A lot of fishing this time of year on the Madison river is done with nymphs and there are a ton of patterns to choose from. So what is an angler to do? Fly fishing anglers would love to have a fly box filled with every nymph pattern that they make but lets face it flies are not cheap. Most anglers can't afford to buy every pattern in every size. As an angler one of the things I like to tell people that are starting to build a nymph box is "keep it simple". Although having a nymph box with tons of different patterns is great for when fish are picky it is not always necessary. You really only need a couple different basic nymphs in your box to be able to have a great day on the water. So I have come up with a list of basic nymph patterns that will produce fish.
1. Pheasant Tail- The Pheasant Tail is the quintessential mayfly pattern . The slender profile and dark brown color creates a highly realistic mayfly imitation. pheasant tails in size 14 through 20 will match blue wing olives and pale morning duns,
2.Hare's Ear- The Hare's Ear is a good pattern to imitate a caddis larva case, mayfly nymph, stonefly nymph or a damsel fly. The beauty of this fly is that with it's gray coloring and shape it imitates a wide variety of aquatic nymphs forms.
3. Zebra Midge- The zebra midge with its small black body and bead head is an effective pattern to imitate the midge pupa.
4. Prince Nymph- The prince nymph for the most part imitates a stonefly but the fly in smaller sizes has also worked during mayfly and caddis hatches making it a great attractor pattern.
5. Pats Rubberlegs - The Pats rubber leg is a stonefly imitation depending on size and color it can mimic any stonefly. Small and green for Skwallas,big and orange for the Salmon fly or yellow and brown for the Golden stone.
6. San Juan - The San Juan Worm imitates yep you guessed it a worm and lets face it as any kid knows fish eat worms.
So start building your nymph box with these patterns and you can cover pretty much every aquatic insect that your water holds. Once you have these basic patterns in your fly box you then can start to pick up some of the "specialty" flies patterns that are more specifically designed for the waters you are fishing.