Euro Nymph: Tying an anchor fly

As a competent euro nympher you need to adapt to different waters. This means when you encounter deep runs, fast water, and steep rivers, like the West Coast and Rocky Mountain states offer, you need to have the right flies for the situation. For me it is having a diverse box of anchor flies that hold my rig at depth or just get everything deep quickly. They help in a lot of ways besides depth. They help you cast further and maintain sensitivity in the wind, which can be the detriment to most euro nymphers out there. I’m going to break down the styles of flies I like and what makes them so successful in my waters.


Normally for me a stonefly is where I start. A Pat’s Stone or Jimmy Legs or whatever you want to call it is my go to stone. The features I like about this pattern is in the simplicity of the pattern. This fly is easy to tie with only a few materials. I model mine after the Lance Egan version of the pattern with a jet black glossy tungsten bead followed by sili legs and variegated stonefly sized chenille. I add wraps of lead free wire not really for the weight, but to encourage the taper of the pattern. In Oregon, stoneflies are very prolific like most tailwaters around the world. The Deschutes and Rouge Rivers both have impressive salmonfly hatches, the Willamette river basin is home to some of the best golden stone populations I’ve ever seen. In my anchor box the stoneflies take up half the box. I tie them in golden, tan, black, purple, olive, and brown. Golden, purple, and black are my favorite, but the olive one has been great in some winter outings on valley rivers that are open that time of year. 


The next one I have are my polish woven nymphs. These are sleepers when it comes to successful flies. Like a blue perdigon I tied these, slotted them into the box, and just never fished them until I “tried everything” else. These are great in rivers that have loads of caddis, which is almost every tailwater in America. Green and tan are my go to colors because of the sheer numbers of McKenzie caddis and october caddis that are in our waters. These are dense, durable flies with almost nothing hanging off of them to slow their descent or rise in the water. They are best fished in faster water without lots of up swell. This last spring they were the meal ticket in my local freestone river. 

Cased caddis should be on your list for sure. In the old world these are used as a run off pattern and a deep water pattern mostly, but I think anglers in the states overlook this pattern often. I use some special material that FNF sells called chewing gum worm material. This is great for the peeking head of the caddis and the case itself. This fly can hold a ton of weight from either an oversized bead or wire wraps. This makes this a bomb fly that can get deep and stay deep. This would be a great fly for a river that doesn’t allow lead or shot to be used. The Metolius River in Oregon used to have that rule.


The enlarged versions of smaller successful flies can also be a lifesaver as well. I have a hare’s ear fly that I like a lot, a mega bead duracell, and a beefy frenchie that works well when the water is just slightly deeper or faster than I thought. These flies don’t have a ton of water drag, but more than the other flies listed above. This means they slink slower than they should, due to the extra material that extends out from the body of the fly that creates drag. This can be helpful when fishing a drop off or when you have wind or upwelling from the bottom. The drag works both ways in the water column. 


The last style of anchor fly I like to have is an attractor pattern. These can be flies like a pink metallic beaded possie bugger or a milkman or a brightly colored tag nymph. On a normal day these patterns are my most productive. There is something about an attractor pattern that gets fish to go wild. I’m a sucker for a metallic light pink bead. Plop a 3.8mm or 4mm light pink metallic bead  on a pattern you like and you got yourself a winner right there. A white, orange, purple, faceted, pink, chartreuse, yellow, or any other wild color can be what the fish like in the rivers you fish. I know some waters have lots of different fish that spawn throughout the year so an orange or pink bead does better than a river that has lots of caddis where a chartreuse bead would crush. 

Hopefully the flies listed above give you an idea on what to tie to add to your box for your next outing. Pay attention to appendages, drag, weight, type of materials, and what goes into a fly. If weaving a fly is hell on earth for you then maybe you might be using a simple stonefly pattern to get to the right depth. Now some people love to do things like weaving flies and you might tie a woven stonefly and caddis patterns to hide the weight in your rigs. And if neither of these options get you excited maybe using a quick descent dubbing that is made from shredded aluminum might tickle your creative fancy. This gives you a fair number of ideas and options to go from. If I had to limit myself to two flies it would be a heavy fly with lots of material that added drag and one that is just a fast sinker with little to no drag to pull down other flies.


As always message me, comment, or email me if you have any questions or comments you want to share. In the meantime good luck and happy tying.

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