Category Archives: Nymphs

Soft Hackle Emerger – 12/16/2019

Soft Hackle Emerger 12/16/2019 Photo Album

During the winter of 2012 I began tying the Craven soft hackle emerger, and my initial post on this fly along with a materials list is available for your perusal at 01/19/2012. An update on the status of the soft hackle emerger in my stable of blue winged olive imitations is available on my post of 01/20/2019. In summary, the wet fly version without a bead has served as a viable option during baetis hatches, particularly on windy days, when the adults get blown off the water in rapid fire fashion. The soft hackle emerger fished in the film or just below the surface seems to fool trout that are keying on emergers and cripples in adverse mayfly emergence situations.

Looking Down

My supply of beaded size twenties remained adequate at thirty-six, so I concentrated my tying efforts on the wet fly style without a bead. I counted seventeen size 20’s, nine size 22’s, and fourteen size 24’s, when I surveyed my various storage containers. I positioned myself at my vice and produced three additional 20’s, one 22 and one 24 to increase my quantities to amounts divisible by five. Why? I have no idea, but I needed to practice building soft hackle emergers.

Closing In on Five New Flies

Sparkle Wing RS2 – 12/15/2019

Sparkle Wing RS2 12/15/2019 Photo Album

I added the sparkle wing RS2 to my repertoire during the winter of 2017, and I used it with less than glowing results during the 2018 season. Last winter I replenished my supply and began the season with twenty, but when I counted my stock recently, I discovered that my inventory shrank to eleven. Clearly I utilized the sparkle wing version fairly often during 2019, and thus the decline in quantity.

Sparkle Wing

I added sparkle wing RS2s to my arsenal, after I noticed many anglers on Instagram testifying to their effectiveness. I am not totally sold that they are preferable to the classic version; however, I acknowledge that they possess significantly more flash, and perhaps during emergence situations are superior fish attractors. My post of 01/17/2019 provides a bit more information regarding my shift to the sparkle wing. The tying steps follow those of the classic RS2. For a materials table refer to my 01/21/2011 post, but replace the tail with fluoro fiber and utilize white antron fibers for the wing instead of the fluff from a pheasant body feather.

The Cluster

I churned out nine new sparkle wing RS2’s and restored my beginning inventory for 2020 to twenty. Hopefully the deployment of classic and sparkle wing RS2’s will continue to deliver hungry trout to my net in the new year.

Three Materials

RS2 – 12/14/2019

RS2 12/14/2019 Photo Album

Imitation is a form of flattery, and if this adage is true, Rim Chung’s RS2 has earned its share of adulation. I, myself, recently began tying sparkle wing RS2’s, but I noted various modifications of the classic fly on web pages, books and magazines. In spite of the array of spin offs and impostors, I remain partially loyal to the classic RS2 tied with all natural materials. For a materials table check out my post of 01/21/2011. A more current update of my views on RS2 variations is available in my 01/15/2019 post.

A Functional RS2

Although the sparkle wing RS2 advanced to a more prominent role in my baetis nymph arsenal, I continued to carry a significant number of classic RS2’s in my fly storage boxes. The natural muskrat fur, and the fluff from the base of a pheasant body feather breath and generate the impression of a living organism, and I continue to experience a high degree of success with the original pattern.

Focused on a Clump of Five

My annual count of RS2’s in my various storage compartments revealed that I carried an inventory of forty. Since I began deploying the sparkle wing RS2 in many situations that previously suggested the classic RS2, I reduced my goal quantity to forty-five, and I cranked out five new imitations. I will be curious to learn whether the the flashy sparkle wing or earthy classic lead the way during 2020.

Nine in Total

Iron Sally – 12/10/2019

Iron Sally 12/10/2019 Photo Album

My love affair with the iron sally began in 2013, but for a solid introduction read my post of 02/04/2014. This entry chronicles my early association and provides a link to an early success story on the Arkansas River. If you take the time to read 12/14/2018, you will understand the rapid advancement of this fly on my nymph ” must have” list. As I prepare this entry on 12/10/2019, I can report that the legend of the iron sally with Dave Weller continues to grow.

Flash and Folded Wing

Of course, it serves as an excellent representation of yellow sally and golden stonefly nymphs during July and August, when those insects are prevalent on western streams. However, I also discovered that trout relish the gold hued nymphs throughout the season. Apparently stonefly nymphs get knocked loose from their rocky homes frequently and subsequently drift into the mouths of hungry trout. During the fall of 2019 I knotted the iron sally to my line in many situations, where I previously utilized a hares ear nymph, and I was pleased with the results. The wire abdomen adds weight to the fly, and this enables me to achieve deeper drifts in fast water and pocket water situations. During 2019 I experimented with using heavier lead flies such as the iron sally and 20 incher to gain more depth in dry/dropper situations, and I concluded that bouncing close to the bottom of the stream is a benefit in many scenarios. I suspect that I missed out on some solid fishing in previous seasons by ignoring the important fly fishing practice of adjusting weight for stream conditions.

Symmetrical From the Bottom

The iron sally occupies a position near the top of my preferred nymph rankings, and it consequently receives increased time on my line each year. The only drawback to this fly is the additional amount of time required to tie it compared to a hares ear nymph. During my recent tying efforts, I tried a modification suggested by Hopper Juan Ramirez on his YouTube video. Instead of tying in 8-10 strands of black crystal flash and then using it for the back of the abdominal area, I substituted a strip of flashback black. I delayed tying in the black crystal flash, until I reached the thorax construction stage. This change reduced tying time moderately, but managing the small legs and the folded wing case continue to be the major time consumers. I am considering some alternatives for the wing case for future seasons, so stay tuned.

Even Closer

I counted my iron sally nymphs and determined that I maintained a stock of twenty-six size 12’s and five size 14’s. I am increasingly interested in testing the effectiveness of the smaller size version, so I tied five 14’s to boost that inventory to ten, and then I added four size 12’s to even up that quantity at thirty. I guarantee that the iron sally will continue to excel in the coming year.

A New Batch of Size 12’s and 14’s

Emerald Caddis Pupa – 12/09/2019

Emerald Caddis Pupa 12/09/2019 Photo Album

The story behind my adoption of the emerald caddis pupa is contained in my post of 01/01/2012. The same post also contains a materials table, and construction of this fly follows the steps outlined by Gary LaFontaine in his classic book; Caddisflies.


Unlike the go2 sparkle pupa, the emerald caddis pupa’s effectiveness seems to span the entire season. I attribute much of its performance to the emerald color of the body, and on rare occasions, when I was able to corral an adult caddis on the stream, I observed the matching color at the tip of the abdomen. Caddis seem to be universally prevalent on western rivers and streams, and I suspect the resident trout are familiar with the emerald color and recognize it as a tasty source of protein.

Up Close

When I approach a stream, I generally select a hares ear nymph or salvation nymph among my first offerings, and this probably handicaps the emerald caddis pupa. I resort to it, when the preferred choices fail to deliver, so I utilize it in more demanding conditions. In spite of this hindrance to success, the emerald pupa delivers results on a fairly consistent basis. Perhaps I should elevate it on my subsurface fly ranking.

Flies and Materials

When I took stock of my caddis pupa, I noted that the emerald version was depleted to thirty-one, so I approached my vice and churned out nine additional models to increase my inventory to forty. I am certain that the emerald caddis will once again attract a fair number of trout to my net in 2020.

Go2 Sparkle Pupa – 12/08/2019

Go2 Sparkle Pupa 12/08/2019 Photo Album

The material table for this fly can be viewed on my 01/10/2012 post for the bright green caddis pupa. Simply substitute chartreuse midge diamond braid for the listed materials for the abdomen. My post on 01/11/2017 describes the genesis of the Go2 sparkle pupa; a hybrid of two flies developed by other tiers.

Chartreuse Midge Braid

The Go2 sparkle pupa has now displaced the bright green caddis pupa as my preferred imitation during early season caddis emergences. The chartreuse midge diamond braid stands out and attracts the attention of trout, particularly during grannom activity. More time on my line translated to the loss of flies, so I created five new versions to increase my supply to thirty for the upcoming season. Hopefully early season caddis action will demand that I knot some of these flies to my line in 2020.

Take 2

Prince Nymph – 12/06/2019

Prince Nymph 12/06/2019 Photo Album

A material table for the prince nymph is available on my 12/03/2011 post on this blog. The prince nymph enjoyed a resurgence in my fly box during the past two seasons, and a main reason is the success it delivered during green drake hatches. Apparently a size 12 peacock imitation is a close approximation of the nymph stage of the large western green drake mayflies. Check out my South Boulder Creek 08/15/2019 post for an example of prince nymph productivity in advance of a green drake hatch.

As Good as It Gets

The other prime situation that creates prince nymph success is the egg laying stage of a grannom hatch. A size 14 prince tied on a curved scud hook historically delivered superior results on the Arkansas River and other western streams during the April and May caddis event. My post of 11/17/2018 does a nice job of describing these prince nymph applications, and it also describes some improvements that I introduced to my tying technique. Mounting the white horns with the points of the biots extending beyond the eye of the hook and then bending back to lock them down has dramatically improved the durability of my prince nymphs, particularly the larger sizes.


The new found effectiveness of the size twelve prince nymph resulted in some depletion of my inventory, so I tied four new models to elevate my count to ten. In addition I manufactured four size 14’s and refurbished a pair of size 16’s. I am confident that my supply will be adequate for the 2020 fly fishing season.

Completed Batch

20 Incher – 11/22/2019

20 Incher 11/22/2019 Photo Album

Ever since a guided fly fishing trip with Royal Gorge Anglers on the Arkansas River I carried a supply of 20 inchers in my fly fleece wallet. During 2019, however, I knotted one to my line more frequently than during previous seasons, and I was pleased with the results. Increased usage, however, also depleted my supply more than usual, so I approached my vise and produced an additional quantity of ten to increase my inventory to twenty-five.

Fine 20 Incher

If my readers are interested in tying this large attractor stonefly imitation, please refer to my post of 01/06/2019. This blog entry from earlier in 2019 displays a materials list, and several YouTube videos do a nice job of teaching the fly tying steps. During several recent fall outings I positioned the 20 incher as the top nymph on dry/dropper and deep nymphing systems with the intent of obtaining a deeper drift, and the ploy seemed to pay dividends. I was particularly impressed with the 20 incher’s effectiveness on South Boulder Creek on 10/26/2019.

Close Look at a Clump

I seem to gravitate to this large weighted fly in the early and late season, but I hope to give it more time on my line during the summer time frame. A large dark drifting stonefly assuredly represents a significant bite of protein, that trout cannot ignore, and stoneflies get knocked loose during all seasons of the year. I love the appearance of this fly, and the application of epoxy on the wing case really makes this fly stand out. The 2020 pre-runoff season cannot come soon enough.

10 New 20 Inchers

Ultra Zug Bug – 11/21/2019

Ultra Zug Bug 11/21/2019 Photo Album

In all likelihood my third most productive fly over the last five years has been the ultra zug bug. I first stumbled on this fly in a book by Scott Sanchez, and it stood the test of time to become a proven winner from my fly box. If you are interested in the materials list or tying steps, go to my post of 12/15/2018, and there you will find links to the two items mentioned previously. A third link takes you to a post, where I describe how the ultra zug bug became an important component of my fish catching arsenal.

Ready for Actioin

During the 2019 season the simple yet effective UZB continued to earn its space in my fly wallet. It seems to be particularly effective in the spring time frame, and that coincides with pupating and egg laying caddis; however, I do not ignore it throughout the summer and fall. For a simple tie it offers quite a bit of flash through the crystal flash ribbing and the iridescent Ligas peacock dubbing. I suspect ice dubbing would be a solid substitute for the Ligas peacock dubbing, but I am a creature of habit, who abides by the motto of don’t mess with success.

Up Close

A quick count of my supply revealed a total of forty-four, so I spun out sixteen additional copies to increment my inventory to sixty for the 2020 season. I am certain to catch a fair number of trout on the ultra zug bug in the coming year.

A Batch of 16

Hares Ear Nymph – 11/02/2019

Hares Ear Nymph 11/02/2019 Photo Album

The beadhead hares ear nymph rocks. Year after year it is my most consistent producer throughout all the seasons of the year. What does it imitate? I suspect a reason for its universal effectiveness is its ability to represent numerous underwater life forms. Surely the coarse fur and earthy color cause it to be mistaken for a caddis pupa. Numerous mayfly species carry a gray-brown color and the general shape of a hares ear nymph. A guide also informed me that the hares ear nymph is a reasonable representation of the nymph of a yellow sally stonefly. Dare I suggest that it also serves as a copy of a cranefly nymph? Given this versatility it is no surprise that a beadhead hares ear nymph is my most productive fly.

A Later Model

My post of 11/05/2010 provides a materials chart and describes a few of the alterations that I applied to the standard pattern. I tie them on a scud hook to give the body a slight curled appearance. I substituted Tyvek strips for turkey quill for the wing case. This synthetic addition is nearly indestructible, and many sources are available such as Fedex mailing envelopes. I use race bib numbers and color them with a black magic marker. A standard hares ear specifies a gold tinsel rib, but I utilize fine gold wire. Of course the gold bead is a modification of the original pattern, but I cannot conceive of a hares ear nymph without a bead. I now apply head cement at two intermediate steps before coating the whip finish wraps behind the bead. The first dab goes on the rear of the abdomen, after I add the tail and fine gold wire. A second application is soaked into the wraps after the abdomen is completed and the wing case is tied in.

Macro of the Materials

In my estimation an absolute necessity for an effective hares ear nymph is natural hares mask dubbing. I use the real stuff, and I try make sure that the guard hairs are incorporated into each fly. For the abdomen I make a dubbing loop and insert a blend of the natural fur and guard hairs, and this method yields an extremely buggy appearance with stray guard hairs pointing in random directions. I use the same dubbing for the thorax but without a dubbing loop, but again I make sure to roll some guard hairs into the noodle to create additional buggyness. I tie 100% of my beadhead hares ear nymphs on a size 14 scud hook. The space consumed by the bead creates a body length roughly equivalent to a size 16 nymph. I suppose I should try some different sizes, but it is hard to imagine that additional sizes could make the hares ear nymph more productive than it already is.

A Nice Clump Ready for the Fly Box (Macro)

I counted my inventory of beadhead hares ear nymphs and determined that my various storage compartments contained seventy-six completed flies. I target a starting inventory of 100 each year, so I completed twenty-four new nymphs and then added ten for a friend. I have no doubt that the beadhead hares ear nymph will once again be my most productive fly in 2020.