Sunday’s Classic / Flathead Mayfly Nymphs Rule

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Flathead Mayfly (Heptageniidae) Nymph. Photo By: Louis Cahill

If you take the time to to flip over enough rocks in moderate moving water you’re bound to find lots of Flathead Mayfly (Heptageniidae) clinger nymphs of various sizes. These three and two tailed flat bodied nymphs, with robust legs and broad heads are very important for fly anglers. Quill Gordons, March Browns, Light Cahill, Pink Quill and Gray Fox are some of the popular species that belong to the flathead family. To date, there’s been fly patterns created for over 45 different species in 10 different genera of the flathead family. Because there’s usually multiple species found in any given watershed, I typically find trout keep them on the food menu year round. The subsurface nymph patterns seem to produce nice trout for me even when fishing conditions are really tough. Oddly enough, I rarely find a good variety of patterns that imitate the nymph stage in my local fly shops. Below is a pattern I tie as a general all-around nymph imitation for the flathead “clinger” mayfly. It’s designed to mimic the bold features of the flathead, and it’s landed many big fish for me the past few seasons.

Klewein’s Flathead Nymph. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Klewein’s Flathead Nymph

Hook: Size 16-12
Thread: 6/0 Brown
Bead: Black or Olive 3/32″-1/8″ (I sometimes go beadless)
Thorax/Legs: Brown Partridge Hackle
WingPad: Thinskin – Natural
Abdomen: Medium D-Ribbing -Brown
Tail: Pheasant-tail Brown

Proof Trout Love Flathead Nymphs. Photo By: Louis Cahill

I stuck this giant on the first drift with my flathead nymph right after Louis had previously fished the spot with a different tandem nymph rig. It ended up being one the hot flies for the day. Tie up some of this pattern is varying sizes (16-12) in olive and brown and let me know how they work for you guys. It’s a quick tie and very durable.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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8 thoughts on “Sunday’s Classic / Flathead Mayfly Nymphs Rule

  1. Great article Kent. I love the clinger nymphs as they are usually the first really good hatches we see in the southeast. Love the pattern as well, looks good and durable. Just wanted to mention that Hendricksons are in the Ephemerella family and are crawler nymphs. I think the confusion with them comes from basically those three hatches happening so close together. Any how great article, enjoyed as usual!

  2. Love those macro-invert!! We refer to the family Heptageniidae as the Arnold Schwarzeneger of the nymph world due the size of their fore-legs>>
    keep up the great work! Really like the underwater bug world few of us see/know.
    Tight Lines,

  3. Impressive, Kent. Got to tie some of those! I assume they are killer on my home river and the streams around here… Looks like they would be, and I have seen quite a few clingers in Adopt-a-Stream surveys I have been on.

    • Nick has a good question, Kent. For me, a description on tying legs and keeping such a flat thorax would be helpful. I am not a big thinskin user, so I would like to know your technique on that as well as the legs.


    • Nick,

      Sorry for the slow reply to your question. Tying the legs of the mayfly is a little tricky. It takes some time to get the legs to lay correctly so you keep that flat profile. Basically what I do is tie in one partridge feather on each side perpendicular to the hook. Before you tie each in cut out the tip of the feather. After you get the feather secure I carefully with 8/0 thread make a couple wraps of thread in between the feather hackles to spread the partridge feather out. Repeat the step for the partridge hackle on the other side and then pull over the thin skin and glue it down, taking a second to organize the partridge hackles on each side of the fly. After I glue down the thin skin I’ll go in with my scissors and trim away excess hackle material. At some point I’ll try to get Louis to shoot me tying this pattern. It’s really hard to explain in words. Hope this helps.


      • Thanks Kent, still unclear on the legs but no biggie. This post enticed me to come up with my own pattern that I’ve been trying out the last couple of nights and it’s been sweet. 7 fish in half an hour with the first prototype! Anyways, that why I love Gink and Gasoline, cause it’s always got me thinkin’ and trying new things and making me an overall better person haha.

        • Nick,

          Sorry to hear my tying explanation wasn’t suffice but I am super happy to hear you came up with a similar pattern of your own and its working for you. That’s great news and happy we help to keep you trying new things.


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