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Essential Nymph Flies for Trout

Nymph flies make up over two thirds of a trout’s diet. You need to include them in your box of fly fishing flies if you want to be ready for a day of fishing. If you have looked at the supply available at your local fly shop or sports center you may have become very confused; there are hundreds of options.

Hopefully we can clear up some of the confusion.

What Is a Nymph?

In Greek mythology a nymph is…oh never mind, let’s not go there.

In fly fishing, a nymph imitates the immature stages of insects that spend part of their life underwater. They are either insects that are swept away in the current or are hatching and emerging to the surface.

Nymphs also include drowned insects and small crustaceans like shrimp. It is a term used for subsurface (mostly dead drifted) flies.

They are sometimes retrieved at a slow speed near the surface to imitate an emerging fly. Learn the techniques of nymph fishing

Essential Nymph Flies for Trout

Most of these nymphs represent more than one aquatic insect. As your collection grows you may need a dedicated fly box just for your nymphs.

Here is a list of some of the nymph flies you should consider for your fly box.

The Bead Headed Prince Nymph is used in both lakes and rivers. (Without the bead head it is called a Prince Nymph.) Like many flies it does not resemble any particular bug.

It does however resemble many different bugs in general.

Fish this nymph below an indicator in rivers or with a slow retrieve in lakes.

The Gold Ribbed Hares Ear (sometimes just called a Hares Ear) comes in tan, dark brown or dark olive.

The pattern is very useful because it suggests many different species.

It also comes with or without a bead head. It can be fished in rivers or lakes.

The Pheasant Tail Nymph resembles March browns, blue-winged olives, pale morning duns and a host of others. There are hundreds of small and brown mayfly species in North America; this makes this nymph one of the most common nymphs found in a fly fisher's box.

It is most commonly fished along the bottom but can be fished on the surface as well. When some flash is added to the nymph it can be really effective in lakes (called the Flashback Pheasant Tail).

The Stonefly Nymph is a large fly that can sometimes be irresistible to a trout. Because they have fixed gills they can get oxygen only from moving water.

As they move to shore to hatch the current sometimes carries them away. These big stonefly nymphs can create quite a feeding frenzy during the two weeks before a hatch and the first week of the hatch. A must-have nymph for any river fly fisher.

The Zug Bug Nymph represents a cased or living caddis. Because it also suggests many other insects it is a good nymph to have in your box.

The peacock herl and silver tinsel make it a nice attractor pattern.

Like many nymphs it is dead drifted near the bottom of the river with a tight line presentation or beneath an indicator.

The Woolly Bugger is a must-have for lakes.

Keep a variety of sizes and colors in your box. Good colors to have are olive green, black, maroon, purple and white.

They can suggest baitfish, leeches or dragonfly nymphs. These can be used in rivers as well.


Nymph flies do not need to match the color and size of the streamside bugs exactly. A fly box with the preceding nymphs will give you a very good chance of getting close. Whatever you do, slow down and observe the aquatic life that surrounds you. Learn the techniques of fly fishing nymphs.

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