Monday, June 22, 2015

Nymphs: I am a beginner, what do I buy?

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You've spent years telling yourself that someday you'll learn how to fly fish.  Well, for the purpose of this post, that time has finally come; your doing it, lessons are scheduled!  What next?  If you're like most beginner anglers, you'll spend many hours on the internet, viewing sexy fish porn photos.  If you look closely at these photos, you'll notice how the angler(s) clothing and equipment are spot-free new; these anglers get paid to model and on a day-to-day basis, may not use much of the equipment/gadgets that you see being featured. Also, you'll probably visit a handful of stores and you may begin to wonder why one fly rod cost $100 vs. another that cost $900 USD.  You may find yourself standing amongst 100's of flies, wondering which to buy. In a short while, you'll end up looking at 1,000's of purchase options, and most likely, be overwhelmed. Unfortunately, based on my experience, many of the items sold to beginner angler's, are unnecessary. With all that said, the purpose of this post, plain and simple, is to help you.  Specific to flies, I'll narrow down your choices to a handful of flies that will catch fish any where in the world.  Before I begin, allow me to lay a foundation for purchasing fly fishing equipment.

  1. Always remember, Less is More.  (you'll be surprised how little you need) 
  2. Don't believe everything you see or read. In other words, just because the model in the photo has all the gear, doesn't mean you need it.  Plus,  I have met employee's in fly shops that have no real world experience = they really don't know if the product works (I have also met some fly shop employee's/owners, who are experts).  Bottom line, buying fishing equipment can be a tricky game, so take your time.
  3. If you are on a tight budget, shop Craig's List and visit local yard/garage sales.   In other words, start off with equipment that cost $ vs. $$$$$.  

Nymphs: Beginner vs. Expert Angler

Let's keep this simple:  I'll assume you'll never be able to match the hatch.  Matching the hatch is the process of identifying aquatic insects that fish feed on, and then picking a man made fly that exactly, or best matches it.  So, whether you are a beginner or an expert bug man, if you fished with the following flies for the rest of your life, you'll catch lots of fish.

  • Copper John. Size #12-#16. In deep fast waters, I may use #10's. Overall, I favor the color red.
  • Bead Head Pheasant Tail.  Size #12-#18. In certain situations, I also use non-bead head and soft hackle PT's.  In deep fast waters, or waters known to have large stone flies,  I may use #10 PT's. 
  • Bead Head Prince Nymph. Size #12-#18.  In deep fast waters, or waters known to have large stone flies,  I may use #10. 
  • Bead Head Hare's Ear. Size #12-#18. In certain situations, I also use non-bead head, green color, and flash back Hare's Ear Nymphs. In deep fast waters, or waters known to have large stone flies and mayflies, I may use #10. 
  • Zug Bug.  Size #12-#18.  In deep fast waters, or waters known to have large caddis, I may use #10 Zug Bug. 

Why These Nymphs?

  • They WORK any where in the world and they will catch a wide variety of cold and warm water species! 
  • The Copper John, Prince are true attractor flies.  In other words, they were not designed to replicate a specific nymph.  They were creatively designed to mimic a variety of nymphs.
  • The PT's, Hare's Ear and Zug Bug were originally designed to mimic specific nymphs in the mayfly and caddis families. An argument could be made, in certain situations, they also act as attractor nymphs. 
  • Worldwide, these nymphs are available in ALL fly shops.
  • For the beginner fly tier, these are not the easiest flies to tie.  Though, with practice/patience  and following on-line video tutorials, you should be able to master these flies.    

    I can never have enough red Copper John nymphs!  
    Bead Head Pheasant Tail.  Do not leave home without them.
    Bead Head Pheasant Tail with soft hackle.  If you like swinging nymphs 1/4 downstream, put this in your fly box.
    An amazing attractor nymph that works on nymph rigs, dry-dropper rigs, and swinging line 1/4 downstream. 
    Bead Head Hare's Ear.  You'll find this in my fly box 24/7.  You may also see this with a collar/soft hackle.
    You'll find many variations of the original; they all work.  This is a LePage Hare's Ear Nymph.  You may also see this with a collar/soft hackle. 
    The Zug Bug; an oldie but goodie.  I have caught some enormous fish on this fly.  If you like swinging nymphs 1/4 downstream, with various sink tips, put this in your fly box. 
    British Columbia Chinook Salmon. Caught on a Zug Bug, dead drifting and swinging a sinking tip 1/4 downstream.

    How to Fish these Flies?

    The easy part is buying the flies that I have recommended.  Now comes the hard work; how to fish each fly in a variety of locations/conditions.  Specifically, you'll need to learn how to cast, set up your leaders/nymph rigs, perfect your presentation, and properly catch-n-release fish. So, if you try it on your own and don't have much success, this is what I suggest:

    • Get Help: read books, watch videos, join fishing clubs, attend fishing seminars, etc.
    • Working with an instructor/guide may help you avoid years of frustration and stress.
    • Most importantly, if you work with an instructor/guide, be patient, honest,  communicate, and come prepared to learn, not necessarily catch fish (I know anglers who would rather BS all day long about how/why they are not catching fish.  In other words, they really don't want to learn... they just want a guide to catch them a trophy fish). 

    At FCFF, we spend more time teaching than guiding. Our rates and programs are designed to take you through series of classes, rather than a one or two day cram session.  If we can help, please feel free to contact us.

    Final Word

    Neatly un-organized and filled with nymphs mentioned above.

    Not many guides will show you their fly box.  If you have read a few post and if you have met me in person, you know I believe in sharing info and knowledge.  So, I leave you with this photo.  The take away message is, you don't need dozens of fly boxes and hundreds of flies.  This fly box fits into my shirt pocket and the amount of flies seen in the photo, will last me a good while.

    For information about dry flies and super flies, read the following: