Know Your Pattern: The Prince Nymph

Prince Nymph

Sometimes I get tired of tying on a Prince Nymph. I use it so frequently that it seems boring. But every time I decide to replace it with something fresh, I return to this classic. There’s no mystery. Even though I may get tired of it, the trout never do. Here is the scoop on this superb pattern:

1. How it originated

This fly is not named for the flamboyant musician of “Purple Rain” fame. Nor is it named after the Nigerian prince who needs your help transferring millions of dollars out of his country.

Rather, the fly is named after its creator. Doug Prince of Monterey, California, developed it in the late 1930s or early 1940s. His original “Prince Nymph” had a black body, black soft hackle, and a black tail. A modification of this pattern, which he called the “Brown Forked Tail,” became the well-known Prince Nymph.

2. How it is designed

The Prince Nymph, a.k.a. Brown Forked Tail, features a Peacock herl body wrapped with gold or copper wire. The neck consists of brown soft hackle fibers. The distinctive feature, though, is the use of two white goose biots for the wings and two brown goose biots for the tail. This makes the fly difficult to tie — at least for casual fly tyers like me. The biots are fragile, and they never stay where I want them to stay when I’m trying to secure them with my wraps of threat.

I’m partial to a gold beadhead, so I always tie and fish the beadhead version of this fly.

3. Why it works

Doug Prince designed this as a stonefly imitation for fast water.

However, it’s a visually striking pattern which seems to imitate a variety of aquatic insects. I’ve had success catching trout on a Beadhead Prince Nymph during the Caddis hatch on Montana’s Yellowstone River and during the emergence of Blue-Winged Olives on the Madison River.

The Prince Nymph is versatile enough to use it as a larger lead fly (size #12 or #14) in a two fly rig. Or, it works in a smaller size (#16 or #18) as a dropper.

4. When to use it

The short answer is, “Any time.” Seriously!

It works in all seasons and in all kinds of water conditions. I’ve had success with it in the spring creeks of Wisconsin, the big rivers in Montana, and the mountain streams in Colorado — all four seasons of the year.

So what’s in your fly box? If you want to catch trout, your box will include an ample supply of Beadhead Prince Nymphs. Don’t leave home without a handful of them.

Other Flies in the “Know Your Pattern” Series”

    Know Your Pattern: The H and L Variant

    Know Your Pattern: The Parachute Adams

    Know Your Pattern: The Royal Coachman

    Know Your Pattern: The San Juan Worm