Fly Tying

Three Key Considerations When Fly Tying

Fly tying is an art form that allows us to indulge in our creative side, we all enjoy veering away from traditional and established patterns to create our own fish fooling (hopefully) flies. While when doing so we feel as though we have entered a world without rules and let our creativity flow, it may be beneficial to acknowledge that perhaps there are some rules.

To me there are three key considerations that pay to keep in mind while at the vice no matter how far we stray from the trodden path. These three things are shape, size and colour. And yes that is in order of importance. So why these three things? Aren’t materials, detail, weight and action also important. Yes they are. But without the foundation of the initial three you may fast end up with nothing more than a pile of feathers on a hook.

These three rules generally apply to nymphs, streamers and dry flies. In this article I will be looking mostly at how these rules influence the tying and success of nymph patterns.

  1. Shape

The reference point of all fly tying. When it comes to tying all flies and especially nymphs, shape and silhouette trumps the list of importance. You could go as wild as you like on other aspects; go crazy with colour, switch up the size (within reason) and as long as you maintain that perfect familiar nymph shape that tapers from the tail to the head you will likely end up with an effective fish catching pattern. Perdigon Nymphs and Frenchies are a great testimony to this. There is an infinite possibility of colour and materials used when tying these patterns, but the one thing every Frenchie and every Perdigon has in common is it’s perfect nymph-esque shape. Whether it’s a mayfly, stonefly or caddis nymph all share the same theme of tapering from the tail to head.

While it’s easy to exemplify this in nymphs, it also applies to streamers and dry flies in respect to whichever swimming or flying creature is being imitated. A dry fly stimulator of any colour still holds the silhouette of a flying insect and a wooly bugger of any colour still looks like a young fish.

Generic Frenchie Pattern

2. Size

This one is fairly obvious and self explanatory but is often overlooked. When we sit down at the vice we usually have an idea of the general species we are trying to imitate. More often than not we tend to go on the too big side rather than the too small size. Below is a photo of what was one of the larger mayfly nymphs I could find when flipping a few rocks in the Tongariro River. It was about a size 16 which for many NZ anglers is on the smaller side.

Mayfly Nymph Next To A16 Hook

Nymphs are very commonly sold, bought and tied in size 10 and 12. While there is nothing wrong with a size 12 Pheasant Tail and it certainly has it’s place in some regions and/or conditions, in clear waters where trout can afford to be more selective and get a better look at your offering, it may make it unnecessarily harder to fool that trout into eating. I’m not saying you won’t and don’t catch fish with these, you just may catch more if you drop down a size or two. Especially in clearer waters.

3. Colour

It may seem strange that colour is of least importance of the three factors mentioned. But to be completely honest the above two will get you a long way if you get them right regardless of the colour of the nymph. It may even surprise some to know that a mayfly can come in olive, brown, yellow, blue, and green. Though if you really want to put the package together, get to know the most common nymphs in the waterways you fish and start to emulate them colour wise. The best way to do this is to go out and lift rocks (surprisingly theraputic). You will begin to notice certain trends, make a mental note of these trends and take them back to the vice. When combined with the right size and profile you’ll be a long way toward imitating and good portion of that rivers nymph life!

Same Pattern With Small Colour Difference

As with all rules there are some exceptions these rules, in fact I can here the squirmy wormies and san juan’s laughing as I write this. Also of honourable mention is segmentation. Of all details I believe segmentation is the most worthwhile and important as it consistently features across all forms of nymph life.

Now go flip some rocks!

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