Home Fishing Tips & Advice What Does Nymphing Mean in Fly Fishing?

What Does Nymphing Mean in Fly Fishing?

Nymphing is an activity in fly fishing in which a Fisher uses either real or fake nymphs or their molted skins as bait to attract different kinds of fish and catch them. Nymphing is an extremely effective technique because nymphs attract fish because they are such a large part of their diet.

What is a Nymph?

When insects reach a particular stage in their lifecycle, they mature by molting their skin or creating a cocoon for themselves so that they can reach their final adult stage. Before they reach their adult stage, these young insects are known as nymphs. 

Because they’re not full adults yet and don’t have all of their defensive and offensive skills, many fish like to eat nymphs. This is because they are much easier to catch in comparison to their adult forms.

What is Nymphing?

In regular fishing, a Fisher uses bait to attract fish and catch them. But when a Fisher uses bait, they usually use live bait or artificial bait that they buy from a fishing store. The bait that they use is supposed to be colorful in order to attract fish that are used to fishers or are shy and wary of predators. 

Nymphing is similar to baiting, but instead of using live bait or fake bait, it involves using the outer shells of insects that have molted. For example, when a caterpillar changes its body into a butterfly, at least behind its cocoon and flies away. Someone who practices fly-fishing will take the molted skin of a nymph and use it as bait. They will place it on their hook and cast their line back and forth. Fly fishers can also use artificial nymphs or a fake cocoon. 

If a fly fisher is very dedicated, they can use live nymphs directly from the water of the location that they are going to be fish at. But this takes much more time.

When you are finally able to attach a real or fake insect or cocoon on their Hook Line, you must take great care and make sure it is on tightly. If it is not, it can easily be thrown off the hook when the fisher is casting the line back and forth. 

Why do Fly Fishers Choose to Practice Nymphing?

Although it may be difficult to search for discarded cocoons and old molts of insects, many fly-fishers prefer to use nymphing in comparison with other types of bait.

Fishers prefer this method because fish respond much more to nymphing bait than other types of bait. When fish live in areas filled with insects, they frequently eat the insects that are hovering above the surface of the water. They are already used to seeing the nymph, and the fish know that if they go to the surface of the water, they are very likely to eat the nymph because it is not fast enough to escape. So nymphs are extremely delectable treats for hungry fish. 

Where Can You Find Nymphs for Fishing?

Fake nymphs or their cocoons can be purchased online or at bait and tackle shops. Also, you might find realistic replicas in the area that you are fishing. If you are purchasing a fake nymph, some of them come with their own hooks inside of them, so it is more difficult for a fish to escape when they have taken the bait and bitten the nymph. There is a wide variety of nymphs and nymphs sold through online stores, so be sure to purchase the one that attracts the most fish in the area. Ask around and see what insects the local fish like to eat.

If a fly fisher is dedicated, they can harvest the local nymphs in and around the lake. Many nymphs land up in the water, so you can scoop up the pond or lake water from nearby and find any immature insects or nymphs still in good shape. You can also search online and discover what plants you most likely to find nymphs on.

When Fly Fishing, it is important to set the hook just right. Read our article, Fly Fishing: How to Set a Hook.

Thing to Do and Not to Do When Using Nymphs For Fly Fishing

For those who have never practiced nymphing before, there is a list of things you should and should not do.

  • Avoid using nymphs that are too large – some fish prefer smaller insects and trying to catch them with larger insects will not work
  • Do not stick with just one pattern – how many different types of fly fishing patterns and techniques you can use oh, so it’s the one you most prefer is not working, it is time to change your pattern up a bit
  • Using too much extra line – this is a very common mistake that even expert life issues make. Too much lime means that if you have a catch, it will be harder for the fisher to pool their rod and line back fast enough. The line will have too much lag, and you may lose a good catch.
  • Be sure to place the nymphs or the cocoon on the hook securely so that it doesn’t fall off when the line hook is in motion. More fishers have lost good bait to incorrect placement than actual fish biting on their bait.
  • You should not move too much if you’re in the water. Fish are extremely sensitive to excess movement in and on top of the water. They may think you’re splashing is a bear coming to eat, and they will swim away. 


Many fish like to eat the unchanged or free metamorphosis insects that fall into the lake or pond water they live in. Because fly-fishers know that it is an effective strategy, they use a technique known as nymphing When a fly fisher practices nymphing, they use either fake or real young insects or their Molt’s or cocoons, so they can learn fish food. You can get fake nymph bait from local or online fishing shops. Very dedicated fly Fishers will go hunting for nymphs and then certain up by size so they can choose the best one for the fish they’re trying to attract.

Previous articleHow to Catch an Atlantic Croaker
Next articleHow Much Do Fishing Flies Cost?
Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.