Fly Of The Week
Carrot Nymph
Carrot Nymph
By Skip Morris, Port Ludlow, WA, USA

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Fly Tying Terms

Carrot Nymph

This is an old-time Pacific Northwest fly. I found it in Enos Bradner's book Northwest Angling, when I was in my teens. Bradner describes it as a "taker on cutthroats and brook trout in small lakes, beaver ponds, or sloughs." Bradner gives no suggestion of what trout take it to be. He says only that "the 'live' action of the hackle fibers as the fly is stripped through the water usually produces a strike." Fair enough.

That live action produces strikes from pan fish as well. The Carrot Nymph is likely the first fly I every caught a bluegill on, and I've caught plenty on it since. On a heavily fished little gravel-pit pond in the dust and sagebrush of eastern Washington State, a size 12 Carrot Nymph put me into a largemouth bass of at least three pound. The bass took it quietly, panicked at the hook's sting, and then towed me and my tiny boat around for a minute or two before the hook came free. It must have seen hundreds of flies and lures, perhaps thousands, before it fell for my unassuming little orange nymph. Under conditions such as these, largemouth bass often become remarkably canny feeders, especially, big largemouth bass.

And I've hooked other bass on the Carrot Nymph, but I think of it not as a bass fly but as a pan-fish fly.

There is, of course, nothing magical about this particular mix of colors and materials. Add wings, change the body to tan, add a tail and omit the gold tag it will still catch pan fish. It will catch them because they take it simply as something alive and edible, not at all in the precise way a trout takes an imitation of a mayfly during a mayfly hatch. So play with the Carrot Nymph if you wish, change, or use some other nymph or wet fly. You can even tie it on a long-shank hook so that you can use that shank as a sort of lever or handle to free the fly. But I'll keep it pretty much as it was in Bradner's day, because it's delectably plump with a touch of eye-catching sparkle, because it has orange, which for some reason I think bluegills are especially fond of; and because, like Bradner, I like the "live action"of its hackle.

But just because I keep a fly pattern pretty much as it was does not mean I keep it exactly as it was. Like most fly tiers, I usually throw a few personal twists into a standard fly pattern, and so it is with the Carrot. To flatten the body and give it life I use bright synthetic dubbing in a budding-loop, in place of the original wool year. I use a hackle that is slightly shorter than Bradner's he says it should be "tied spider." And if I'm in a hurry I skip the tag, though I usually include it.


    Hooks:  Heavy wire, regular shank to 1X long, sizes 14 to 8. (The hook shown is a Gamakatsu F-15.)

    Thread:  Black 8/0 or 6/0 (orange looks good too).

    Tag:  Fine flat gold tinsel.

    Body:  Bright, orange synthetic dubbing (the original pattern calls for wool yarn.)

    Hackle:  A gray or brown partridge flank feather (I prefer the gray).

Tying Instructions:

1. Start the thread at the bend. There bind on some fine flat gold tinsel. Most flat Mylar tinsel has a silver side and a gold side. You can bind it on with the silver side up, then fold the tinsel over as you begin wrapping it; or you can simply bind on the tinsel at an angle to the shank, with the gold side up. Either way, you want the gold side showing for the finished tag. Wrap the tag neither overlapping nor spacing the turns. Wrap the tinsel back up to the bend, again in close turns. When it reaches the thread, secure the tinsel's end under tight thread-turns and trim it closely. I like to use hackle pliers in wrapping the tinsel. The tag should reach 3 to 5 turns down the bend.

2. Pull down the bobbin until there are about 10 inches (25 cm) of bare thread between it and the hook. Wax the thread.

3. Double the thread over a dubbing whirl (shown above) or a dubbing twister. Wrap the end of the thread (the end coming from the bobbin) onto the hook's shank -- the thread should now form a loop, from which hangs the whirl or twister. This loop is often called a "dubbing loop." Wrap the thread toward the bend a bit to lock both ends of the loop in place. The loop should be secured at or just ahead of the bend. Spiral the thread forward to just back from the hook's eye.

4. Tease a small bunch of bright synthetic dubbing to an elongated triangle (shown is Partridge's SLF, but any bright dubbing is fine.)

5. Open the thread loop and slip in the triangle of dubbing. The tip of the long dubbing-triangle should be near the hook; the length of the triangle should run along the dubbing loop, not across it. Pinch the sides of the loop together to hold the dubbing lightly in place. Tease the dubbing so that it spreads out along the closed loop.

6. Spin the whirl or twister so that the loop of thread and dubbing become tightly twisted into one. If you are using a dubbing whirl, drape the end of the dubbing loop over your finger; then spin the whirl. Make a few wraps of the loop in one spot until the dubbing reaches the shank (the dubbing should reach the shank at the bend; wrap the loop back, if needed to accomplish this.) Wrap the thread-dubbing rope up the shank in close turns to slightly back from the eye. The rope will be shaggy, so it pays to stroke back each turn before adding the next. I often clamp the end of the dubbing loop into hackle pliers for this work.

7. Secure the end of the dubing loop with tight thread-turns; trim its end closely. Tease out the body-fibers to fullness with a bodkin. I like to remove the hook from the vise and trim the shaggy body to a taper, or even a cigar shape. With care, this trimming can be done without cutting the thread. But whether or not you cut the thread, a half hitch at the front of the body is good insurance.

8. Strip the fluffy fibers from the base of a partridge feather and bind it just behind the eye, projecting off the eye. Wrap the thread back in a few tight turns over the stem and shank to the front of the body, and then trim the stem. The fibers remaining at the base of the stripped stem can be as short as the hook's shank to nearly as long as the full length of the hook-- personal preference.

9. Use hackle pliers to wrap the feather back in 2 or 3 close turns to the front of the body. Hold the hackle pliers stationary as you spiral the thread forward through the hackle fibers to the eye. Let the bobbin hang. Trim out the feather's tip.

10. Use your fingers formed into a triangle to stroke back all the feather fibers. Holding thus, build a tapered thread head, whip finish and trim the thread, add head cement to the head.

Fishing the Carrot Nymph:

For bluegills, I've long fished the Carrot Nymph just under the surface on a floating line, usually in the shallows, around cover. But I've done well with it down on a sinking line.

It is simple and deadly. And, yes, as Bradner say, it can be good on trout, too. ~ Skip Morris

Credits: From Skip Morris's The Art of Tying the Bass Fly Published by Frank Amato Publications. We sincerely thank them for use permission.

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