If you are not fly fishing nymphs you could be missing some nice trout.

Why Nymph?

Over two thirds of a trout’s diet is consumed below the surface. The larval stages of aquatic insects make up most of their diet. These insects are taken near the bottom or as they are ascending toward the surface.

The most common insects found in streams are caddisflies, mayflies and stoneflies.

Dragonflies, damselflies and leeches join the caddisflies and mayflies in lakes. As you can see the nymph stages of these insects supply a large variety of possible dining options for the trout.


Most of these nymphs are available to the trout year round, while adult flies on the surface may only be around for a short period of time. Check out our page on nymph flies.

Prince Nymph

Hares Ear Nymph

Shop our Essential Fly Boxes

Most days you want to be ready for whatever the hatch, and however the are trout taking them! Our Essential Fly Boxes feature dry, wet, and nymph patterns for the most abundant hatches: Caddisy, Mayfly, and Stonefly.

Nymph Fly Fishing Tips

The possibilities are endless for nymphing tactics are endless.


Check out Daves Hughes’ Nymph Fishing for an encyclopedic run-down of available nymphing techniques.


There are a few key elements of good nymph fly-fishing.

You must maintain a drag-free drift.  Line control is important. Learn how to mend your line to reduce drag. Think about this for a minute, would a bug floating downstream really float faster or slower than the current?

Presentation is important. Use an upstream cast, giving your fly plenty of time to sink to the level you are targeting. Some people claim that how the fly moves through the water is more important than the look of the fly itself.

Be observant! Spend time looking at and under the rocks in the stream. They will give you a good idea which color and size nymph to use.

The size, color and shape of the nymph need to be close to the natural. This only makes sense with the trout being the expert in identifying its own food. A slightly larger pattern is often effective because it gets their attention but don’t go more than a size or two larger.

Nymph colors that are good to have in your fly box are light olive, medium olive, light tan and medium tan. Slightly darker colors are also good but keep in mind that color will appear darker when wet. These are good colors for both caddisflies and mayflies.  Nymph sizes should be in the range of  #12 to #20.

Most of the time nymphs need to be near the bottom as they drift by. Although I am not a big fan of split shot they are sometimes needed to get the nymph near the bottom. Nymphs are also fished as emergers.

You need to keep in direct contact with the fly. One way is to hold your rod high, keeping most of the line off the water. This is known as “high sticking.” When fly fishing nymphs try to stay no more than several rod lengths away from the fly.

The other way of keeping contact with the nymph is to use an indicator. This allows you to maintain visual contact with what’s going on. The indicator can be a very small float, foam, yarn or wool. Floatant can be added to the yarn and wool to increase their buoyancy.

Cast upstream and at an angle. Start close and work your way out into all possible holding water. This allows you to work the stream thoroughly.

When fly fishing nymphs in a lake it is best to cast along the shore. If you have a boat move out and cast toward shore.

Learn more about this technique in our nymphing with indicators guide.

Nymphing with an Indicator


I know it is fun to watch a nice rainbow rise to your dry fly, but you need to learn the fine art of fly fishing nymphs so your success rate can improve. After all they do make up a major part of a trout’s diet and they are in the water year round.

Learn About Fly Fishing Flies

The fly is an important part of any fly fishing setup. Learn about different types from our fly guide.