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Nymph History

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A history of wet flies might start with a soft hackle by Dame Juliana, although there are now some Austrian patterns that precede her. 

But it would be almost impossible to compile because there are so many flies. So many names.  Ray Bergman alone has half a zillion squared patterns.


There are not that many historically important nymphs.

I'm starting a list for a project I'm working on.

In the list below what did I miss?  

What did I get wrong?

Soft Hackle Dame Juliana 1496 (wet fly or nymph?)
GEM George Edward MacKenzie Skues 1921
Black Spinder 1850 (wet fly or nymph?)
Green Rock Worm Frans Pott 1920?

Tellico Nymph North Carolina 1927
Prince Nymph Doug Prince 1930
Zug Bug Cliff Zug 1930

Edward Ringwood Hewitt Hard Body Nymph 1930
Pheasant Tail Frank Sawyer 1930
Birch Creek Unknown 1930
Girdle Bug Frank McGinnis 1930
Montana Nymph Unknown 1930
Don Martinez Black Nymph 1930
Don Martinez Black Nymph 1930

Mossback Nymph Dan Bailey 1940
Pat Barnes Weighted Nymph 1950

Gold-ribbed Hare's Ear (originally a winged wet fly) First when as a nymph?
Copper Nymph or Brassie Ken Chandler and Tug Davenport 1960

Beadhead Nymph Italy 1970?
Serendipidy Ross Marigold 1970

Czech Nymphing 1980
Perdigon Nymph Spain or France 1980s?

Copper John John Barr 1990
Zebra Midge Ted Welling 1990

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From the Internet

"The Prince Nymph, known first as a Brown Forked-Tail Nymph, imitates nothing – and everything – simultaneously.  It has an inherent ‘bugginess’ that trout find it irresistible.  Its split biot tail is bold, the glossy green peacock herl shimmers in the current, the soft hackle collar breathes seductively, and the tinsel and white wings scream for attention.  It is your basic sub­sur­face attractor, one that has been catch­ing trout for decades.  Many devotees profess that it imitates stonefly nymphs.  Indeed, a Prince Nymph does resemble juvenile stoneflies.  But, it resembles juve­nile Christmas tree ornaments just about as well.  Perhaps trout take it as a stonefly, but a cased caddis larva, caddis pupa, mayfly or dobsonfly nymph, or even a drowned terrestrial seem equally plausi­ble. Does it matter?  Not a bit.  Prince Nymphs ap­peal to trout, and that’s what counts when you’re fill­ing the fly box or tying a clinch knot.

Doug Prince of Monterey, CA is often described as the originator of the Prince Nymph, but it was devel­oped and first tied in the 1930s by Don and Dick Olson, brothers from Bemidji, MN.  They called it the Brown Forked-Tail Nymph.  It acquired its princely name in a roundabout way during the 1940s.  Buz Buszek, namesake of the Federation of Fly Fishers’ annual award for fly tying excellence, owned a fly shop and mail-order business in Visalia, CA begin­ning in 1943.  He employed local tyers to supply flies for the shop.  Doug Prince was not a commercial fly tyer, but he was Buszek’s good friend and tied flies for him for one year in the 1940s.  Prince was a tal­ented fly tyer who knew California rivers well.  He tied his name­sake fly for California’s Kings River, but he called it the Brown Forked-Tail Nymph, presumably in refer­ence to the Olson original.  Buz Buszek was hur­riedly preparing a new mail-order catalog one day, and he wanted to in­clude Doug Prince’s peacock-bodied nymph that was so effective.  Buszek couldn’t remember the fly’s name, however, and in haste he just called it the “Prince Nymph”.  Buszek’s catalog was distributed throughout the West, and the fly at­tracted a loyal following.  Doug Prince’s name spread with the fly, although he played no part in its self-congratulatory name.  Doing so was not in his humble charac­ter:  “I tied what worked for me, and that’s all I ever really wor­ried about.”  Doug Prince received the FFF Buz Buszek Memorial Award in 1981 but said at the time that he had “no idea” why."

Girdle Bug

The first rubber leg stone fly nymphs in this genre were tied with the rubber from a women’s’ girdle hence the name.

And before you say it's a "Pats Rubber Leg"

Notes: Pat's Rubber Legs is also known as Jimmy Legs, Knotty Girls, Restless Stone, The Turd, Cat Turd, Cat Puke and The Pickle. "Pat" has been suggested to be a guide, Pat Bennett, that works out of the Hyde shop in Island Park, Idaho but this may be a ruse. Jimmy Legs is a variation from Idyllwild Flies in which the legs are pre-knotted and tied on a bent hook, such as a Daiichi 1730. Knotty Girls also have knotted legs, but they are usually round rubber material. Restless Stone is another name as marketed by Umpqua. Whatever the name, the pattern works quite well and has become a favorite among guides. The pattern is a variation off an older pattern known as the Girdle Bug. This pattern was developed in the 1930's by Frank McGinnis of Anaconda, MT. He developed this pattern while fishing the Big Hole River. Originally, round rubber legs were used but a spandex rubber material such as Super Floss, Flex Floss, Life Flex, and Spanflex has become preferred over round rubber legs. It is much more durable and transparent than rubber leg material and very supple with lifelike movement in the water. Mickey Wooton, a guide out of West Yellowstone, came up with a nice variation of trimming the chenille at the abdomen for a flattened taper and replaced the antennae and tails with Krystal flash and Goose Biots, respectively. Fish Pat's Rubber Legs in the riffles and runs of fast-moving water. It also makes a great pattern for short line nymphing. The weight of the pattern allows it to quickly sink into deeps slots and pools. Great with a Beadhead dropper such as a Prince Nymph or Hare's Ear.


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I forgot the San Juan Worm. Maybe that's a wet fly.  Or a worm but not a nymph. Terminology is fuzzy and vague at the  edges

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The Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear was first tied as a wet / nymph type pattern without any wings.

Dressing was:

Body:  Dark fur from the root of a Hare's ear spun on yellow or primrose silk

Ribbing:  Flat gold tinsel

Hackle:  Long strands of body dubbing picked out with a dubbing needle

Whisks: Three strands as hackle

Hook:  14 to 16 

This is all from the book,  A Dictionary Of Trout Flies.  A. Courtney Williams also wrote that he stood on dangerous ground referring to the original dressing, since nobody knows when or by whom the pattern was invented. 

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Nice !!

Flymph - Leisenring/ Hidy 1941 (name coined later by Hidy)

Nymphs -Schweibert 1976 (go Darrell)

Deep sparkle caddis & sparkle caddis emerger - LaFontaine 1979


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Some of the first nymphs I tied was Polly Rosborough’s Casual Dress.  I think I have his book ‘tying the fuzzy nymph’.  Another popular one (mid 80’s) I watched Dave Whitlock tie is his red fox squirrel nymph. I have half a fox squirrel skin buried in my materials. Then in 1986 Randall Kaufman published his ‘fly tyers nymph manual’.  My fuzzy memory also recalls a fly called Ted Trueblood’s otter nymph. These are all pre bead-head.

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