Like virtually every fly angler I’ve ever met, I love fishing dry flies more than just about anything. That said, I’ve caught probably twice as many fish on nymph patterns. And, of those, I’ve probably caught more on a Prince Nymph than any two others combined!
It’s one of those rare patterns that really does do it all. And, not only is it tremendously versatile, it’s among the prettiest fly patterns in my box.
Considering that most nymphs are not exactly beauty pageant winners (insect nymphs are ugly, after all), that’s quite an accomplishment.
What Does A Prince Nymph Look Like?
The defining feature of the Prince Nymph are the two white goose biots (the stiff ends of wing feathers) that resemble a pair of wings extending backward from the head and a second pair of biots that resemble a forked tail extending off the back end of the fly.
The body is peacock herl (strands of peacock feathers that are bright, iridescent, green), typically wrapped in gold or copper wire and the neck consists of soft hackle fibers.
I buy Nymphs all the time – I’ve got a set of big, clumsy fingers that aren’t well suited to the delicate art of tying, especially tricky patterns like this one.
Most of my Prince Nymphs are bead heads – that is, they’ve had a brass or tungsten bead added for additional weight. It’s a useful addition when you’re trying to get a nymph to the bottom a deep, fast run.
Brief History Of The Prince Nymph Fly
The Prince Nymph has a pretty straightforward history. At first glance, one might guess at a royal connection or maybe some kind of creative flourish, given how pretty it is.
The answer, however, is a lot more mundane. It’s named for Doug Prince, or Monterey, California, who developed it in the 1930’s or early 1940’s. I’ve heard one claim that it was invented by Don and Dick Olsen, in Michigan, and not Doug Prince and that it was only attributed to Prince by a mail order catalogue, as he had made the pattern known to the publisher of the catalogue. Everyone else, however, seems happy to attribute it to Prince himself.
Whichever the case, Doug Prince certainly popularized it and it still bears his name today.
Prince’s original Prince Nymph had a black body, black soft hackle, and a black tail. A modification of this, that he called the “brown forked tail” became the Prince Nymph that we know today.
What Does A Prince Nymph Imitate?
The Prince Nymph is an attractor nymph. That is, while it was designed as stonefly imitation, it doesn’t really look exactly like anything. However, that generalized appearance means that it can be effective in a wide variety of situations. Given the right water conditions, it can mimic a stonefly, a sowbug, a backswimmer, or a wide variety of other aquatic insects.
I’ve heard that it the Prince compares favorably to Isonychia (a genus of mayfly) nymphs, as the dark peacock body and white wings effectively mimic the dark body and white dorsal stripe seen on these insects.
When and How to Fish The Prince Nymph
The short answer to when and how to fish the Prince Nymph is “Anytime” or “Almost always”. It’s among the most versatile patterns ever tied and works in a huge number of situations.
You can drift it along the bottom of fast rivers as a stonefly imitation, you can retrieve it slowly through ponds as a backswimmer imitation, or you can drift it further up the water column as an emerging mayfly or caddisfly. And, there are probably a dozen other situations I’ve never heard of where this fly is effective.
It’s versatile enough to use a large size (#12 or #14) in a two-nymph tandem, or a small size (#16 or #18) as the dropper in a hopper-dropper combination.
Typically, I like to fish a small Prince Nymph as part of a hopper-dropper combination if I’m not sure what else to fish. If I’m certain that there’s no surface action to be had, I like to run a couple of bead head Prince Nymphs in tandem – one tied behind the other – below a strike indicator.
The two bead heads really ensure that the flies get down to the bottom of deep runs and the indicator avoids being pulled under better than any but the largest of dry flies.
Variations Of The Prince Nymph
There really aren’t a lot of Prince Nymph variations. There doesn’t have to be. I’ve seen a variety of hackle colors used, and some variation in the color of wire wrap. I’ve got both bead heads and non-beaded variations in my box.
Beyond that, this is one of those rare flies where there’s really not much room for improvement. Doug Prince (or the Olsen Brothers, if you want to credit them) really did get this one right the first time.