In all but the slowest stretches of river, I keep Prince nymphs as the "go-to" patterns when there appears to be no surface activity.
While many of the patterns I use are natural, drab looking creations (I’ll cover a few of those in the future!), one pattern that looks like rows of Christmas tree ornaments in my nymph box is usually what I reach for.
It is the beloved bead-headed prince nymph. It is truly the definition of an "attractor" pattern……or is it? It works too well for me to believe that I can appeal to the trout’s curiosity so often.
I have arrived at some theories. The pattern really shines in fast water where typically more stoneflies live. It is also where you’ll find the isonychia nymphs. Both are (or should I say, can be) very dark in colour all, or part of the time. So then, what are those bright white biots supposed to be? When studying the shucks of freshly hatched stoneflies on rocks, you’ll often see white, stringy stuff hanging out of what used to be the wingcase, where its split. It is dramatically white in comparison to the dark brown/black colour of the shuck. On my September trip down to NY there were loads of isonychia shucks on rocks near where I was fishing. The same white matter was hanging out of the shucks. Guess what pattern hooked a nice rainbow on the second cast? The truth is, they have worked VERY well in almost any river I’ve used them.
Tying these flies takes some practice, and lots of "set-up." It is all in proportions. Too much or too little in one spot makes the next step difficult to execute. Take your time.
On a summer bass outing to Chemong lake, a friend of mine was casting to a rocky shoal and hooking a bluegill or smallmouth on nearly every cast. As the fly "expert" in the boat, I was too proud to ask him what he was using. I was convinced the big streamers I was using were the ticket. As every fly fisher knows, this is a very nagging situation. I broke down and asked him. He held up one of the bead headed princes I gave him on the Credit a month earlier. I switched, and had the same action for almost three hours! I don’t consider it a warmwater fly, but the experience made me love the fly even more than I already did. Cheers, Rob
Tying The Prince Nymph Fly Pattern
Hook:Tiemco 101 size #16-#10/Daiichi 1180 (or a standard length nymph
Thread:Black 6/0 and 8/0
Bead:gold-plated brass 1/8" with tapered hole
Weight:med. or small lead wire
Tail:brown goose biot
Wing:White goose biot
Hackle:brown wet fly
Rib:fine gold mylar (it is made silver one side, gold the other-silver
faces out on spool)
Slide bead on to hook, pinch barb if necessary. Make 10-14 wraps of lead behind it and slide it up the shank INTO the large hole in the back of the bead. Using the 6/0
Using the 6/0 thread, secure the back of the lead wraps and create a taper for the hearl to ride on. Make sure to wind over the wraps a few times as well.
To create the wing, cut the biots from the stem, and cross them over until the tips are even, and the length looks right. Add a small drop of head cement (diluted Dave’s Flexament is all I use in all my tying) between them and clamp them gently.
Switch to 8/0 thread. Create a small dubbing ball near the bend in the hook, brown is fine. Tie the biots in, one at a time making sure they are on top, and appear flat when viewed from the side. Bind them down, trim butts.
Wind thread forward as shown.
Tie in wing, making sure the curve of the biots appear as shown. Tie them in at the point where the biots cross.
Select a hackle feather. I prep. mine running my fingernail along the underside of the stem to put more curve in it. This helps to keep the fibers against the body of the fly when wound. Flip the feather over, strip the webby, fluffy fibers off the bottom. I strip the right side as the feathers I have because they have a few too many fibers per inch, resulting in too much hackle, even if only wound once. This may not be necessary with the hackle you have. Experiment.
Tie in hackle, naked side facing you. I add a drop of cement at the tie in point. Wind thread back and tie in mylar rib, gold side down.
Tie in 7-8 strands of peacock herl, tips first. As the tips are fragile at times, I first select the number I need, line up the tips, and pull/cut-off the first 1/2".
This almost guarantees the herl won’t break as you wind it.
Wind all the herl forward approx. 3/4 of the way up to the bead and tie off. Wind the mylar rib forward, gold side out. Cut tag end of rib off.
To make room for a nice, flat hackle collar, trim off half of the peacock herl, leaving the 4 best. Wind them forward, tightly against the bead. Trim butts.
Wind hackle once, twice if necessary. Tie off, trim remaining hackle as you would a dry fly.
Pinch the wing down as shown, stroking any hackle fibers on top to the sides.
Carefully wind thread over the "bend" in the biot wing as shown. If you have managed a nice, full base of peacock herl against the bead, this step should
be pretty easy. If there is too much herl, the wing won’t lay flat.
Use just enough thread to cover the tie-down spot and tie-off. Apply head cement to thread wraps using your bodkin.
Some points worth mentioning if this fly is new to you.
1.It can be tied with, or without beads. Like any bead-headed fly, you can substitute colours of the beads.
2.The only variation of the fly shown here that I tie is on a curved shank/scud hook, silver bead and silver mylar rib. Works well too!
3.Yes, the Tiemco 101 IS (or Daiichi 1180) a dry fly hook. I’ve been using dry fly hooks on all my nymphs for years. The barbs are much finer, the wire is likely more difficult to see by the trout and I think they are sharper than the heavy wire nymph hooks.
I like the idea that the weight is controlled by me, not the wire gauge.
4.The last point I’ll make about the fly is that better than 90% of the ones I tie/use are size #10. The big trout like that size, the little ones are O.K. with it too! Good luck,