Fly Patterns - Bill's Swimming Hex Nymph

Bill's Swimming Hex Nymph

                 Bill's Swimming Hex Nymph



TMC 300 or similar hook, size 8

Weight 3 wraps of lead-free weight at thorax


Dark brown 8/0


Orange flat waxed, smallest size available

Wing case Brown deer hair


Extra-fine copper or gold Wire

Thorax Arizona Peacock dubbing, robust


Pearl Spirit River Lite-brite


Brown spey hackle


Arizona Peacock dubbing



A few years ago, when I went to Labrador with a small group of friends to fish for giant Brookies, we expected that there would be a good hatch of Hexagenia mayflies—and, as it turned out, that was the case. What we didn’t know were two big factors: (1) The Hexagenias in Labrador are even larger than they are in our neck of the woods; and (2) There was a simultaneous hatch of Gray Drakes and Green Drakes—and each of these two additional species was the same size as the Hexagenias. In other words, as it happened there were three distinctly differently colored ginormous mayflies blanketing the water. Nevertheless, it didn’t matter much because the fish gulped down all three species indiscriminately. My guess is that they do so because they are all a nice big meal, and their season of plenty is so short-lived that they eat whatever is available. Their watery home is frozen over for nearly 8 months, so as the lawyers say, “time is of the essence” for them.


Being contrarian by nature, I decided to see what would happen if I used the Hex nymphs that I had tied for the trip. The guides thought I was a brick or two short—and maybe they are right. But they stopped their prattling when they began seeing the results. Of course, once I had made my point I returned to the adults—as we all know, it just doesn’t get any better than watching a big fish crash into your floating fly. More recently, on a trip to Henderson Springs for the annual Hex hatch at that venue, my theory about what big fish do during a Hex hatch proved itself time and again. My theory is quite simple: If you see fish swirling amidst a horde of adults adorning the surface of the lake, don’t assume that they are taking the adults. In fact, at times they may not take the adults at all, opting instead to intercept the nymphs near the surface before they hatch. Instead of putting on my favorite Hex adult patterns, I set my rig up with a two-fly tandem arrangement: the top fly was my Swimming Hex Nymph, and the bottom fly was Lincoln Gray’s Floating Nymph. My friend Keith Pierraz stood and watched as I landed 17 fish (all between 18 and 24”) in an hour; after Keith left, I stayed for another hour and landed 10 more beauties. I would have kept at it but it was black dark and I had to get off the water. During that whole two-plus hours, I did not see a single fish take an adult. Go figure—but also give it some thought. I’ve watched countless times as anglers dig out their dry flies as soon as adult mayflies appear on the water. Big mistake. Stay with those nymphs until it is clear that most of the fish are taking adults. I will sometimes fish the nymphs or swing  soft hackle right through the hatch. Only when I’m sure—and I’m never sure of anything, really—that the fish are done with the nymphs will I switch to dries.


Tying Instructions

1.   Smash the hook barb. Wrap 3 turns of weight at the thorax area, which will be about 2 eye-widths behind the hook eye.

2.     Cover the shank with thread, leaving it at the back of the barb.

3.     Tie in a piece of fine gold or copper wire.

4.     Dub a relatively slender abdomen of Arizona Peacock dubbing; stop at the one third point on the hook shank behind the eye. Rib the abdomen with the wire and tie it off in front of the abdomen.


 5.  Cut a small bunch of brown deer hair, clean it, and tie it in by the tips in front of the abdomen with the butts pointing to the rear. Leave it in this position for now.

6.     Dub a robust thorax of Arizona Peacock dubbing.

7.     Pull the wing case over the top of the thorax, tie it down in front of the thorax, and trim the excess.


 8.  Turn the fly upside down and tie in a beard of pearl Lite-Brite; this should be very sparse, and no longer than the hook point.

9.     Return the fly to upright position, tie in a brownish spey hackle, and take a few wraps in front of the thorax; tie it off and trim the excess


 Crank out  a bunch of these blokes, go feed them to some trout, and…

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