Fly Fishing: Nymphs

Nymphs are widely used in fly fishing, chalkstreams being a favourite area for them. Nymphs describe the larval stage of mayflies (ephemeroptera) and also – in this case sometimes known as naiads – of damsel and dragonflies (odanata). Other aquatic insects have their own generic terms: stoneflies were called creepers, sedgeflies were caddis worms, while the infant stages of water boatmen and the corixae were referred to as instars. Nymph is now a broader term which generally descibes flies specifically designed to imitate any creature that lives below the water. Larval and pupal stages and even the adults of some creatures are included in the term. The word “nymph” is also used to descibes such varied creatures as freshwater shrimps, the water louse, water boatmen, the voracious larvae of water beetles and a range of larvae and pupae of many of the true aquatic flies (diptera).

It is not easy to make a distinction between fishing the nymph and fishing a wet fly because in some instances they are very similar. Some wet flies can be conceived as nymphs, though not in their design. And some wet flies, on the other hand,  can look quite like nymphs. It is certainly the case that some nymphs could be described as wet flies – “You say potayto, I say potahto.” It was on G.E.M. Skues in the 19th century who started using nymphs for the first time, against the dogma of the day for dry fly fishing. Mr. Skues certainly put a few noses out of joint with much bigger catches using his own approach to fly fishing.

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