Fly Patterns - October Birds Nest Nymph

                  October Birds Nest Nymph





This month’s pattern—Cal Bird’s “Bird’s Nest Nymph” — is an old favorite that should lurk in every fly angler’s nymph box. There have been variations on the original pattern, but in my opinion none of them achieve any degree of “improvement” over Cal Bird’s original design. I have added a bead to the hook—but only to show that it can be tied either with or without a bead.


GBF was fortunate to have had Cal Bird conduct a day of fly tying at the club house many years ago. As I recall, we have that session on video tape—and should probably consider having it re-mastered and transferred to a DVD format for our library.


The hackle on this fly is located at the juncture of the abdomen and the thorax, contrary to other nymph designs where the hackle is placed behind the eye and in front of the thorax. The procedure for applying the hackle is called the “distribution wrap,” which is Cal Bird’s own description of the procedure. It is a bit tricky to do properly, but does result in an even distribution of the hackle around the shank. Fortunately for us, Harry Mason, a friend who is a highly regarded fly tyer, has produced an excellent video on how to tie the Bird’s Nest Nymph, including the elusive distribution wrap. It can be found at


Finally, this is one of those flies that are “tied in the round,” meaning that the fly looks the same no matter how it is rotated. Compare this to a standard nymph that has a wing case on the top of the fly. In his famous book titled "Nymphing For Larger Trout", Charlie Brooks stated that he tied his flies "in the round" because a swimming nymph always rights itself before swimming away, and in order to mimic this habit a fly should appear the same from any angle. Thus, for his patterns that include a wing case, the wing case surrounds the fly. This simple idea revolutionized, so some extent, the world of fly tying. For example, think about how standard soft hackle patterns are tied: The hackle is wrapped around the hook and the body is uniform in appearance—a perfect example of tying in the round. The Bird’s Nest Nymph is a type of soft hackle fly, in my view. I am partial to soft hackle patterns because of the motion of the fly in the water, attributable to the hackle’s movement in the current. Sneaky, eh?


Tying Instructions

1.  Smash the barb, place a bead on the hook, and secure it by placing a few wraps of lead of proper size behind the bead. Jam the lead into the large bevel of the bead, which should be facing rearward. I tend to use small beads—probably smaller than manufacturers’ recommendation.

2.  Secure the lead with thread wraps and advance the thread to the rear of the hook.


3.  At a point just above the back end of the barb, tie on a tail consisting of a small bunch of wood duck or teal flank feather fibers. It should be about 2/3 of length of the hook shank. Take a well-marked flank feather and cut out the “heart,” located at the top of the feather (see Harry Mason’s video clip showing this technique). Roll the fibers and tie them in as indicated above.

4.  Tie in the copper wire which will serve as the ribbing, at the same point (see hint #1 below).

5.  Dub a slender abdomen, taking the dubbing 2/3 of the way up the hook shank. Counter-wrap the copper wire ribbing with a few close wraps, and tie this off in front of the dubbing.

6.  Using the remaining (bottom) portion of your flank feather, with the tips facing rearward, measure the barbules to shank length. Take a loose wrap around the entire piece right at the front of the dubbed abdomen, drawing the thread tight with a second wrap. The effect will be to distribute the barbules evenly around the abdomen if done properly (hence the name “distribution wrap”). Again, see Harry Mason’s video for a good visual presentation of this technique:


7.  Dub a robust thorax in front of the hackle, up to the back of the bead; the thorax should be a bit fuller than the abdomen. Whip finish behind the bead.

Tying Tips

1.       When tying in ribbing, it is a good idea to flatten the wire where it will be tied in. This prevents distortion of the body.

2.       Try tying without using a bead, so that you can experiment on the stream with both versions.

3.       Tie some in olive also. I also like to have some in black.

4.       Tie in different sizes, down to #18. I even have some as large as #6 in my nymph box.

Go crank some of these bugs, go fish them, and…





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