A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled New to Fly Fishing? What Flies Should I Use? It was my way of suggesting a dozen dry flies to start filling your fly box. And for full disclosure, they were a list of DRY flies.

Well, someone asked “what about NYMPHS”? Thanks for asking!

So I asked myself, “What flies couldn’t I live without”?

Well, here they are:

Nymph Box | www.johnkreft.com

Oops! Maybe I jumped the gun! You need to know why.

There are SO many flies out there it’s difficult to pick only a few to create a dozen to start your nymph fly box! And I always recommend having a minimum of two of each pattern. What happens if you get lucky and a fish eats the fly…and it’s a big one who ends up breaking off? Better have another one in the fly box to tie on! Or, you had a couple of strikes and a wayward cast gets caught in the tree behind you because you didn’t watch the back cast? Oh, that’s never happened to me!!

Remember that nymphs are available to trout every month of the year. In some cases like Salmonflies, their life-cycle spans up to four years on the bottom of the river. Others only live one year. What that means is there are a variety of sizes available to the fish year-round and they see them floating by.

So, let’s get down to it. You are new to fly fishing and ask “What nymphs should I use?” My caveat would be to ask a couple of questions and assume we are still creating a RIVER nymph box.

  • What specific rivers do you plan to fish?
  • What time of year will you be fishing?

Then you tell me you are opportunistic, spontaneous and will head out to the river whenever someone invites you to go with them. And you remind me you are relatively new to fly fishing and and can’t answer those questions!

OK…OK…I get it!

Hmmm, if I had to settle for one dozen flies in a nymph box that I’d have available for any stream or river I fished, I better decide! And you need a minimum of two or each fly pattern for the reasons mentioned above, so that effectively limits me to only six patterns!

OK, here is my list for you to start your nymph fly box:

  • Pheasant Tail #16 – this fly will imitate mayfly nymphs
  • Copper John #16 – this fly will imitate mayfly nymphs with a little more flash
  • Hare’s Ear #14 – this fly will imitate caddis flies
  • Prince Nymph #14 – this fly will imitate caddis flies
  • $3 Dip #16 – this fly will imitate midges and perhaps mayfly nymphs
  • Kaufmanns Stonefly Nymph #6 – this fly will imitate stonefly nymphs

Now that you have the list, here’s what they look like:

Pheasant Tail

Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymph | www.johnkreft.com

Copper John

Copper John Nymph | www.johnkreft.com

Hare’s Ear

Hares Ear Nymph | www.johnkreft.com

Prince Nymph

Prince Nymph | www.johnkreft.com

$3 Dip

$3 Dip - Gold Bead | www.johnkreft.com

Kaufmanns Stonefly

Kaufmanns Stonefly | www.johnkreft.com

Notice these flies have different colors and profiles. That’s why I chose them. A few of them utilize peacock, which is a magical iridescent material that just catches fish. I don’t know why, it just does!

The last thing I’ll say when deciding what nymphs to use is It depends where you fish. Some rivers have smaller insects and necessitate smaller nymphs, like #18’s. The Crooked River here in Oregon is one of those. If you decide that is your river, consider including some size #18’s in addition to the #16’s. See, I’m already adding flies to your nymph box!

So in coming up with my recommendation, I’ve tried not to take specific rivers into account. Start with these 6 patterns and you should have options for catching fish in most rivers.

After you’ve started your box, consider adding to it by stopping at your favorite local fly shop. Ask a few questions, buy a few flies, and your box will be full before you know it!

Or, come back to my website from time to time. I’m sure there will be other nymphs added in the near future!

Well, there you have it. I hope you’ve started your nymph box. Everyone has their top nymphs. What’s in yours?

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  1. My nymph box is overflowing . Think I need to thin some out ,but then again I know I will surely need the one I thinned the next fishing trip. I just bought a new box just for midges. Now where will that fit? MOJ

    1. I’ve got the same problem Max. I always think I carry too many boxes, then a situation pops up where I need a fly and…it isn’t in my fly box!!! But I usually know exactly where it is – in one of the “provider” boxes…


  2. nymphs? really? I borrow one or two if there is absolutely NOTHING else going on! Or, maybe I will use a soft hackle and let it sink, I think that is what they were originally intended to do!

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