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Most Common Fly Fishing Nymphs

picture of man fly fishing

Using nymphs when fly fishing is a must. I know when you were new to the sport, you probably thought that you would be using a fly on top of the water. At least I thought this way. It was when I first went fly fishing to the river that I realized I had to start learning how to fish with nymphs.  

For those of you wondering, what is a nymph? 

A nymph is an artificial fly that is made to imitate aquatic insects in their juvenile states. One of the first stages of a fly hatch are when nymphs leave the bottom of the river and then start to float towards the surface.  

Do you always see fishing coming to the surface to feed? That would be a solid no, the reason they are not always coming up for food is the abundance of food below the surface. This food is nymphs which is why nymph fly fishing is some of the best fishing there is. My brother will catch twice as many fish as me if he has a nymph on versus my arsenal of dry and wet flies. 

Everyone has their different favorites when it comes to the wide variety of flies on the market. Especially considering there are thousands if not millions of homemade flies out there now. My uncle created a Santa Hat Beaver fly over 20 years ago that I still remember to this day. It was the coolest thing I had seen. Anyway, I thought it would be cool to see what some of the most common nymphs are that we should all probably have in our fly boxes.  


 List of most common nymphs!


Copper John 

picture of a copper john fly

The first nymph on the list is the Copper John which has probably landed more trout than any fly, ever. This mayfly nymph is one of the most sold nymphs on the market. This quick sinking pattern was created by John Barr back in the 90’s. Who remembers the 90’s? Like most great things, the fly was tested and changed numerous times until finally it was perfected. 

The copper makes the hook heavy which helps it to sink fast. Usually, the nymph will be used in a hopper dropper fly combination setup. If you are using a multi nymph setup, placing the Copper John at the bottom will help sink the nymphs above it. The best type of water when using the Copper John is murky discolored water.  

Like every hook out there, it comes in all the different sizes. The small sizes will want to be utilized in the spring and fall months when food is sparser. The large sizes are used in the summer months when food is plentiful. I personally have over 10 Copper John’s in my fly box with multiple different sizes.  

If you would like to add a few of these to your fly box, they can be found here. 


Hare’s Ear Nymph 

picture of a hare's ear nymph

Next on our list is the Hare’s Ear Nymph that is used for catching trout, bass, and many other species of fish. This nymph is widely used for its buggy style. No one knows exactly who created it, but it has many variations used around the world. It’s said to have been created sometime in the 1800’s. The Hare’s Ear Nymph is classified as a generic nymph because it imitates a variety of food sources that fish eat such as midges, mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies and small minnows. The odd long hair coming from the body of the nymph often tricks the fish into thinking it’s a natural nymph.  

If you are not sure what nymph to use, try the Hare’s Ear Nymph. There are many colors, but the most commonly used are brown, tan, and olive. I am a big fan of fishing this nymph weighted, but some anglers prefer to not use weights.  

If you would like to add a few of these to your fly box, they can be found here. 


Prince Nymph 

picture of prince nymph fly

This one sounds like royalty. Doug Prince developed the Prince Nymph, formerly known as the Brown Forked Tail, in the 1930’s and the hook has become one of the most used nymphs in the fly fishing world today. There are variations of the fly, the most popular having added a brass or tungsten bead that helps to weigh the nymph down. I’m not sure if anyone knows exactly what insect the Prince is supposed to imitate, but nonetheless it works miracles in the water. 

The average size you will find are sizes 14-18 and this fly can be used in pretty much any waterway. Regardless of the time of year, this fly will land you fish in the net. Every seasoned fly fisher has a few of these in their fly tackle box, but if you are new to the game, I highly suggest you stocking up on these bad boys.  

If you would like to add a few of these to your fly box, they can be found here. 


Pheasant Tail Nymph 

picture of pheasant tail nymph fly

We have a reoccurring theme here; all the great nymphs were created many moons ago! The Pheasant Tail Nymph was created in the early 1900’s by the famous Frank Sawyer. His target was trout on England’s River Avon. Eventually it made its way across the Atlantic and into the North American streams. Al Troth amended this famous nymph into what many of us are using today. 

The Pheasant Tail Nymph is said to be one of the best trout hooks there is because of its identical imitation to the natural Blue Winged Olive Nymph. Like the other nymphs mentioned thus far, it too is made to sink fast. This fly is best fished in the moving water of small streams and the still waters of reservoirs. 

If you would like to add a few of these to your fly box, they can be found here. 


Zebra Midge 

zebra midge picture

The Zebra Midge is said to have been created by a Colorado River guide by the name of Ted Welling. The Zebra Midge technically does not have a nymphal stage, but most anglers will group midges in with nymphs. These small midges are absolutely amazing on spring creeks, rivers, and lakes.  

You will want to try and fish the Zebra Midge about 6 inches off the bottom. Like all the other nymphs, using an indicator will be ideal. The indicator will obviously show when there is a bite, but the indicator will also provide depth control when using nymphs and midges.  

If you would like to add a few of these to your fly box, they can be found here. 


Micro Loop Egg Fly 

picture of bright orance micro loop egg fly

I feel like I might be getting a little off the topic of nymphs, but the Micro Loop Egg Fly is a wonder hook when used during the spawning season. The simple and bright ball is mimicking eggs from rainbow and brown trout, steelhead, and Coho salmon.  

The Micro Loop Egg Fly is exceptionally light, so you will need to add weight below it to help it sink. Orange, yellow, and light pink are the best colors to use. Orange is the color of most eggs when they are laid, they then change color over time as the water distorts their color. I prefer to stick with the bright orange.  

If you would like to add a few of these to your fly box, they can be found here. 


Below the surface fly fishing is some of the best fishing there is. If you are not already doing it, I suggest you get started now. It does take a while to get use to the casting and drifting of the nymphs, but before long you will be a pro. 

If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.