Adventures in Fly Tying...
The Prince Nymph
(Mad River Style)
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard
"Trout also learn through natural
curiosity, sampling their environment, which is why they adapt to so
many different waters. Trout will sample just about anything that
is not perceived as a threat. This is where attractor flies come
in." The small book Nymphing Strategies by Larry Tullis
(Lyons Press ISBN 1-58574-266-X) provides excellent instruction in
fishing and selecting the proper fly. Tullis continues; "Attractor
flies also have built-in triggers. White wings and rubber legs
often trigger a feeding response, as do brown, black, peacock herl, and
flash components. The rest of the fly may not matter to the trout
at all. Once you figure out what type of trigger works best, you
should have a good day of fishing. Cover lot's of water with
attractor-nymph patterns to get the most opportunistic fish.
Typical attractor patterns include the Prince Nymph..."
You shouldn't wonder why the
Prince Nymph is included in Mr. Tullis' list of flies, it has four of
the six triggers he mentions! The Prince Nymph is ubiquitous for a
reason. Like the Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, the Copper John, and the
Pheasant Tail Nymph, the Prince Nymph is a universally productive
quasi-imitation of an underwater bug. It looks alive, but
different. In the natural world different will get you killed.
It often ends that way for this fly.
The Prince is a great scouting
pattern. I like to fish this fly as part of a dual nymph dropper
rig. I'll use the Prince as the front fly in a size 14 and trail a
size 18 or 20 red blood worm imitation or perhaps a small caddis pupa
fly like an RS2. I fish this fly on a tight-line swing or
dead-drifted and I use as little lead as possible. Fluorocarbon
tippet material helps me sink the flies quickly and presents a nearly
invisible link. For a size 14 Prince, use a 4X tippet of about
4-feet in length. The dropper to the smaller trailing nymph will
be a 5x Fluorocarbon about 18-inches long. If I need more depth or
a faster sink rate I use small splitshot between the Prince and
Give this set-up a try next time
you head out for some cold weather browns. You may find that you
fish with a Prince in the cold, in the dark, in the morning and in the
summer. It's a great fly and you should carry it in several sizes.
Hook: Mustad C53S, 9671, TMC 5263, sizes 10 -
Thread: Black, 8/0
Weight: Optional Lead wire
Tails: Dark brown goose biots, short, one each side
Rib: Fine or very fine gold tinsel or wire
Body: Peacock herl, 3 strands
Hackle: Hen neck, mottled brown
Horns: Gray Canada Goose biots (get these on equal length and
straight or the fly will spin) on the sample shown. While goose
biots on the original tie. You can also use two pieces of white
rubber leg material!
Windows Media Video
The secret of the
Prince Nymph is in the biots. Biots are the thick, sculpted
feather barbs that make up the leading edge of the primary flight
feather of a bird's wing. We can use biots from many birds,
but goose and turkey are the most common and best because of their
useable length and abundance. Many times you can pick up shed
flight feathers from Canada geese and get enough biots for a dozen
fly tail or bodies while you are walking through the local park in
The Prince Nymph should be tied
on a size 10 to 14 hook. Size 16 is useable, but below that
the parts of the fly begin to loose definition and attraction.
The Prince Nymph is an attractor, but it is designed to pass as a
small stonefly or similar insect. The hook l like best for
mayfly and stonefly nymphs in these sizes is the C53S Signature hook
the biot strip or flight feather wiht the biots you want to use for
the tails. This fly traditionally uses dark brown biots. There
is a variation that is very effective known as the "Dark Prince."
It is tied with black or dark brown biot tails, black or dark brown
biot horns and black hackle over a peacock body. Strip away or
cut away two biots for the tails, measure and tie in on each side.
small ball of thread or place a tiny ball of dubbing to help hold
the biots apart. Tie in one biot so the concave side faces out
and the tail sweeps away from the hook. Tie in its exact match
on the opposite side. Take some time to make sure you get
these biots the same length and positioned symmetrically to prevent
the fly from spinning or twisting during the cast or drift.
Biots are stiff and act like little rudders.
have the two biots tied in. Note the symmetrical placement.
These biots are a bit long, often the fly is tied with a very short
and stumpy tail. I like just a bit more length in my fly for
no reason other than I like the appearance. The fish don't
seem to mind!
three peacock herls for the body. Tie them in by the tips
after cutting or pinching off the very finest tip ends, which can
easily break during the tying process. Tie the peacock in at
the point where the body will end and wrap back to the tail's tie-in
point so the peacock herl also forms a smooth underbody. Bring
the thread back to the tie-in point.
Tie in a
length of oval gold tinsel, copper or gold wire for ribbing.
Tie the ribbing in at the same point where you tied in the peacock
herls for the body. Wrap a smooth base for an underbody and bring
leave the thread at the tail tie-in point. You will wrap the herls
around the thread to make a peacock herl and thread "chenille".
Wrap the herl/thread combo back to the point where the body will
body is complete. Note the peacock herl wrapped around the
tying thread. This reinforces the body and makes for a more
durable fly. Tie off the peacock herl and make four or five
neat wraps of the tinsel ribbing. I omit the ribbing on size
16 flies. If I want a bit of flash on the smaller patterns
I'll take a single strand of pearl Flashabou and wrap it with
the peacock herls as part of the chenille. The ribbing should
be counter-wrapped to reinforce the herls even more.
hen hackle in a mottled brown color. Conversely you can use
dark partridge, pheasant, grouse or any game bird that you would use
to tie a soft hackle fly. You want to select a feather with barbs
that are as long as the body of the fly. The original pattern calls
for a "beard" of brown hackle, but I find a wrapped, sparse hackle
collar gives a lot more action in the water and makes for a buggier
wraps of hackle in front of the body, no more than two. The
hackle must be sparse. Make sure you don't crowd the eye of
the hook as there are still the biot horns to be tied in. I'm
not sure what the horns represent, but they are the identifying mark
of the Prince nymph. If you leave out these horns you've, in
essence, tied a brown hackle peacock soft-hackle fly with a tail!
wing biots from the white or gray biot strip. You should tie
these wing biots, or horns, so they end at a point even with the end
of the peacock herls. Tie them in so the concave side faces up
and make sure that the biots are even and centered to prevent
spinning of the fly during the cast or retrieve. Some tiers
attach the biots concave-side-down, but I find the slight upturn
helps create a sonic signature in the water. I like to take
advantage of every opportunity to fool the fish, and sound is one
more opportunity! If you use the beard hackle technique, the
concave-side-down orientation looks better.
the horns, form a neat thread head and finish the fly. Coat
the thread with a bit of thread cement. I like to use Sally
Hansen's Hard as Nails nail polish in clear or black.
Till next time, tight lines and soft water…