Fly of the Month: Jim Cannon's Prince Nymph

One of the prettiest flies in your fly box can also be one of the most effective – the Prince Nymph. It came in last year tied for 12th on ETU members’ list of the dozen “must have” flies to fish Colorado rivers and streams because it has worked for a long, long time.

It also can be a little tricky to tie for most of us. That’s why I turned to one of the best tiers around this month to find out how to make it look easy. Jim Cannon is an owner of the Blue Quill Angler fly shop and an expert tier.

Jim insists that the Prince Nymph really should be as easy to tie as any other fly. All it takes is a little practice and a firm grip with your thumb when it comes time to tie in those biots for the tail and horns.

As for the fly, it is a versatile fish catcher. In a larger size, it works great as a stonefly imitation or even as a streamer and can be fished deep and aggressively to attract trout. You can even cast it upstream and use your retrieve to imitate a minnow coming back downstream. This is where a heavy bead head like the one Jim has tied works really well.

In a smaller size, the Prince Nymph makes a great dropper imitating a blue wing olive nymph (Baetis) or a Caddis nymph. You’ll probably want to go to a brass bead or drop the bead altogether the smaller the fly gets.


Hook: TMC 5263, Dai-Riki 060, 710, 730
Bead: Tungsten or brass
Thread: Black 3/0
Weight: Round wire
Tail: Brown biot
Body: Peacock herl
Ribbing: French embossed gold wire
Collar: Brown hackle
Horns: White biot

Tying Instructions:

After crimping down the barb on the hook, start by slipping the bead over the point of the hook and around to the eye of the hook, with the small hole of the bead going first.

Now wrap your round wire around the shank of the hook and keep pushing up against the bead to keep the wraps tight as well as to hold the bead in place. Come down the shank about half way with the wire and break it off. Cement it onto the shank with some Super Glue, coating the wire at the same time.

Next, start your thread just behind the wire and build a small core of thread there to hold the wire in place. Wrap your thread up to behind the bead then back down the wire to make sure it is secure.

Pick two brown biots to tie in for the tail. You will want the biots to be of the same size and, when tied in, to curve out and slightly down from the shank of the hook. Start the biot a little to the side of the shank rather than right on top. Look closely at figure #1 to see how nicely Jim has done this.

Jim tied these in one at a time. He put one side down against the shank, right at the bend of the hook, holding it in place with his thumb while he tied it down with a couple of quick wraps made with his other hand. He then did the biot on the other side.

He did not clip the excess biot after the tails were tied in, but left them so they could be wrapped up alongside the shank of the hook to help give a smoother transition to the body of the fly. Go ahead and do that. Be sparse with your thread. End up with your thread back at the bend of the hook.

Right where your biots are tied in at the bend of the hook, now tie in your gold wire for the ribbing and then tie in several strands of peacock herl. Use more strands for larger hooks, fewer for smaller ones. Take your thread up to behind the bead on the hook.

Twist the peacock into a small rope and then wrap it up the shank to behind the bead. Tie it off with three firm wraps and clip the excess.

Reach back and counter wrap (away from you) the gold wire rib over the peacock to behind the bead. Tie down the wire and break off the excess.

The hackle collar is next. Tie the brown hackle in, first trimming some of the excess hackle off the stem and even trimming a little stem off so the hackle is flexible enough for an easy tie-in. Place the stem pointed down and slightly forward alongside the shank just behind the bead and tie down with three tight wraps.

Make about three tight wraps of your hackle behind the bead, tie off and cut off the excess hackle.

Now pick two white biots for the horns. Tie these in just behind the bead as well, just as you did the tails, with the biots arching up over the back of the fly and through the hackle, but with the tips curved down. You will need to keep the biots more to the top of the shank as you tie them down to get the right effect.

Whip finish, and you’re through.

Prince Nymph

Final Version (Below)

prince nymph

By John Haile.