12 Tiny Nymphs that Always Seem to Get the Job Done

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Rainbow trout falls for a tiny attractor midge larva. Photo Louis Cahill

I used to shy away from fishing tiny nymphs during my rookie years of fly fishing.

Particularly those size 20-26 midge patterns. Those intimidated me especially. When I used to look at those flies in the bins at fly shops, I can remember thinking, “how can the fish see these in moving water and is there some special rig you’re supposed to use for fishing them?” I’ve since found out I was nuttier than a fruit cake to assume all of the above about tiny flies, and they’ve become my go-to patterns when fishing gets really tough. Make no mistake, small flies have the ability to catch all trout, trophy fish included. In fact, one of the best times to fish tiny nymphs is when you’re sight fishing on water that holds lots of educated, mature trout. A prime example of this would be the “dream stream section” of the South Platte River in Colorado. I’ve had many days after the sun got up high in the horizon, that sub-twenty size nymph patterns out fished everything else in my fly box. In general, small subsurface nymphs can be your winning lottery ticket for consistently catching fish when you’re confronted with heavily pressured waters or fishing tailwaters that usually sustain high numbers of small aquatic insects. To fish them, just down size your tippet to 5x-7x and rig them up the same way you do with all your other favorite fly patterns, streamers excluded. That’s about it, there’s nothing special, no hidden secrets, it’s all about getting them wet and giving them equal opportunity.

If you’ve found yourself striking out lately when other anglers around you are catching fish, try tying on and fishing a tiny nymph for a while. You’d be surprised how often a trout will shun repeated presentations with large profiled flies and then turn around and eat a tiny nymph with total abandonment if you put it in front of them. In most situations, regardless of the time of year, anglers fishing tiny nymphs with confidence will find that they can catch trout regularly just about anywhere. They’ll work every day of the year, and they also work equally well for both wild and stocked trout.

Below is a list of 12 tiny nymphs that always seem to get the job done when I’m dealing with picky trout. Stock them in your fly box and give them a try next time you’re on the water and find your larger fly patterns aren’t working. Remember, you’ll never get confident nor reap the rewards of tiny flies until you gain confidence in their ability to catch trout and start fishing them. These days, before I head out on a trip, the first box I always break out and make sure is fully stocked, is my midge and tiny nymph box. When fishing gets extremely tough, these tiny fly patterns always get my rod bent. Click the photos for a link to purchase online.



Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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9 thoughts on “12 Tiny Nymphs that Always Seem to Get the Job Done

  1. Great article and couldn’t agree more. It really is amazing how well midges work. It’s funny to see the shock on people’s faces that are new to fly fishing when you pull out the midge box and tell them to tie on a size 22 because that’s what they’re eating.



  2. Thanks, great article and timely for me, as I maybe in Denver next week. What little I know of Denver waters (fished the South Platte once before by Deckers, with wool indicators and did okay. Even caught a few on dry fly!).

    A lot of the flyfishermen there seem to use bobbers and wool indicators and a highsticking style, it seems to be the order of the day on the South Platte. I must admit that I’m probably a bit old fashioned and don’t really like using indicators when nymph fishing. I’m used to straight line nymphing and watching the line.

    Presumably using some form of indicator might defeat the purpose of the exercise of downsizing the fly and decreasing the outline ? So, from the way I’m reading your article Kent indicators not really necessary? More a couple of rhetorical questions really than anything else?

  3. I completely agree. My home waters here in CO are a heavily pressured mysis tailwater in the mountains. Most people who go to the fly shops spend all their cash on a handful of different variations of mysis flies, which, eventually will catch them a fish depending on the flows. At low flows however I use about 5 different midge patterns in the 20-24 range and they always produce. The midge flies outproduce the mysis probably 3-1.

  4. True most everywhere, including North Georgia (as you well know, Kent). There is a heavy reliance here on midges because of unreliable hatches of larger bugs. Good article… good choice of flies on your list.

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