Last month I published a short feature series on James Leisenring’s favorite soft-hackled nymphs. Leisenring first listed these patterns in his 1941 book, “The Art of Tying The Wet Fly.” Here’s a single reference list of the seven nymphs, a photo of each pattern, and a link to the original post with my comments and tying instructions.
Heed the sage advice of Big Jim: “Now, in nymph fishing your hook must be exceedingly sharp…more fish are lost because of dull, cheap hooks than all other causes combined…” — James Leisenring
Tups Nymph (nymph version)
March Brown Nymph
Dark Olive Nymph
Pale Watery Nymph
Pale Watery Nymph (light-colored dun version)
July Dun Nymph
Tie and fish these soft-hackled nymphs with confidence, just as James Leisenring did nearly one hundred years ago.
This is the second Pale Watery Nymph listed in Leisenring’s book. He adds the qualifier, “effective when light-colored duns are on the water.” No doubt. Buggy, simple, and highly edible.
Leisenring’s Pale Watery Nymph (light-colored duns)
Hook: 15, 16
Silk: White, waxed with colorless wax
Hackle: One turn of very short honey dun cock hackle.
Tail: Three strands of very short, soft-blue-dun cock fibers.
Body: Undyed seal fur or pale buff Australian opossum fur dubbed lightly at the tail and thicker at the thorax.
Tying notes: Absent cock hackle, I used hen. I didn’t have the right color opossum, so I used Hareline Dubbin rabbit. This is a very straightforward tie.
It was my bad, folks, as the original date conflicted with the state hockey tournament. New dates for the Wet Flies and Soft Hackles weekend at Legends BNB on the Farmington are March 13-15. I’ll be there on Saturday March 14 to lead a day-long tying class and wet fly seminar. You get to stay at an amazing lodge on the banks of the Farmington and, weather permitting, get out and do a little fishing. Please note, you cannot book through me — you need to contact Legends directly. Last year’s event was a blast — hope to see you there!
Here we have Big Jim’s take on the legendary GRHE. (Sounds like a British title: Sir James Leisenring, GRHE.) Buggy, spikey, flashy, and who doesn’t love a pattern made with wood duck — or “mandarin” as they called it back in the day. I have to confess that I’d just as soon dispense with the wings, but Leisenring thought differently. He wrote, “I use an English woodcock feather for winging this fly because it has a bar lacking in our American woodcock. By taking one of these sepia-colored secondary feathers with the buff bar, I dress my Hare’s Ear with a buff tip to their wings and find it very effective.”
Hook: Wet fly, 13-14 (I used a 1xl)
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: None: a few fibers of dubbing picked out for legs
Tail: Two or three fibers of the fine mottled feather of a wood duck or mandarin duck
Rib: Very narrow flat gold tinsel
Body: Fur from the lobe or base of a hare’s ear spun on primrose-yellow silk
Wings: English woodcock secondaries with buff tips
Tying Notes: The tail on this fly is why you save those precious leftover wood duck scraps from winging Dark Hendricksons and Light Cahills. It’s easy enough to dip into your Hareline Dubbin bag o’ hare’s ear, but go out and buy the actual mask for a more authentic tying experience. (Not to mention you can pick and choose the color and texture of the fur.) I used a tool to pick out fur along the length of the body. Buggy is good!
What’s the difference between a Partridge and Orange and an Orange Partridge? Not much. And everything. Sure, the gold rib provides segmentation and a hint of flash. But for me, it’s the brown speckled hackle that gives the Orange Partridge an entirely different energy. They liked this pattern for olives on the streams of Yorkshire; I’m seeing caddis all the way. Tell you what: let the trout decide what it is. And hold on tight.
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-16
Rib: Fine gold wire
Hackle: Brown speckled feather from a partridge’s back
Another straightforward tie. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.