Fly Fishing for Trout Home
User Password
or register.
Scientific name search:

> > Worth the wiggle?

PatcrisciMarch 30th, 2009, 10:17 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
Are wiggle nymphs worth the extra tying steps to make them? Who ties and fishes wiggle nymphs? Do wiggle nymphs attract more strikes than non-wigglers?
Pat Crisci
WbranchMarch 30th, 2009, 10:42 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
I prefer to see wiggles on women to tell the truth. I think they are sometimes called wood nymphs. hehe.

"nymph - (classical mythology) a minor nature goddess usually depicted as a beautiful maiden; "the ancient Greeks believed that nymphs inhabited forests and bodies of water"
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
McjamesMarch 30th, 2009, 10:56 am
Cortland Manor, NY

Posts: 139
in my (limited) experience, I think so...

I tied some golden stone wiggle patterns based loosely on some of Gonzo's patterns. I use it alot on Neversink when there is no discernible insect activity and/or I see the husks on the rocks. It always produces a few fish. But, I don't know if its due to the "wiggle", or to the way it is weighted, which causes it to drift more naturally (right side up) than my old pattern used to...

I have also had success with versions of his Subvaria wiggle patterns.

They are not easy to tie, at least, not for me. For me it probably doubles the time. But I am perfecting a "batch" production process which makes it a little bit more efficient. The biggest problem for me was, I had about a dozen failed "experiments" before I finished one usable fly!! But I enjoy the tying just as much as the fishing... Plus they look cool in your box!

I am haunted by waters
PatcrisciMarch 30th, 2009, 11:35 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
I hear you WB! What is it about that 'wiggle' that is so seductive?
Pat Crisci
PatcrisciMarch 30th, 2009, 11:42 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
Mcjames, I'm intrigued by the idea of wiggle nymphs and their movement in the water. If you were knowledgeable enough you'd know which aquatic insects were worth tying 'wiggle' style. I mean, there must be certain insects that have a characteristic wiggling motion as they swim or perhaps even as they dead-drift in the current, making them good candidates for "wiggle" style imitations. Would be interesting to see if your wiggle stonefly outfishes the straight stonefly.
Pat Crisci
McjamesMarch 30th, 2009, 11:57 am
Cortland Manor, NY

Posts: 139
I think E Subvaria is one that is mentioned in the literature alot as having a very noticeable and distinctive wiggling motion during emergence. I think there is a section in Hatches II that talks about it.

If you enjoy tying and creating/tinkering with new patterns, I'd say go for it. I can't imagine the wiggle version would fish WORSE than non wiggle...

I will try to post some pics of the pattens later.
I am haunted by waters
GONZOMarch 30th, 2009, 12:39 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

Worth the wiggle? As a big fan of this type of nymph, I'd still have to say yes and no. They are my favorites for imitating large "swimming" or "burrowing" mayfly nymphs like Isonychia or Hexagenia/Ephemera. For ephemerellid nymphs (like E. subvaria), it depends on where they are being intercepted by the fish. These nymphs often "freeze" when caught in strong current, but swim (wiggle) to the surface in slower water. When I am drifting the nymphs in areas of fairly strong current, I fish the rigid type. Where the stronger tongues of current break into slow pools, I find some advantage to twitching the wiggle types toward the surface.

As is always the case, whether the "wiggling trigger" makes any difference depends on the significance those traits (or any other traits) have for each individual fish in a given situation. As purely anecdotal evidence, however, I'll relate an experience with the prototype of a situation-specific wiggle nymph that I created for the D. cornuta hatch:

My fishing partner and I were both having the usual good luck fishing in faster current with my standard (rigid) imitation of the nymphs when we came to a place where a current tongue broke into a large, slow, corner pool. I put on the wiggle prototype while he continued fishing the rigid one. He caught no fish in that pool, and I caught quite a few nice trout on the wiggle version.

That is not scientific, double-blind evidence in any way, shape, or form. But it is the just the kind of anecdotal experience that often drives our fishing/tying choices. Ultimately, the decision about whether these nymphs are worth whatever time or trouble you go to in tying them is entirely for you--and the trout you fish for--to decide.

PS--I'd like to see photos of your flies, James!
DOSMarch 30th, 2009, 5:41 pm
Buffalo, NY

Posts: 64
Some great info and ideas here in this thread gentlmen! I'd like to add to the discussion by relating some of my observations.

I have also witnessed this "freeze" effect, but with several stonefly species, when both releasing them from capture in the wild and examining them in my aquarium.

I have noticed that the nymphs, when dropped into water, even in slow to moderate current, "freeze" up, in a half curl; then tend to tumble end over end till they reach something solid, where they use their powerful legs to cling and scurry. There never seems to be much wiggle in their abdomen.

However, with that said, I'd surmise a little "wiggle" action in a stonefly nymph, at the very least wouldn't detur a trout from taking your fly and at the most, might excite their predatory instinct into striking.

Personally, I've never tied a wiggle nymph and would also love to see some of your patterns, as I'm quite interested in adding a few to my box.
Andrew Nisbet
TroutnutMarch 30th, 2009, 10:31 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
I haven't been fishing them long enough to say decisively whether or not the joint helped, but I have had some fantastic fishing with them that makes me think they're worthwhile for Hex and Ephemera imitations. It's hard to do a properly controlled experiment to test their effectiveness once and for all.

They can do one thing for you that you can get from any outstanding imitation: improve your confidence and concentration. When I'm fishing something really convincing and just expecting to get a strike any second, I know I cast better and stay more in tune with my fly through every drift. Maybe that's why I did better with wiggle nymphs.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
WbranchMarch 31st, 2009, 3:22 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
I may be wrong but the first reference I'd ever seen regarding the wiggle nymph is in Swisher & Richards epic ground breaker "Matching the Hatch". Page 31 describes the technique in tying it and is accompanied with some line drawings. There are a few more drawings on page 32. A very interesting statement is made however in the first sentence of the first paragraph on page 32 "Imitations of the emerging nymph are probably the most deadly and effective patterns of all, and many fish are fooled throughout the season by this breed of artificial." This is very astute thinking back in 1971.

Check out the color picture of the "Great Golden Stonefly Wiggle Nymph" on the first color plate of S & R "Fly Fishing Strategy" published in 1975. Also for some really interesting fly tying ideas read their Chapter 11 "Some New Developments in Tying Techniques And Materials". Those guys were awesome and IMO revolutionized fly fishing and fly tying with their No Hackle flies and other tying innovations.

I'm really old school and while the wiggle nymphs do look cool and might even work there was just no way I was going to be fooling around with an entire extra step to tie the wiggle portion. I've caught thousands of trout on conventional nymphs and never once said "Gee I wish I had some wiggle nymphs."
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
PatcrisciMarch 31st, 2009, 4:55 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
So far we've heard that a little wiggle can be a good thing in some nymphs and can instill confidence in the angler. WB cited early references to wiggle nymphs by S&R. But what about wiggling adults -- I mean duns? Anyone ever tied a wiggle-dun?
Pat Crisci
GONZOMarch 31st, 2009, 8:37 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Anyone ever tied a wiggle-dun?

Yes, I've tied and used hinged adults/emergers, as well as nymphs and baitfish imitations. However, all mobile elements of a fly (articulations, rubber legs, soft hackles, etc.) generally require an outside influence to make them move (a pull from the line or some interaction with the bottom, for example). If a dry fly is truly dead-drifted, about the only advantage is that the fly will sometimes alight in a variable posture that is not seen in most rigid flies. I say "most" because flies like Kelly Galloup's "crippled" spinners incorporate this idea by building a different posture into a rigid fly.

Matt's mention of the history of "wiggle" flies made me think about another occasional advantage that led anglers to experiment with articulated flies in the past. Matt is right to refer to S&R's Selective Trout as the work that introduced the "wiggle" concept to many of us. That was certainly true with me, and I have been tying versions of these flies ever since I read the book in the early '70s.

The basic idea is older, however, as are "no-hackle" dries and "emergers." (The dry version of the famous British Hare's Ear was both.) These ideas can be traced--at least--to earlier British fly fishing/tying. Atlantic salmon fly fishers used articulated AS flies well before S&R wrote about "wiggle" nymphs. European hook manufacturers produced articulated AS hooks (such as the "Cebrit" brand) for use in these flies. Although movement was probably one consideration, I believe that the more significant consideration was to eliminate some of the leverage from large or long-shanked hooks that could cause them to work loose during a long fight. This idea is now incorporated into some of the huge articulated flies that modern anglers use for steelhead fishing, as well as in the "rebirth" of interest in tube flies.

Speaking of astute insights into the way trout feed on emerging insects, I have always liked a quotation found in Schwiebert's Nymphs (1973). It is from John Taverner (another of those insightful Brits) and was published in 1600 (!!):

I have seene a younge flie swimme in the water too and fro, and in the ende, come to the upper cruste of the river, and assay to flie up: howbeit, not being perfitely ripe or fledged, hath twice or thrice fallen downe againe into the bottome: howbeit, in the ende receiving perfection by the heate of the sunne, and the pleasant fat water, hath in the ende within some half houre after taken her flyte, and flied quite awaye into the ayre, and of such younge flies before they are able to flie away, do fish feede exceedingly.

PatcrisciMarch 31st, 2009, 10:24 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
Gonzo, good post, I especially like the reference to Taverner via Schweiebert. On the subject of wiggle duns, I could see maybe tying a hinged, or jointed-body mayfly dun imitation of a large fly, a Green Drake, for instance. And I read somewhere that Hendrickson wiggle nymphs and emergers can be especially effective during a hatch. I might take a stab at tying a few of these. Mcjames, did you find those photos?
Pat Crisci
GONZOMarch 31st, 2009, 10:43 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
...Hendrickson wiggle nymphs and emergers can be especially effective during a hatch.

Many of the ephemerellids (those known as Hendricksons, Sulphurs, Large Blue-Winged Olives, etc.) swim/wiggle to the surface when they emerge in slower water. In my experience, Drunella nymphs tend to be the clumsiest swimmers, and Ephemerella dorothea (Pale Evening Dun, Little Sulphur, etc.) is one of the best swimmers in this family. The problem with dorothea, however, is that tying little wiggle nymphs that work out to be the equivalent length of #16-18 hooks is more trouble than I am usually willing to undertake.

I think you reach a point of diminishing returns with smaller flies. I generally subscribe to the notion that the smaller the fly being imitated (and the faster the water being fished), the less significant the details become. Believe it or not, I'm an advocate of using the simplest fly that works well in any given situation. But, I also try to let the trout decide how much is required in the way of imitation.

PS--FWIW, you can see some of my wiggle patterns by clicking on the "Fly Tying Contests" heading at the top of the page. (Click on the avatar under one of my flies to see the group that Jason photographed.) Just keep the above comments in mind as you view them. :)
Flatstick96March 31st, 2009, 12:39 pm
Posts: 127
I've been wondering if Shawnny3 is going to weigh in here; I saw on the "What's New" section of his site that he recently attempted his first articulated stone - it looks pretty bad-ass in the pictures, but his account of his first attempt at fishing it is humbling, to be sure...
Shawnny3March 31st, 2009, 2:26 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Good points made by all. I haven't fished wiggle nymphs enough to make any conclusions. As DOS and Gonzo have stated, the wiggling action might have more to do with a fly looking alive than it does about it being realistic, and that's probably more important with large flies that can look sterile without any moving parts.

As far as tying them in Gonzo's style, I found that it didn't take me much longer to tie the articulated version, but tying it upside down made me keep sticking myself on the hookpoint protruding upward from the vise - just not used to it up there - and that kind of sucked. I eventually stuck a piece of foam over the point to keep myself from injury, the furthest I've gone so far toward using foam in my flytying.

I do have some experience fishing articulated tube-fly streamers for salmon and trout, and I found that the bigger the fly the more important movement is, whether it be from articulation or lively materials like marabou.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
GONZOMarch 31st, 2009, 3:05 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
...but tying it upside down made me keep sticking myself on the hookpoint...and that kind of sucked.

Ha! Gotcha! Hey Shawn, I enjoyed the section about the "curly worm" on your website. I know that Louis likes to rib you about that fly, but I've seen it in action. I think it's a great design--simple and deadly.
MartinlfMarch 31st, 2009, 4:03 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
OK, Gonzo, I only pick on Shawn's curly worm when he denigrates my hairy honeybug.

I knew this was going to get dirty at some point.

Pat, take a look at Fly Fishing Pressured Water: Tying Tactics for Today's Trout. You can read my and Jason's reviews of the book on I hear it's written by a rascal, but it has some very interesting patterns for wiggle flies, including some articulated drakes. It will give you some ideas, and might save you a few years of experimentation. Just don't believe all the fish stories in it; I believe some are tall tales.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
GONZOMarch 31st, 2009, 4:11 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
I hear it's written by a rascal...

Yeah, that's what I hear, too.
GreenghostMarch 31st, 2009, 6:19 pm
New Brunswick

Posts: 23
Forgive my simpistic approach,but wouldn't it make sense to fish a nymph tandem,with one tied rigid and the other tied "wiggly" in the same pattern to observe which,if either,trout preferred?

Quick Reply

You have to be logged in to post on the forum. It's this easy:
Username:          Email:

Password:    Confirm Password:

I am at least 13 years old and agree to the rules.

Related Discussions

TitleRepliesLast Reply
Re: I'm back
In General Discussion by Wbranch
6Apr 2, 2022
by Oldredbarn
Re: Wiggle Nymphs
In General Discussion by Martinlf
2Apr 28, 2007
by Martinlf
Re: Colorado River Hellgrammites
In the Insect Family Corydalidae by Cougmantx
2Mar 10, 2008
by Joec
Re: Help with Mayfly identification
In the Identify This! Board by MItroutbum
5Jun 14, 2008
by Wiflyfisher
Re: From tying to identifying
In the Identify This! Board by Jman
2Jun 6, 2008
by Jman
Re: Newbie
In the Insect Order Trichoptera by GennieS
2May 26, 2009
by Shawnny3
How to tie Devil Bug
In Fly Tying by Coha
Re: Brown Drake emerger pattern
In General Discussion by Wiflyfisher
8Jun 5, 2008
by Wiflyfisher
Re: Nymphing set up.
In Fly Tying by FC54
7Nov 19, 2019
by Tphillips
Articulated streamers
In General Discussion by Martinlf