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Adventures in Fly Tying... January 2007

The Prince Nymph (Mad River Style)
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard

"Trout also learn through natural curiosity, sampling their environment, which is why they adapt to so many different waters.  Trout will sample just about anything that is not perceived as a threat.  This is where attractor flies come in."  The small book Nymphing Strategies by Larry Tullis (Lyons Press ISBN 1-58574-266-X) provides excellent instruction in fishing and selecting the proper fly.  Tullis continues; "Attractor flies also have built-in triggers.  White wings and rubber legs often trigger a feeding response, as do brown, black, peacock herl, and flash components.  The rest of the fly may not matter to the trout at all.  Once you figure out what type of trigger works best, you should have a good day of fishing.  Cover lot's of water with attractor-nymph patterns to get the most opportunistic fish.  Typical attractor patterns include the Prince Nymph..."

You shouldn't wonder why the Prince Nymph is included in Mr. Tullis' list of flies, it has four of the six triggers he mentions!  The Prince Nymph is ubiquitous for a reason.  Like the Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, the Copper John, and the Pheasant Tail Nymph, the Prince Nymph is a universally productive quasi-imitation of an underwater bug.  It looks alive, but different.  In the natural world different will get you killed.  It often ends that way for this fly.

The Prince is a great scouting pattern.  I like to fish this fly as part of a dual nymph dropper rig.  I'll use the Prince as the front fly in a size 14 and trail a size 18 or 20 red blood worm imitation or perhaps a small caddis pupa fly like an RS2.  I fish this fly on a tight-line swing or dead-drifted and I use as little lead as possible.  Fluorocarbon tippet material helps me sink the flies quickly and presents a nearly invisible link.  For a size 14 Prince, use a 4X tippet of about 4-feet in length.  The dropper to the smaller trailing nymph will be a 5x Fluorocarbon about 18-inches long.  If I need more depth or a faster sink rate I use small splitshot between the Prince and the RS2.

Give this set-up a try next time you head out for some cold weather browns.  You may find that you fish with a Prince in the cold, in the dark, in the morning and in the summer.  It's a great fly and you should carry it in several sizes.


Hook: Mustad C53S, 9671, TMC 5263, sizes 10 - 16
Thread: Black, 8/0
Weight: Optional Lead wire
Tails: Dark brown goose biots, short, one each side
Rib: Fine or very fine gold tinsel or wire
Body: Peacock herl, 3 strands
Hackle: Hen neck, mottled brown
Horns: Gray Canada Goose biots (get these on equal length and straight or the fly will spin) on the sample shown.  While goose biots on the original tie.  You can also use two pieces of white rubber leg material!


Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



The secret of the Prince Nymph is in the biots.  Biots are the thick, sculpted feather barbs that make up the leading edge of the primary flight feather of a bird's wing.  We can use biots from many birds, but goose and turkey are the most common and best because of their useable length and abundance.  Many times you can pick up shed flight feathers from Canada geese and get enough biots for a dozen fly tail or bodies while you are walking through the local park in the springtime.

The Prince Nymph should be tied on a size 10 to 14 hook.  Size 16 is useable, but below that the parts of the fly begin to loose definition and attraction.  The Prince Nymph is an attractor, but it is designed to pass as a small stonefly or similar insect.  The hook l like best for mayfly and stonefly nymphs in these sizes is the C53S Signature hook by Mustad. 

Select the biot strip or flight feather wiht the biots you want to use for the tails. This fly traditionally uses dark brown biots.  There is a variation that is very effective known as the "Dark Prince."  It is tied with black or dark brown biot tails, black or dark brown biot horns and black hackle over a peacock body.  Strip away or cut away two biots for the tails, measure and tie in on each side.

Build a small ball of thread or place a tiny ball of dubbing to help hold the biots apart.  Tie in one biot so the concave side faces out and the tail sweeps away from the hook.  Tie in its exact match on the opposite side.  Take some time to make sure you get these biots the same length and positioned symmetrically to prevent the fly from spinning or twisting during the cast or drift.  Biots are stiff and act like little rudders.

Here we have the two biots tied in.  Note the symmetrical placement.  These biots are a bit long, often the fly is tied with a very short and stumpy tail.  I like just a bit more length in my fly for no reason other than I like the appearance.  The fish don't seem to mind!

Tie in three peacock herls for the body.  Tie them in by the tips after cutting or pinching off the very finest tip ends, which can easily break during the tying process.  Tie the peacock in at the point where the body will end and wrap back to the tail's tie-in point so the peacock herl also forms a smooth underbody.  Bring the thread back to the tie-in point.
Tie in a length of oval gold tinsel, copper or gold wire for ribbing.  Tie the ribbing in at the same point where you tied in the peacock herls for the body. Wrap a smooth base for an underbody and bring leave the thread at the tail tie-in point. You will wrap the herls around the thread to make a peacock herl and thread "chenille".  Wrap the herl/thread combo back to the point where the body will end.
Here the body is complete.  Note the peacock herl wrapped around the tying thread.  This reinforces the body and makes for a more durable fly.  Tie off the peacock herl and make four or five neat wraps of the tinsel ribbing.  I omit the ribbing on size 16 flies.  If I want a bit of flash on the smaller patterns I'll take a single strand of pearl Flashabou and wrap it with the peacock herls as part of the chenille.  The ribbing should be counter-wrapped to reinforce the herls even more.
Select a hen hackle in a mottled brown color.  Conversely you can use dark partridge, pheasant, grouse or any game bird that you would use to tie a soft hackle fly. You want to select a feather with barbs that are as long as the body of the fly. The original pattern calls for a "beard" of brown hackle, but I find a wrapped, sparse hackle collar gives a lot more action in the water and makes for a buggier looking flie.
Make two wraps of hackle in front of the body, no more than two.  The hackle must be sparse.  Make sure you don't crowd the eye of the hook as there are still the biot horns to be tied in.  I'm not sure what the horns represent, but they are the identifying mark of the Prince nymph.  If you leave out these horns you've, in essence, tied a brown hackle peacock soft-hackle fly with a tail!
Select wing biots from the white or gray biot strip.  You should tie these wing biots, or horns, so they end at a point even with the end of the peacock herls.  Tie them in so the concave side faces up and make sure that the biots are even and centered to prevent spinning of the fly during the cast or retrieve.  Some tiers attach the biots concave-side-down, but I find the slight upturn helps create a sonic signature in the water.  I like to take advantage of every opportunity to fool the fish, and sound is one more opportunity!  If you use the beard hackle technique, the concave-side-down orientation looks better.
Tie off the horns, form a neat thread head and finish the fly.  Coat the thread with a bit of thread cement.  I like to use Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails nail polish in clear or black. 

Till next time, tight lines and soft water…


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