The Floating Nymph comes from the vise of Idaho’s Mike Lawson. This pattern was one of the first of its kind, in that it gives the profile of a nymph suspended at the surface of the water, but doesn’t rely on hackle or CDC to make it float. In fact, this pattern has been around much longer than these newer pattern types! The Floating Nymph requires a few new tying techniques, some of which have fallen out of favor with the “in” crowd. Not many folks know how to tie this little critter, and these techniques are good ones to add to your arsenal. I fish these patterns on a long, thin leader to rising fish that I can see. The fly has a very small profile and can be a bit difficult to spot, but this same profile makes it a favorite of the fish. Tie a few up, in colors to match your favorite mayfly, and pull them out the next time you encounter selective fish.
Hook: TMC 100 #16-24
Thread: 14/0 Gray
Tail: Dark Dun Hackle Fibers
Abdomen: Mahogany Brown Superfine Dubbing
Rib: Fine Copper Wire
Wingcase: Nature’s Spirit Nature’s Finest Dubbing, Gray.
Legs: Dark Dun Hackle Fibers
Thorax: Mahogany Superfine Dubbing
Attach the tying thread behind the eye and wrap a thread base back to the bend. Tie in a small clump (10-12 fibers) of dark dun hackle fibers for the tail at the bend of the hook. Wrap forward over the butt ends to the fifty percent point on the shank and trim the excess there.
Tie in a six-inch length of copper wire at the front end of the thread base and wrap back over it with the tying thread to the base of the tail.
Dub a heavily tapered abdomen from the bend of the hook to the eighty percent point on the shank. This abdomen should come a bit further forward than a normal nymph abdomen would, because of the elevated wingcase. You’ll see why in a minute…
Wrap the wire rib forward over the dubbed abdomen in five or six open spiraling turns. Tie the wire off at the front of the abdomen and clip the excess.
Now, for the wingcase. The trick to making this dubbing ball wingcase is to:
#1 Use the right kind of dubbing. Superfine will work, but the Nature’s Spirit stuff makes a nicer wingcase.
#2 Apply the dubbing to the thread in a perpendicular manner. By this I mean to lay the dubbing across the thread so it is at a right angle to the thread. Twist the dubbing on as tightly as you can. By putting it on this way, you can tighten it down, but it won’t grab the thread as tightly as if you had twisted it on parallel to the thread and slide down in the next step much easier.
#3 You only need about an inch and a half of tightly dubbed dubbing to make this work, don’t go overboard!
Pull the bobbin above the hook with the thread attached to the hook at the very front edge of the abdomen. Slide the dubbing down the thread so it butts right up to the hook shank in front of the abdomen.
Reel the thread back into the bobbin with the fingers of your thread hand, while the tip of the bobbin pushes the dubbing down onto the hook shank, forming the little ball of dubbing. Using the end of the bobbin tube works much better than the scissor method listed in the Fly Tiers Benchside reference. Sliding scissors down the thread works…NOT! Maybe you can do it, but the bobbin ain’t gonna cut your thread and is already there! Tricky, ain’t I?
Grap the ball of dubbing with you material hand and hold it right on top of the hook without introducing any slack into the thread. Make a few tight turns of thread around the hook shank to anchor this clump of dubbing, then make a turn of thread around the base of this clump as you would on a parachute post. Make another tight turn of thread around the shank to lock everything in and you should be in good shape.
You should now have a wingcase that looks something like this. Notice that the wingcase is tight against the front of the abdomen and the dubbing ball itself is very tight.
Peel about twenty hackle fibers from a dark dun spade hackle. Make sure the tips are even, and with the thread hanging below the hook shank, split the bunch of hackle fibers by pushing it into the thread so the thread runs down the center of the clump with equal amounts on either side of the thread. Measure the hackle fibers so they extend back to about the end of the body, or perhaps just short of the end of the body. Pull the hackle fibers up to the bottom of the hook and hold them in place while you make several tight turns of thread to anchor them down. The result should be an evenly split clump of hackle fibers on either side of the fly.
You should have legs that look a little something like these right about now.
Trim the butt ends of the hackle legs flush against the hook shank. Dub another thin strand of Mahogany colored Superfine dubbing and wrap it from the back edge of the hook eye, up to the base of the wingcase, and back to the eye again, forming a thorax as shown.
Whip finish and clip the thread. Cool fly, eh?
Quartering Front View
Quartering Top View