My top 8 "Confidence Nymphs" (but don't tell anyone)

My top 8 "Confidence Nymphs" (but don't tell anyone)

In the previous post I talk about why I think "confidence" flies "work" when fished, and why it matters. To sum it up, when you have confidence in the fish catching ability of a fly, you'll make a greater effort to fish it correctly, and you'll expect more eats, and make more hooksets on good drifts, which results in more fish caught. What I didn't address, however, are what my favorite "confidence flies" are. I'll list several below, many of which are common in the industry, and shouldn't come as a surprise.

1. Pine Squirrel Leech

Although this isn't as common as some of the other flies on this list, it's an absolute favorite for many of my waters. I fish and guide Wyoming a lot, and this fly is practically worshipped in the great state of large trout. It's a gloriously easy tie, and looks like a myriad of food items that a big fish is on the hunt for. I like it to be about 1 1/2 inches long, (actual size is more important than hook size on these patterns, controversial, I know), and my favorite colors are natural, black, wine, red, and natural with UV brown ice dubbing for the body. I usually dead drift them, but they are a great option for swinging or even stripping. Often, at the end of my dead drifts, I'll lift the fly slowly, jerk strip it up stream, etc. Gives you the best of both worlds, and can often convince a skeptical brown that it needs to eat before it loses the opportunity. My personal best brown at 31" was caught on a pine squirrel leech under a small hopper, in about a foot of water. They also look strikingly like a crawdad, and imitate them very well if you fish areas that have a lot of these brown trout steroid-esque snacks.


(Picture credit, Charlies Fly Box)

2. "Euro" Pheasant Tail Nymph

This is a fly more familiar with these type of lists. It's on my rig more often than not, frequently in conjunction with the pine squirrel leech discussed above. One clump of about 4-5 pheasant tail fibers for both the tail, and also wrapped for the body. Ribbed with small size copper wire,  and with a thorax of peacock black ice dubbing. I ditch the legs and actual peacock herl. They look great, but for a guide fly, I'll just break it to ya, the fish absolutely do not care. I sometimes don’t tie a wing case either. Often times, I think they actually prefer a simpler fly that gives them less to find "wrong" with the pattern. I put super glue under the pheasant tail in addition to the wire counterwrapped above it, and the result is practically indestructible.

3. The Mighty Duracell

This one took a little while, but it's grown on me, and I now fish it a lot. This little pattern took the euro world by storm as many anglers around the world discovered the fish catching sorcery of UV brown Ice Dubbing. The stuff is absolutely nuts. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but you could probably strap the stuff to a bare hook with a reverse taper and 0X tippet and still catch fish. Ok, maybe that's a little excessive, but the pattern fishes really well. In larger sizes, I find it great as an attractor and general searching nymph. In smaller sizes, it makes one of my favorite baetis emerger patterns, and does a great job imitating caddis as well. I usually tie the Duracell with medium or dark dun hen hackle instead of cdc. I personally think that it has less water resistance, and so sinks faster, is more durable, and is faster to tie. All good reasons for me, but substituting anything on this pattern might get me stabbed by loyal Duracell fans around the world one of these days.


4. Walt's, not, waltz, worm.

The guy that invented this gem was named Walt, and he designed the fly essentially as a bunch of lead covered in a little hares ear plus dubbing. The idea was to sink his other flies, and basically be an "eatable drop shot". Well, it produced many more fish than most of his other favorite producers, and quickly became a favorite in the euro scene. I prefer the original Walt's Worm as opposed to the modified "Sexy Walt's Worm" which adds a hotspot, flashy ribbing, and often a hot tag. The reason is that when I'm fishing a Walt's Worm, I want something that is as unassuming and all-imitating as possible. I want it to look drag and buggy. The flashy variations are great, and they have a time and place for sure, but I tend to reach for other flies, (like the Duracell discussed above) when I need something with flash. Throw super glue under the dubbing so that you can brush it out and still keep the fly together, fully covered, and durable. Some fine copper wire to rib also looks nice and gives a great segmented look. Just depends on if you want a tighter or more scruffy profile. Each has a time and place if you ask me.


5. Foam back Emerger!

It's hard to not pick a million flies for this list, but the dependable foam back is a fly that has caught me so many fish, and is so often on my line, that it just had to make the cut. Called the "Chocolate thunder" in many circles, it's basically a brown colored black beauty with a small white foam wing tied in at the thorax. I have a theory about white hotspots on flies, and I think it holds some real water, but that's for another post. At the end of the day, the foam back emerger just looks like absolutely anything and everything small and buggy. If you fish tailwaters, especially pressured ones, this fly is a non-negotiable. It's a midge, it's a baetis, it's a pmd, and it's your new favorite fly. 


6. San Juan, or Squirmy, worms

Sorry, but they had to make the list. They just simply catch fish, and after a summer rain storm, fish on my local waters will literally be throwing up balls of earthworms. Fishing anything else in these circumstances would pretty much label me as an idiot. There's been much to say about the squirmy in recent years, and it's a great fly, but I think the San Juan catches just as many fish, and is much more durable. Everyone that ties and fishes squirmies knows they tend to disintegrate at the slightest provocation. Get superglue on them, they melt. Leave them in a hot fly box (an often unavoidable occurrence), they melt. Look at then wrong, they melt. (Just kidding, but it often feels that way). A properly tied San Juan seems like it could take a beating from a steel bat and then drop by the grocery store on it's way home to grab some bananas. They're tough. That being said, I think fish hold onto squirmies longer, and both patterns have a place in my arsenal.


7. Some Type of Egg (Nuke Egg, McFly Foam egg, Eggstacy Egg)

It's not all that deep. Fish just eat a ton of eggs whenever they can. It's pretty much a cheat code in the spring and fall. The "fabric eggs VS. plastic eggs" debate has been going on forever, and I fish some of both. I find that fish tend to hold onto fabric ones better because the material tends to stick to the fishes mouths and teeth, (velcro effect), but plastic ones look almost identical to the real thing, and very rarely get refused. Just don't let me catch you fishing either option over redds. It's unethical, unsporting, and hurts the fish population. Don't be that guy. (And I'll rub peanut butter on all your truck door handles before you can get back to the parking lot).  


8. Rubber Legs

Big fish love stonefly nymphs. They're in the water year round, because many species have life cycles that span over 2 or 3 years, meaning that they exist as a food source in the winter, when most of the options presented to fish are much much smaller. They provide a high protein and calorie food source in a package that is helpless and harmless to trout. It's the ideal food, right up there with dead baitfish, leeches, worms, cranefly larvae, scuds, and eggs. Non-escaping food theory (from the popular author and Colorado angler Landon Mayer) changed the way I fish, and stonefly nymphs fit this theory perfectly. The age old Pat's Rubber Legs and it's many variations are my preferred pattern choice. I tie mine on a jig hook, with a really heavy tungsten bead, 2 rubber legs off the back for a tail, simi seal dubbing with super glue underneath, 2 legs on each side of the body, and no antennae (I feel the antennae don't look right when tied with a heavy slotted tungsten jig, and don't effect the fish catching ability of the fly, so I just chuck 'em). This simple pattern is my go to for any freestone stream, or anywhere that stonefly nymphs make up a significant portion of a trout's diet. I fish them almost constantly in the winter, because like I mentioned above, they are often available to trout year round, and so in the winter they tend to convince larger trout to move for a meal that is a little higher in calories and protein.





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