Jig Nymphs and Balanced Flies

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Jig Nymphs and Balanced Flies

Written by: Mark Bachmann & Frank Day Picture, Balances and Jig Fly examples.

Jig Nymphs and Balanced Flies are both tied on jig hooks and are both meant to ride with the hook point in the upright position (above the body of the fly). With the growing popularity of the European style nymping techniques on our western rivers, these types of flies are gaining popularity and are often the “hot” new fly in a friend’s fly box. The jig style of hook is incredibly popular in Europe for several reasons. Jig hooks are designed to ride point-up. This seems like pretty rudimentary change to a classic nymphs design but makes a difference in a number of ways. When you’re fishing a deeply sunk nymph with a standard hook point down, it risks hanging up on the bottom more frequently. This not only interrupts your drift but can dull your hook points resulting in lost or missed fish. At least that is the common notion about tying flies on jig hooks. Fact is that most nymphs are tied on turned-down eye hooks and if those nymphs are weighted, they automatically turn over on their back as soon as they are in the water. The only time turned-down eye hooks ride with the point down is when they are unweighted. As soon as enough weight is added to overcome the keel effect of the hook bend, the hook turns over. The reason jig hooks turn a fly upside-down is because they have even more leverage than a standard tuned down eye hook. It kind of blows your mind when you contemplate of all the weighted artificial nymphs that are actually fishing with their wing pads on their belly instead of their dorsal area. One wonders if they might hatch into dry flies that flew upside down?

In the early 1970’s an angler named Charles E. Brooks started scuba diving in the great trout streams of South Central Montana. He watched both natural and artificial flies as they drifted along underwater. Charley noticed that natural insects rarely revolved as they drifted. But artificial flies when attached to a leader often did, showing the artificial wing pads, then the belly color as they spun in the currents. He deduced that a fly which revolved while being fished alerted the trout that it was not real food and therefore was usually rejected. In his classic book: “Nymph Fishing For Larger Trout” (1976) Charley advocated for flies tied without wing cases to rid of this distraction. He called these flies as being tied in the round so that they looked the same to trout no matter which side was up.

Flies tied on jig hooks rarely revolve because of the center of balance, which keels the belly of the fly. The more weight that is added to the hook shank the more stable the fly becomes. Most Jig and Balanced flies are tied in the round

anyway since installing wing pads under the hook point is difficult. Many of these jig-hook flies are impressionistic and don’t replicate a specific trout food organism. There are a lot of juvenile aquatic insects and other crawly things on the bottom of rivers that look pretty similar.

Picture of how various weighted nymph flies perform accordin to where the weight is placed in each fly style.
  1. Fly tied on an unweighted Standard Hook tends to hang vertical if suspended in still water.
  2. Bead head or hook shank wrapped with lead wire turns upside down in still or flowing water.
  3. Jig hook rides upside down and level only whey weighted properly.
  4. Jig hook with a slotted bead added tends to ride level.
  5. Jig hook rides level even with long trailing material if extra weight is added forward of the eye. Examples 5 & 6 are tied in the round.

Flies constructed on jig hooks ride in a more natural horizontal orientation than flies tied on turned down eye fly tying hooks. Fir this reason they may be preferred for some bait fish patterns and many mayfly and stonefly nymphs. For these same reasons jig hooks may not be appropriate for midge pupa or most emergers.

Jig hooks really hold hooked fish. With the weight of the fish at the rear bend of the hook a straight or slightly down eye hook has a little bit of leverage put on it. With the eye of the hook on a 45 or 90 to the shank, the line meets the fly almost directly in line with the bend where it would seat in a fish’s mouth. This greatly reduces leverage and the likelihood that a hook will pop free on a particularly violent series of head shakes. Give the jig style of nymphs a try you won’t regret it, but a few big trout might….

This Eastern Brook Trout was caught using a Jig Nymph.

Jig Nymphs
Any wet fly or nymph pattern can be tied on a jig hook, but will only achieve the desired horizontal effect to the fly if the hook is weighted properly. We like Daiichi 4640 Hooks and Slotted Tungsten Beads

Balanced Flies
Balanced Flies are also tied on jig hooks but a slotted bead is not used. Instead a bead or in some cases a cone head is installed on a pin and the shaft of the pin is tied onto the hook shank. This places the weight farther forward of the eye of the hook. Balanced flies are usually fished in lakes while suspended from a strike indicator. This technique suspends a balances fly at what-ever depth the strike indicator allows and the fly sits still of move very slowly in a horizontal position. This often the most lifelike presentation for lakes where many trout foods move very slowly.

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