may be familiar with the writings of top angler Jeremy Lucas, either through his regular articles in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine, or from his book Tactical Fly Fishing. Jeremy, as a top level competition fisher and long serving internationalist, certainly knows his beans. Perhaps you would expect him to use a vast array of flies, full of secret ingredients and magic formulas? Not so - he relies largely upon variants of the good old fashioned pheasant tail nymph (PTN), with or without bead heads depending on the weight of fly required.

My own, more modest experiences have brought me to about the same conclusion - that the basic profile of the nymph and equally as important, the function (ie the way it fishes), are the key considerations over any matter of close copy imitation, colour matching or anatomically correct appendages. And my nymph box now largely reflects this with a fairly uninspiring selection of tungsten bead headed jobs in sizes 12-18. There are PTNs, hare's ears, some tinsel bodied efforts, and a few with some hot spot of colour incorporated. No matter how many variations I tie from time to time, I always end up at the place I started - the same basic handful of general purpose nymphs, nothing special.

I did have a phase of aspiring to closer copy stuff. I was - and still am - mesmerised by the work of Oliver Edwards and his now legendary, Baetis, Heptagenid, Rhyacophila and Hydropsyche imitations; and there is still place for these patterns in my flybox. The first part of this link to a previous post explains why:

Brief discussion on the merits of Edwards' heptagenid nymph

However, I admit I came to a point where I was forced to acknowledge that these delightful - but complex and time consuming to tie - patterns, didn't appear to outfish the more impressionistic traditional ones in but a handful of situations....and being the lazy so-and-so that I am, I found myself drifting back to copper beads and hare mask. As I said, I do still carry a few Edwards-inspired nymphs though; and along with a handful of very heavy floodwater bugs, that just about makes up my nymph box in its entirety. It is the majority situation upon which I shall concentrate here - the generic bead-head nymph.

Bead-headed Nymph
The flies at the top of this post are typical - simple concoctions of fur and flash. Those specifically are quite large hare's ears tied on #14 hooks and with 2.8mm copper tungsten beads. I use them in spring when looking for a bit of depth, and seeking to imitate some of the larger early season bugs - Caddis, Rithrogena, Ecdyonurus and so on. The tying rationale is always the same:

1. Pop a bead on the hook and fix in the vice
2. Wrap in a couple of turns of lead wire and lodge in the recess of the bead
3. Start the thread and secure the lead coil tight in behind the bead and build a quick taper down from it to the hook shank.
4. Tie in a tail material
5. Tie in a fine wire rib
6. Dub or wind on the body material of your choice back up to the bead
7. Follow up with the rib
8. Whip finish and dab a drop of head cement onto the whippings.

It is fly tying at about its simplest, which suits me fine. The broad sequence always remains the same, with one or two minor variations which probably do more for my confidence than have any tangible affect upon fish catching ability. A few PTNs and hare's ears tied up thus will serve the nymph fisher admirably. Look to build a selection in hooks sizes 12 (3mm bead) down to 18 (2mm  bead), with 14s (2.8mm bead) and 16s (2.4mm bead) being prevalent. I use the Pat Stevens'  Flytek tungsten beads in copper and black (the online shop doesn't seem to be working too well at the time of writing, but Pat can be contacted on 01772 684003).
The exact make up of these nymphs can be varied at will, but the important factors I believe, are the bug-like profile and the density afforded by the tungsten beads. Opportunistic fish lying in the brisk water we usually associate with nymph techniques, don't have chance to vet an imitation for correct number of tails and so on. If it's broadly food-shaped and - more importantly - presented in the right way and in the right part of the water column, make no mistake, it's going to get eaten!

I've included a few random patterns here - nothing original, all simple to tie, all effective fish catchers:

Flashback hare's ear (see top of this post)
Hook: Dohiku type 644, #14
Weight: 2.8mm copper tungsten bead with three turns of fine lead wire lodged behind
Thread: Griffiths Sheer 14/0, cinnamon
Tails: Fox squirrel hairs
Body: dubbed hare's mask 
Rib: Fine copper wire
Flashback: medium UTC Mirage tinsel

Melanistic PTN
The good old reliable PTN - a better fly for north country nymph fishers just doesn't exist. I use standard PT fibres, and also melanistic and dyed picric. A bright tag at the tail can be invaluable when the water carries some colour.

Hook: Dohiku type 644, #14
Weight: 2.8mm copper tungsten bead with three turns of fine lead wire lodged behind
Thread: Griffiths sheer 14/0, cinnamon
Tail: melanistic PT fibres
Tag (optional): a few turns of Glo-brite floss #4
Body: melanistic PT fibres
Rib: fine copper wire
Thorax dubbing: Diamond Brite in chocolate brown

Black Eden Grub
For some reason the fish of the Cumbrian Eden seem to like a very dark nymph and the pattern below has proved reliable for me. It's not actually black, but a deep translucent brown in colour. Useful in mucky or peat-stained water where a bold profile is needed. 

Hook: Dohiku type 644, #16
Weight: 2.4mm black tungsten bead with three turns of fine lead wire lodged behind
Thread: Griffiths sheer 14/0, mallard brown
Tail: black cock fibres
Body: single strand of black 'Krystal flash' wound on in two layers
Rib: fine black wire (UTC)
Thorax dubbing: seal fur in 'ant black', staple length halved
Optional cheeks: jungle cock splits

Next, we'll go into the types of water we look for and the different nymphing variations required for each.


Swamp Yankee said...

with the 8" of snow still around, and higher water levels, adjusting the weight on these nymphs looks like the ticket! I'm having 3 dudes over to tie today, your awesome pictures are going to be a great reference! Thanks!

fishermanrichard. said...

Enjoying it Matt thanks, great flies.

Phil Kelly said...

Have you tried the jig hooks for your nymphing. I love em.

Tim Sullivan said...

Solid logic and elegant flies, Matt.

Rio Grand King said...

Solid logic and elegant flies, Matt.