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Review of the Headlight/Tail Light Nymph

Updated on December 25, 2015

The Concept

Red and white is a popular color combination for topwater fly fishing - such as poppers and the Garsite gurgler. However, wet fly patterns in red and white are not common; the royal coachman is the only one that immediately comes to mind. Having experimented with glass beads on wet flies and having good success, I wanted to develop a fly that accented red and white. Enter the headlight/tail light nymph.


The headlight/tail light nymph looks rather awkward at first glance. The upright partridge collar looks gaudy and anything but streamline. The beads are miss matched with the silver bead (headlight) at the eyelet being smaller than the red bead (tail light) located just above the bend of the hook. The body is made of mohair - not enough fiber for a leach pattern, yet too fuzzy for dubbing. All of this is intentional in order for the fly to function as a struggling nymph. The larger bead weighs the fly down at the back end so that when paused, the nymph falls backward. The upright partridge collar compresses when stripped, but flares out when the fly is paused and falls backward - something akin to action on the bully spider wet fly. The mohair yarn absorbs fish attractant oils while the collared hackle stays out of the way. As expected, the glass beads add attractive flash while not adding considerable weight - just enough for a slow free fall, the kind that bluegills like.

How to Fish the Headlight/Tail Light

This fly performs well in reasonably clear, still water. It is best fished on a floating fly line with a strong, single retrieve strip followed by a very long pause. The strong strip sends the fly quickly towards the surface, while the long pause results in the fly tumbling backwards with the hackle collar flaring out. Most fish strike at the fly late in the descent. The overall motion is that of a distressed nymph and being easy prey.

There is one down side with the nymph. The red glass bead at the bend of the hook is just large enough that a bluegill cannot always get the hook in its mouth. Smaller bluegills will often times give you strikes with no hook sets. Larger bluegills tend to manage the hook better.

Fly Tying the Headlight/Tail Light Nymph


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