I call this fly the SBR Sulpur Nymph because it was specifically designed to imitate the sulphur nymphs found here on the south branch of the Raritan River in western New Jersey. Having videoed these nymphs for years, I’ve noticed fairly significant differences in size and coloration. Some of this can be attributed to different species and I believe some of it to just differences between individuals. One of the things that invariably catches my eye are the very distinct dark markings on the legs and tails and I imagine trout may recognize these as well. Of course there always seem to be individuals wanting to buck the trend.
For a hook, I like a Dai-Riki #730 in size 16 but it can’t hurt to carry 14’s and 18’s too. Start by mashing the hook barb. I’ll then get hold of the hook with a pair of plunger-style hackle pliers to ease the stress of putting on the bead.
A 7/64” Cyclops bead in gold is a good choice for this hook size. Threading the bead onto your bodkin allows you to center the hole between your fingertips, while the hackle pliers offer the necessary room to easily insert the point of the hook into the bead, small hole first. Once you have the bead around the bend and up onto the shank, get the whole assembly firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise and push the bead forward against the back of the hook eye.
For weight and to stabilize the bead, .02 lead-free wire works well. Start your wire on the hook shank back by the point and take 6 or 7 touching wraps forward before helicoptering the wire to break it off clean and close. Then, shove the wraps forward up into the back of the bead and do your best to subdue that pesky wire tail.
You could use brown, black or yellow thread but I really like the look of a color called wood duck in 70 Denier. Get your thread started on the hook shank immediately behind the wire and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Use your thread to build up a short ramp from the wire down to the hook shank and then take wraps over top of the wire to hold it in place. A smooth transition between the wire and the shank will really help the final look and taper of the fly.
A single wood duck flank feather with good markings is used for both the tail and the legs of the fly. Begin by stripping off all the lower fuzzy and short fibers from the stem. Keep stripping until you’re left with tips that form a nearly straight line. Pull down 10 or so fibers and, while keeping their tips aligned, strip them free. Measure to form a tail a hook shank in length and transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the hook bend. Use your tying thread to secure the fibers to the top of the hook shank. End with your thread at the back edge of the wire then reach in with the tips of your tying scissors and snip the excess wood duck off close.
For the body and wing case of the fly, I’m going to use fibers from a pheasant tail feather that’s been dyed golden yellow. Pull down 8 to 10 fibers perpendicular to the stem, and while keeping their tips roughly aligned, strip them free. Snipping off the curlies now will likely prevent problems later on. Flip the fibers around so the tips are held between the thumb and index finger of your left hand and snip the very ends off square. Give your tying thread a quick counterclockwise spin so it jumps rearward and catches the fibers as you butt them up against the wire wraps. Bind the fibers down all the way to the start of the hook bend then begin making touching wraps with them behind your tying thread up the hook shank. The thread will help keep the fibers together to form a nice, full, even abdomen on the fly. At about the 2/3’s point on the hook shank, stop wrapping and use your tying thread to firmly secure the fibers. Continue wrapping forward with your thread to bind the butt ends down all the way up to behind the bead then wrap rearward to just forward of the halfway point on the hook shank. Pull the pheasant tail fibers back and pin them down with a turn of tying thread to establish the back edge of the nymph’s wing case. You can then take a few wraps to tidy up and smooth out the underbody of the thorax.
I like Australian Possum dubbing for the thorax, this color is called golden stone, you don’t need much. Create a slender dubbing noodle about 2” long on your tying thread. Then, start taking wraps with the noodle to build up the thorax ending with your thread immediately behind the bead.
Locate the wood duck feather you used for the tail and strip off the few fibers from the other side of the stem so the feather is relatively equal on both sides. While pinching the feather’s tip, pull the fibers down to isolate the tip and allow you to snip it off close. You should be left with a feather that looks something like this. Kind of pull and crease the remaining pheasant tail forward and then place the wood duck feather on top of the thorax like so and take 2 light thread wraps to secure it. Once again pull the pheasant tail forward and then hold it up to vertical. This will really help to keep the wood duck separated evenly on either side of the fly. Carefully continue pulling on the wood duck feather until the very tips extend rearward to the base of the tail. When you’re happy with their length, take a couple more firm wraps to lock them in place. Then, using the very tips of your tying scissors, snip the excess wood duck off, as close as possible, without cutting the thread or amputating any legs. I think I may have gotten one there, but no worries. Pull the pheasant tail forward over top of the bead and take 2 to 3 nice, tight wraps of tying thread to bind the fibers down firmly. When they’re really locked in, you can carefully snip the excess off close.
Do some extra snipping if you like but most of the time it isn’t necessary. When you’re satisfied with the look complete a 4 or 5 turn whip finish, ideally with the thread on top of the hook shank. After you’ve seated the knot well, snip your tying thread free.
Leaving your thread on top of the hook shank like this will help to keep it from coming unraveled once UV resin is applied to the wing case. How we ever lived without this stuff, especially for creating wing cases, is beyond me. If you need to, you can do some final doctoring with your bodkin before using a UV torch to cure the resin.
And that’s the SBR Sulphur Nymph. I know it works here on the South Branch of the Raritan and I’m reasonably sure it will work just about anywhere else as well.