Published Mar 17. 2022 - 2 years ago
Updated or edited Mar 18. 2022


The Combover is a generic mayfly nymph imitation. It gets its name from the hairstyle, now thankfully rarely seen.

Nick Thomas

The Combover is a generic mayfly nymph imitation, or approximation if you prefer. It gets its name from the hairstyle, now thankfully rarely seen, where balding men comb sparse strands of hair over a bare patch and plaster it down with some form of goo. It’s not a good look. It’s unlikely that Messrs Statham, Johnson, Diesel or Willis would have much of an action film career sporting such a tonsorial disaster.

On the Combover nymph however, it’s a good look. A single partridge feather over bald nymph skin and protected by an organza ribbon mesh makes a great looking two-tone thorax with a neat row of legs on each side.

Fibres from organza ribbon are also used to make the tails. If you’ve never tied with this versatile material before, the Combover is a good pattern to try it out. Narrow 3 mm wide ribbon is available from craft shops or online, and if you buy white or cream ribbon you can colour it in natural tones with permanent marker pens.

Nick Thomas

The ribbon is made from very fine nylon fibres with tightly woven edges. The middle of the ribbon has fibres which run from side to side and others which run the length of the ribbon. Cutting off one edge and pulling out the long fibres gives a synthetic herl which can be used to tie a wide variety of fly patterns.

To prepare the ribbon for tying a Combover cut off a length and colour it on both sides with a marker pen. Snip off a piece, trim away one edge and pull out the long fibres, the point of a dubbing needle can be useful here. Set the fibres aside ready for tying the tail.

Partridge feather
Partridge feather
Nick Thomas

The next step is to prepare the partridge hackle for the legs. Select a feather with barbs that are the length you want your nymph’s legs to be. Strip off the fluff and fibres at the base, hold the tip of the feather and pull back the barbs to isolate a section that will form the legs. Trim off the fibres on either side of the tip leaving the full-length barbs for the legs. Now you are ready to tie.

Two Combovers
Two Combovers
Nick Thomas
Pattern type: 
Nick Thomas
Fasna F-900 #12
12/0 brown
Olive organza fibres
Translucent Nymph Skin
Thorax cover
Olive 3mm organza ribbon
Partridge feather
UV-resin and varnish
Skill level/difficulty: 
  1. Run on the thread at the eye, take down the shank in touching turns and then halfway back in open turns. Snip off the tag end.
  2. Fold the organza fibres in half around the thread, pull tight and tie down along the top of the shank to form the tails. Pull the tails taut and trim to length.
  3. Wind the thread forward and catch in the end of a piece of body glass with the flat side down. Stretch the plastic and tie back down to the tails.
  4. Stretch and wind the body glass in touching turns easing off the tension as you wrap to produce a tapered abdomen. Tie in and trim off the waste end.
  5. Tie in a length of ribbon hanging back over the abdomen followed by tying in the partridge feather by the tip. Fold the feather forward and check that the fibres sit in the right place to form the legs and adjust as necessary.
  6. Cut the end of a piece of nymph skin to a point and tie in. Wind the material in overlapping turns and tie in leaving a small space behind the eye. Stretch and cut off the waste end.
  7. Fold the feather forward with the stalk running down the centre of the thorax, tie in and trim off the waste.
  8. Fold the organza over the feather, tie in at the eye and remove the waste end.
  9. Build a neat head, whip finish and cut the thread.
  10. Apply a thin coat of UV-resin to the thorax cover, followed by a coat of varnish over the top and around the head.

Close up
Nick Thomas

When tied as described above the Combover is just under 25mm/1 inch long overall. You can tie it smaller or larger and in different colours to suit the various nymphs in your lakes or rivers. It’s a versatile and effective pattern. Like many of my fly designs, it’s not intended to be a specific imitation, it’s a framework on which to build flies that meet the DILLFF? criteria. Does it look like fish food? Yes, it does.

Does it look like fish food? Yes, it does.


Log in or register to pre-fill name on comments, add videos, user pictures and more.
Read more about why you should register.

Since you got this far …

The GFF money box

… I have a small favor to ask.

Long story short

Support the Global FlyFisher through several different channels, including PayPal.

Long story longer

The Global FlyFisher has been online since the mid-90's and has been free to access for everybody since day one – and will stay free for as long as I run it.
But that doesn't mean that it's free to run.
It costs money to drive a large site like this.

See more details about what you can do to help in this blog post.