In the world of fly fishing, we are constantly confronted with the confrontation between “ideal” and “practical”. As an avid angler myself, I would love to stock my fly boxes with as many fly variations as I could to ensure a hook up on the stream. However, that isn’t practical!
Here are my top 10 fly fishing nymphs that I carry when I want to catch as many trout as I can!
Any time of year, this fly produces! From sunny and warm to frigid and snowing. Midges hatch in all seasons. I have a few Zebra Midges in black/silver as well as red/silver in sizes 22-16. These can imitate almost any necessary forage in a suggestive way. I even use them as tailing euro rig flies!
Like the Zebra Midge, I fish a JuJu Baetis all year in smaller sizes. This fly is a great option in purple or black but provides a different profile in a similar package. When I fish slower water, the JuJu Baetis often outfishes the Z Midge because of the added detail. These work well as a trailing nymph in a rig as well.
A “dark horse” on the list, the scud is a necessity. Scuds don’t change in as complicated a manner as mayflies, so matching the hatch is much easier. I stick with dull and drab colors to match most of the forage naturals in most streams I frequent. They provide a high protein diet and an easy catch for trout.
Reel Stone Double Bead Biot Stone (Black or Gray)
This is one of my “meat and potatoes” flies that just plain produces in so many waters. The gray version in a size 12-16 is eaten in very small waters as well as in larger systems. This fly produces very well in Spring, as well as in early Winter. I use it as a point fly or as my primary weight in small streams. The double bead tie gets the fly down, and white goose biots add contrast to the “buggy” pattern.
Lance Egan is a brilliant angler and his Euro-esque Rainbow Warrior produces fish when the other small patterns are being ignored. I use this fly opposite of the dark small fly patterns when prospecting for trout, and I will typically hook up on one or the other. I fish them as a system, and the system produces. The flash of the R Warrior can also act as an attractor, leading to an eat on the other nymphs. If you aren’t fishing a Rainbow Warrior, then pick up a few in sizes 20-16 for a treat on the stream!
This latter half of the list is often better performing in the warmer months of the season.
I’ll catch flack for including a worm fly in my list, but it catches fish! I catch most species on a worm fly, and in different variations and colors! Try a worm fly in different waters to see what catches!
I know what you’re thinking, “A bugger as a nymph?” and I understand your curiosity! I fish super small buggers and other leech patterns in dark colors as nymphs with great success! Try them in sizes 16 to 12 as drifting nymphs and hold on tight!
Another blasphemous fly! The Mop made splashes industry-wide when it first hit the mainstream, (no pun intended), but it catches fish as a suggestive imitation to many forage items found from stream to stream. Give some of the smaller mop patterns a try this season when you aren’t sure what’s on the menu!
A Hare’s Ear is a staple and can vary even from tie to tie due to differences in materials. This buggy pattern catches fish as one of the best natural mayfly imitations even traditionalists will approve of!
Spider / Soft Hackle
In my opinion, nothing is buggier than a wet fly or spider-style pattern. Swung or drifted, they look buggy and appetizing to trout. The color variation in hackle will provide a great casing profile or even the imitation of legs. Give a few such as the Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear or Caddis Soft Hackle patterns a try when the other suggestive imitations aren’t performing as well!
Bonus: Euro Nymphs
Euro style nymphs are great for a few reasons! They are easy/fast to tie, suggestive enough to work, and sink like rocks! When fishing fast water, or even just need to fill a fly box in an hour, look to Euro-style nymphs on jig hooks. An added benefit is that they hang up on bottomless often, and that keeps you fishing longer!
Hopefully, this helps you narrow down your list of nymphs for your next few outings. I know that by having a box of nymphs with the first half of this list for colder months ready, I can hook myself a few. The second half of the list almost always draws an eat during warmer months of the season! Now get out and enjoy the stream! Tight lines!