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Clinger Nymph
By Dave Hughes

Clingers, as their name implies, grip bottom stones tightly, and are able to live right in the midst of the most brutal flows. They are not found in lakes or ponds, but can be found in most types of moving water, from the fastest rapids and cascades to more peaceful and meandering tailouts and flats. They'll be most abundant where nature creates the most microniches for the; small spaces between and beneath pebbles and stones. So you'll find the greatest numbers of these nymphs associated with the gravel and cobble substrate of riffles and runs.

Many clinger nymphs, when ready for emergence, swim to the top or to within inches from it, like the crawlers, where the dun excapes the nymphal shuck. Some trout concentrate on this pre-emerger phase, and you'll do well fishing an imitation between one and two feet deep. My friends and I often fish rough searching nymphs in the approximate size and color of the nymph we know is out there, on the bottom or a foot or two deep, in the hours before a hatch that we know will occur later in the day. When the hatch begins, we watch for signs that trout are taking floating duns consistently before we make the switch from nymphs to dries.

Natural clinger nymphs vary from tiny size 20s in their early instars up to large size 10s. Near maturity most average size 12 to 16, and that is therefore the sizes trout are most likely to feed on selectively. Colors reflect the dark bottoms on which clinger nymphs live, and vary from tannish-olive to brownish-black. You can vary the following dressing in size and color to match any clinger nymph you might collect.

Materials List: Clinger Nymph

    Hook: Standard nymph, 1X or 2X long, size 10 to 18.

    Weight: Lead wire outriggers.

    Thread: Black 6/0 or 8/0.

    Tails: Pheassant tail fibers, splayed.

    *Abdomen: Fur or synthetic dubbing, clipped top and bottom.

    Wingcase: Turkey or goose feather section.

    Thorax: Muskrat, Australian opossum, or squirrel fur, with guard hairs.

    *Note: I prefer a mix of rabbit fur and Antron fibers for the flattened abdomen, but you can use anything that dubs roughly, and therefore can be clipped to form a wide but thin body.

Instructions - Clinger Nymph:

1. Insert a hook in the vise and layer the shank with theread. Lash a short piece of lead wire, the diameter of the hook shank, to the far side. Lash a second piece to the near side. Be sure to leave room to tie in the tail and finish the head.

2. Form a slight hump, over which to splay the tails, with a few extra turns of thread at the bend of the hook. Measure three pheasant tail fibers the length of the hook shank or a little shorter, and tie them in so they are spread evenly.

3. Make a very loose dubbing rope with your chosen abdomen fur. To do this, wax your thread well, then spread the dubbing loose and wide on the thread. Capture the working thread over your forefinger, return it to the hook shank, and secure it with a few turns. Then let the thread collapse onto the fur and twist the end until you have a wide fur rope.

4. Wrap this fur rope forward over two-thirds of the hook shank. Clip it tightly on the top and on the underside. Make a slanted cut on the far side, from wide at the head to close at the tail. Make a similar cut on the near side. The result should be a flattened wedge.

5. Clip a feather section about the width of the hook gap. Tie this windcase in at the end of the abdomen. Clip a patch of fur from the hide you've chosen. Leave the guard hairs in. You'll often need to clip the fur at the butt ends to shorten it to an appropriate length. Form a spiky dubbing rope with this fur. Moisten your fingertips and stroke this rope until all the fur comes from one side of the rope.

6. Wind this fur rope to the hook eye, stroking it back as you take each wrap forward. Clip the fur from the top of the shank, and draw the wingcase forward. Tie it off behind the hook eye, clip the excess, make a neat thread head, and whip-finish the fly. Tidy it up, if you'd like, by plucking stray hairs from the sides and bottom.

This style fly is based on a similar dressing in Poul Jorgensen's Modern Fly Dressings for the Practical Angler (Winchester Press, 1976), one of the finest works ever written on the art of tying flies, I'd recommend you tie and carry the style with a brown abdomen, red fox squirrel thorax, and turkey wingcases, in sizes 12 to 16. It will work for most clingers. If you collect specimens this version fails to match, then vary the color of the components until you find what the trout desire.

Standard wet-fly swing

Fishing the Clinger Nymph

Fish clinger dressing in one of two ways: either right along the bottom in fast water or along the edges of it, or else up near the top in the same water or in currents that are somethat slower. To fish a clinger nymph on the bottom, rig with split shot and strike indicator. Vary the amount of shot and distance between the shot and indicator to make sure you get the fly into the strike zone. If you fail to take trout with this method, it's more likely you've not getting down far enough than it is that you've got the wrong fly. This is especially true in swift water.

Fish with this method over the broad expanse of a riffle or run, or concentrate your casts along current seams off to the edge of riffles, runs, and even rapids. You can use the same shot and indicator setup to probe pockets in fast water, but once again be sure that you get the fly to the bottom.

When fishing the same style fly during a hatch, for trout concentrating on nymphs rather than duns, you can make your presentation in one of two ways. The first is the standard wet fly swing. This old method can be very effective, because the naturals are seen by trout in the process of rising toward the surface, though their swimming is beeble. An imitative nymph fished on the swing reflects this behavior well, but you must slow the swing with constand mends if the fly begins to swim faster than a natural might.

The second method for fishing a clinger nymph during a hatch is to rig precisely as you might with a dry fly, using a long leader and fine tippet. Make your casts upstream, or better yet up-and-across the current, in such a way that you get a natural dead drift right down the feeding lane of visibly working trout. You're fishing the nymph as you would a dry, but you've got to be far more watchful for signs of a take. If your line tip moves upstream an inch, or you see the flash of a turning flank or white of an opening mouth, raise the rod tip to set the hook.

Chances are a trout will be out there, attached to your dead-drifted clinger nymph. ~ Dave Hughes

Credits: From Matching Mayflies by Dave Hughes and published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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