What is a Nymph in Fly Fishing?


I have recently developed quite an interest in fly fishing and have done extensive research on fishing with dry and wet flies. I have seen that many people fly fish with nymph flies as well so I have done some research into that as well to better understand it.

What is a nymph in fly fishing? A nymph fly in fly fishing is artificial bait that is designed to look like and imitate insects and crustaceans under the water’s surface. Nymph flies are created to look like hatching and premature aquatic insects. A nymph fly is just another kind of wet fly without wings.

There is a ton of great information that I have gathered in regards to nymph flies like which are the best ones to have in your tackle box and what are the best techniques to “nymphing”. Continue reading to gain more knowledge about this fun and exciting way to fly fish and you will quickly know why your tackle box should be full of nymphs on your next fishing trip.

Best Nymph Flies to Fish With

When trout and other types of fish are feeding under the water’s surface they are typically looking for small, easy prey. That is what nymph flies all across the market are designed to appear as.

In general nymph flies are designed to look like May Flies, caddis flies, Stone Flies, and Midges. You can also find many that look similar to different types of crustaceans like scuds, crayfish. Other nymph flies even come looking like aquatic worms.

There are lots of options to choose from so I did some research into what some of the best nymph flies on the market are. Below is a simple table I made you show you the information I have gathered on 3 amazing nymph flies to take with you wherever you go.

FlySpecialtyWhat Insect it Imitates
1. Pheasant Tail NymphMimics many insects Wide Varieties
2. San Juan WormRed design fools fishWorms
3. The CrayfishCrayfish are found every- whereCrayfish

2. San Juan Worm- This nymph is often forgotten by fishers but this does not make it any less useful to have in your arsenal. The worm may look simple to use but its red design will fool just about any fish.

1. Pheasant Tail Nymph- As shown in the graph this fly is an amazing all-around nymph to use. It looks like so many different types of flies to a fish that they feel very comfortable with biting down on it. It isn’t as flashy as other nymph flies can be but over the years it has proven to be reliable and effective to use almost anywhere.

3. The Crayfish- Crayfish can be found in just about any lake, river, or stream across the whole nation. Fish are familiar with them and the smaller ones and immature crayfish are common prey to fish. This is always a solid nymph fly to carry with you wherever you go.

There are so many different options that it could seem overwhelming to know what nymph fly is right for you and your situation. It is easy to know which one is best for what your needs are. Basically, all you need is a nymph that looks like the types of insects that are commonly found in the rivers or streams you go to. When you are there, turn over some rocks and look around for some insects. When you find some its simple! Match any nymph fly in your tackle box to what the local insects look like.

Locals and other frequent fishers in the areas that you plan on going will know much more than you or the internet do. Ask around to see what they have success with and then use it!

Why Fly Fish With Nymph Flies?

They say that 90% of a fish’s food source comes from below the water. Dry flies, for example, imitate insects that are on the water’s surface, but many fish either don’t need to go there to feed or don’t trust or it as much.

This is why nymph flies are great to use in general because the greater amount of fish are hunting below the top of the water.

Nymph fly fishing is known to not be quite as difficult like fishing with other types of flies can. Part of this is due to the fact that trout aren’t as selective to what they eat when it is already under the surface.

There is usually plenty of food for them which makes it so they can eat whatever comes their way. Due to the fact that it isn’t quite as hard as fishing with dry flies, for example, nymph fly fishing is a fun and easy hobby for anyone to pick up despite their age or experience.

Nymphing is one of the most effective ways to catch trout. It works all day long and in all kinds of water. Fish are always hungry and always going back and forth below the water’s surface. If you can get your nymph fly to where they are you will find that nymph fishing results in lots of catches. Feeding trout will rarely pass up a nymph

One of the biggest reasons to use nymph flies when fly fishing is because it is both exciting and mysterious. People say it is a thrill that never gets old. There is so much that we don’t understand about how it works and why fish love nymphs that it keeps us guessing. Also, many say the feeling of the weight and pull on your line when a trout bites down is so satisfying.

Tips for Fishing With Nymph Flies

There is still a lot to learn about fishing with nymph flies. Here are some quick and easy tips that will help you utilize them to the best of your ability.

  • Swing and cast your line with a nymph attached slowly. If you move it too fast it will not look natural to fish. Insects usually move slowly in the water so try your best to have your nymph fly imitate that.
  • When you think your nymph fly is where a fish could be, make the fly hesitate and lift it towards the surface. It will appear to a fish that it was noticed and is looking for an escape. This will trigger a very impulsive and aggressive response from the fish and more often than not will result in a bite on your hook.
  • Small and slow currents in rivers or streams are ideal for using nymph flies to fish. The currents will give the artificial flies a very natural-looking movement to them. Pull slightly on the line to give even more life to your nymph. The more natural the more chance for a catch you will have.
  • Cast straight upstream so that your fly and weight and indicator are all in the same lane.
  • Keep trying different approaches in casting and location until you find something that works best!

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Stripped Bass.

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