Welcome to Beginning Fly Tying

Part Seven

An Introduction to Fly Tying:
The EZ-Nymph

By Al Campbell

Lots of Photos, Be Patient!

As I promised last week, it's time to tie our first fly. First we need to look at the traditional way you will see flies listed in fly tying books. If you know how they are usually presented, it will be easier to pick out the key things you need to know.

First, there is usually a narrative that describes something about the fly and how or when to use it. Next, there is a list of components used in the fly. Then you'll probably see a short list of tying steps, sometimes assuming you know a lot about fly tying. Finally, there is often more narrative about the fly and how it is useful.

Since I tend to be a little less conventional, you might not see this series of events listed this way in my fly tying series. Don't worry, it isn't written in blood anywhere that you must do things the conventional way. Just kick back and enjoy, it's about to get fun.

List of materials:

Mustad 3399A or 3906B hook or equivalent Size 10 to 16.

Pheasant tail feather - A long one from the center of the tail, can be dyed.

Black 3/0 or 6/0 thread.

Tying steps:

  • 1. Start the thread on the hook. You did this last time, so I won't go into detail again.

  • 2. Pull about 12 strands of feather fiber from a large pheasant tail feather. Since length is important, be sure to get these fibers from the upper 2/3 of the feather. Trim the base of feather stem material.

  • 3. Position the butt ends of the feather fibers about 1/5 of a hook shank back from the hook eye. This leaves room for the head of the fly later. Using two loose wraps, start tying the fibers down to the top of the hook. If you don't start with loose wraps, the fibers will twist around the hook. Once you have the loose wraps in place, you can snug them with downward pressure of the bobbin. This is a rule any time you start tying any material to the hook.

  • 4. Use a slight upward lift on the fibers as you wrap them down to the hook. This will prevent twisting of the fibers and keep them on top of the hook. This is also a rule any time you tie in a tail or any other material that will extend over the bend of the hook. Tie the fibers down to the hook bend adding a couple of extra snug wraps of thread at the hook bend end of the fibers to keep them securely in place and prevent twisting. Wrap the thread back to just behind the hook eye.

  • 5. Start wrapping the fibers forward toward the hook eye. As you get closer to the hook eye, you'll probably need to use your index finger to hold the fibers in place so you can grab them and continue wrapping. Try to adjust your wraps to cover the hook shank yet leave enough fibers to extend to the hook bend or just beyond it.

  • 6. When you reach the place where you started tying the fibers down, tie the fibers off behind the hook eye. Be sure not to crowd the head area just behind the hook eye. This is one problem beginner tyers seem to always have, they crowd the hook eye and don't leave enough room for a proper head on the fly.

  • 7. Tie the fibers down to the hook eye. There should not be any fiber wraps in the head area of the fly, just tied down fibers.

  • 8. Using your thumb and index finger, fold the fibers back toward the hook bend. Grab the fibers with the thumb and index finger of the other hand and pin them to the hook. The fibers should be evenly distributed around the hook, not just on top. Tie the fibers down in the head area of the fly, forming a smooth head. You don't need to make too many thread wraps here, just enough to form a smooth head.

  • 9. Whip finish the head with six to ten wraps of a whip finisher. Since you are tying in the head area of the hook, any whip finisher will do.

  • 10. Cut the thread and cement your wraps with a thin head cement. I've found Griffin Thin head cement to be a good type of cement for this task, but Flexament or any other thin cement will work.

    You can add a bead head to this pattern very easily. I often use gold or black beads with this fly to get it down deep. To add a bead, here's the steps.

    Bead Head Version

  • 1. Slip a bead on the hook and push it to the hook eye. Tie in the fibers to the hook bend as you did in the first fly. Bring the thread back to the head.

  • 2. Wrap the fibers forward, leaving a small amount of room for the head. Tie the fibers off like you did in the first fly. Tie the fibers right up to the bead.

  • 3. Flair the fibers back and tie down like you did in the first fly. You should now have a small amount of room behind the bead where the thread has the fibers tied down. You could whip finish it here if you wanted, but it's nice to fill in this area if you can.

    NOTE: Dubbing is available in many textures and colors. Some of it is fine and works well with dry flies. Some is course and works well with wet flies and nymphs. You can obtain dubbing ready made, or you can make your own by blending up yarns and furs in a blender or coffee grinder. I have a coffee grinder at my tying bench all the time to blend dubbing to the desired consistency and color. If you wash and dry a throw rug, be sure to check the dryer screen for some great sparkle dubbing that might have collected there.

  • 4. Take a small amount of dubbing in you hand and pull a few strands of dubbing fibers loose from the rest. Since beginners tend to use too much dubbing, a good rule is to select half the amount of dubbing you think you'll need, cut that in half, and then you'll only have twice as much as you really need. Place the few strands of dubbing up to the thread and roll it between your thumb and finger until it becomes a tight yarn around the thread. Use only a few strands at a time, you can always add more if you need it.

  • 5. Wrap the dubbing around the hook behind the head to fill the gap behind the bead. If you twisted the dubbing around the thread properly, it won't unravel when you wrap it around the hook.

  • 6. Whip finish and trim the thread. This time you'll need to use a Matarelli style whip finisher to work around the bead.

  • 7. Cement the thread just behind the bead, allowing some of the cement to absorb into the dubbing.

    I often tie this fly with pheasant tails that have been dyed black or olive. If you wish to dye up some feathers, a Rit dye with some boric acid or vinegar to help the dye set will work just fine. Be sure to rinse the feathers well after dying so your fingers wont turn black or olive.

    The EZ-nymph isn't completely my creation. It's more an adaptation of the 'teeny nymph' than anything. I've found it to be more productive in small sizes than its predecessor, and also easier to tie.

    This is a killer when fished as a soft hackle wet fly. It also works well as a nymph, especially with a bead head. When you've finished letting it drift, lift the rod tip slightly and allow it to swing to the surface. This imitates the rising motion of an emerging insect and often entices the fish into a hit.

    In lakes, the non-bead version of this fly is a favorite of mine for perch, crappie bluegills and trout. During the first few weeks after ice out on northern lakes, this fly will often bring strikes on every cast. It's also a great wet fly during the spring months on local rivers and streams.

    On the Bighorn River, I've used this fly in olive colors to match caddis pupa that were emerging in the riffles. I've hooked dozens of trout over 20 inches during the caddis emergence on that river with the ez-nymph.

    Several buddies of mine have used it successfully on salmon and steelhead in Alaska and on the west coast. I've even managed to catch carp, bass and suckers in several lakes and streams during the early summer months with it.

    This fly is easy to tie and easy to fish, but it gets its name from how easy it fools fish.

    See ya next week. ~ Al Campbell

    Beginning Fly Tying Archives

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