The SB Beadhead Nymph, short for Simpson-Billmyer, is the best generic nymph pattern that I have yet fished. I have developed it over several years in collaboration with Jake Billmyer, manager of the Orvis Fly Shop in Charlottesville, Va. Typical of all the flies that I continue to tie and fish, it is easy to tie, durable, and catches a lot of trout!
I have variously used straight shanked wet fly hooks, curved nymph hooks, and jig hooks. My preference is the jig hook, mostly because it seems to get caught on fewer stream-bottom structures. I tie it in sizes 14-20, most often size 16.
For the beadhead, I use a pink tungsten bead. Yes, pink! I have fished brass, copper, black, purple and red, but find pink to be the most effective head color. This is true both for the native brookies and stocked trout in the eastern part of the country and the wild trout of Montana and Idaho.
After wrapping the hook shank with 8/0 olive dun Uni-Thread, I attach a few strands of gold Z-lon for the tail, trimmed relatively short.
For the abdomen, I wrap olive colored Ultra Wire from the hook bend all the way to the beadhead. I prefer medium sized wire for the larger nymphs, which yields a ribbed appearance and adds helpful weight. When tying smaller sized nymphs, I use the small size Ultra Wire.
The thorax is built up with peacock Ice Dub, which adds flash. I use a dubbing loop to wrap it, which leaves a spiked appendage-like appearance with life-like movement. I rarely need to use a dubbing brush to tease out the fibers.
I also tie a variant, which I refer to as the “Fulldress” SB Beadhead Nymph. For this pattern, I palmer gray ostrich herl over the wire abdomen and wrap gray hackle behind the beadhead. Both additions are attempts to add more lifelike movements to the nymph. Thus far, the trout have not rendered a final opinion regarding their preference.
You will not find either of these flies in the fly bins of flyshops, but they are easy to tie.
I fish the SB Beadhead Nymph with both tightline and suspension techniques. They quickly sink down to the fish, who can’t seem to resist them. So give them a try!
written by Al Simpson, September, 2020.