The Universal Nymph
It's a beadhead, no, a hare's ear, no... How about a flashback pheasant-tail... could be sort-of-a prince nymph, maybe a copper-john-alike or a biot-bug; whatever it is, it's versatile!. This is the Universal Nymph by GFF partner Steve Schweizter.
The Universal Nymph takes signature attributes from the prince nymph, hare's ear, a beadhead, a pheasant-tail and a flashback to create a truly versatile searching nymph.
Some nymphs work, some nymphs don't. It depends on the water you are fishing and the bug life the water sustains. But in nearly all water worldwide, a versatile searching nymph pattern is hard to beat when you scratch your head on what to use. Enter the Universal Nymph. We in the Labs at Global Fly Fisher did some expirimenting by taking the most famous parts of the world's best generic nymphs: hare's ear, prince nymph, biot-body, copper john, flashback, and pheasant tail. What did we get?! The Universal nymph! Certainly we aren't the first to figure this out, but we thought it would be nice to be the first to share our latest creation from the Lab!
While the fly looks complicated, it really isn't. Follow along in the steps below and learn a few tying secrets on how to make your nymph tying better.
In addition to a hook and a bead for the head, the materials are simple: fine copper wire, some sort of small brown feather (a partridge feather is shown stripped and prepared for tying to the middle-right), holographic mylar, golden goose biot, and some rabbit or squirrel fur dubbing.
The Universal Nymph Materials
- Nymph hook
- Brown 6/0 thread
- Bead for head (optional)
- Natural rabbit or squirrel dubbing
- Grouse, partridge or chinese hen feather
- Holographic or pearl mylar
- fine copper wire
- Gold goose biot
To speed the tying process, prepare 6-12 hooks with beads all at once.
In our tying example, a #14 hook, de-barbed, is used. Place a bead (if desired) on the hook prior to tying on the copper wire. Tie the copper wire on the top of the hook. This will aide in wrapping the wire over the biots as shown in the next few steps.
Taper your dubbing to get a tapered body. Try not to overlap dubbing turns as you build the body. This will only make it harder to pick out later.
Using hare's ear or hare's mask dubbing, dub a tapered body directly up to the bead. Use a little extra dubbing next to the bead to ensure it won't move about by 'wedging' it in place.
Biots can be tricky to seat correctly the first time. Be firm with your thread wraps using ample tension to seat the biots correctly the first time.
Match two biots together so the points flair outward. Place them on the side of the dubbed body, pointing rearward. Tie in at the bead to secure the biots in the proper position.
There is no need to wrap the fine wire tightly: it's purpose is to hold the biots in place and provide a ribbing effect.
Now, wrap the wire forward in a palmered fashion to secure the biots to the dubbed body. Trim off excess biot.
Proper nymph proportion suggests that the thorax should start at the mid-point of the hookshank.
Using holographic mylar, wrap a small piece to the top of the dubbed body from the bead back to the mid-point of the hookshank.
To obtain a bushy dubbed body, loosely apply dubbing to the thread.
Loosely dub a thorax using dubbing from a hare's ear or hare's mask. Pick it out using a toothbrush or bodkin to desired "buggy-ness".
Prepare a few grouse feathers in advance to have them ready when you need them. See the materials picture above to get an idea on how to prepare the feathers.
This is arguably the most difficult part of the fly. Use a prepared grouse (or suitable hen feather) feather as shown above in the materials listing section. Place the 'V' of the feather straddling the beadhead as shown in Step 7a. Secure it in place with 2 firm wraps. Now, pull the feather stem away from the beadhead to obtain the length of leg hackle you desire as shown in Step 7b.. There really is no wrong or right length here, just personal preference. Trim off excess feather and stem.
Apply a drop of thin head cement on the UNDERSIDE of the fly to secure the thread wraps. Placing a drop on the top mylar will do little to making a durable fly.
Bring the mylar over the top of the dubbed thorax, tie off at the beadhead, trim and secure with a good whip finish.
The finished Universal Nymph.
A batch of Universal Nymphs looks downright buggy looking. They can easily imitate a stonefly or a mayfly, or, just be a really effective searching nymph.