Rhyacophila Barbus Tungsten Nymph | Fly Tying | CzechNymph.com
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Category: Flies for Fly Fishing | Author: Ála Richie

For this edition of “At the Vice” I have chosen one of my favorite river fly patterns designed for barbel. It is a type of fly meant to imitate the natural food of the fish we are hunting. In this case that means a free living caddisfly larva – Rhyacophila.


For this edition of “At the Vice” I have chosen one of my favorite river fly patterns designed for barbel. It is a type of fly meant to imitate the natural food of the fish we are hunting. In this case that means a free living caddisfly larva – Rhyacophila.

Rhyacophila caddisfly larvae don’t build cases, and are active predators that hunt their food. We can find them under stones in just about any clean and well-oxygenated stream. The larvae have some typical characteristics – they are big and green, different than other caddisfly species. It’s important to remember this and try to bring these characteristic to our fly.

As mentioned, I most like to use this fly for barbel in deep stretches and currents. Of course this fly could be used for other fish that certainly take Rhyacophila for food, but in the conditions I usually fish it wouldn’t be necessary to use this method of weighting the nymph with tungsten, so I won’t expand on those uses here.

Fishing method and equipment:

When fishing for barbel with this fly, I really like to use just one larger-sized Rhyacophila Barbus Tungsten on the leader, since the tungsten bead takes this single nymph deep enough by itself. If fishing where there’s a school of fish close together, as barbel tend to prefer, we also avoid accidentally harming other fish by dragging around extra hooks – clearly prohibited from a sporting and ethical point-of-view. We are also sure that we catch only those  fish that are interested in our fly and take the morsel we have presented in their mouth.

Short (or Czech) nymphing against the current is an excellent and ideal method for fishing this fly, but I much prefer to use what I call my “Pseudo-New Zealand style” for one fly on the leader. This consists of using a foam (polycelon) indicator on the leader that can be positioned according to the depth fished, so the nymph drifts very close to the bottom or actually bumps along in a controlled manner. This indicator can be substituted by a large dry fly (the actual New Zealand style), but one which is able to withstand the pull of tungsten in the deep – the best for this purpose are the foam bugs or foam hoppers, unsinkable flies from highly porous foam.  This is tied onto the tip of the leader, and then a second section of leader with our nymph at the end is tied to the hook bend of this dry fly. If our indicator or foam bug stops or goes underwater, immediately flick the rod to see if the hook sets. Barbel is a fierce and strong fighter that gives its all to the battle! We have to keep this in mind when hunting these fish, and prepare in advance. The best option is a rod of category 4-6wt, since you never know how big a fish you’ll encounter and it would be a pity to underestimate your equipment.  I personally also use thicker leader of 0.20mm and larger, which usually guarantees that barbel doesn’t escape with our fly! And as I have found over time and friends have confirmed, larger fish fight harder and fiercely against stronger equipment than against lighter stuff that doesn’t give any resistance!

Tying materials:


For this type of nymph I like to use a barbless hook type H330BL bronze in size #8, which is perfect for this fly. It is not a typical gammarus hook with a large radius bend, but rather excellently resembles the shape of a Rhyacophila larva – slightly bending, imitating active movement, not sharply bent as is typical for Gammarus scuds. In fact, I use this type of hook most frequently to imitate free-living predatory caddisfly larvae. As an alternative, hook type H300BL black nickel # 8-12 can be used and slightly straightened out in the vice, so your nymph won’t look too much like a scud.


A head made of a tungsten bead is a crucial feature of this fly. I long tried to avoid the use of tungsten heads, but when I started fishing for barbel and other “fish of the deep currents”, I realized they are the best way to get my flies down to the fish. Barbel like strong currents, where they scrape all kinds of aquatic organisms and larval insect stages off the rocks. The heaviness of tungsten beads help us weigh down the fly so that it falls quickly through the water column to the bottom, where fish are feeding. At the same time the fly can be thin, which the fish take more confidently and willingly, avoiding the use of lead wire in the fly body.

The size and type of tungsten bead is chosen according to various attributes, including the size of the fly itself, depth of the current (with beads ranging from 2.5 – 4 mm), the water clarity (gold, silver, bronze, black, or matte tungsten), the naturalness or wildness of the fly pattern (tungsten round+ or diamond+ types, which have small areas on their surfaces that reflect light like a disco ball J, or fluo colors like orange, chartreuse, pink…). The possibilities are really huge! It is important, of course, that we combine our knowledge of the river and preferences of the fish in our fly. I would also like to mention that by using a tungsten bead, the whole weight of the fly is shifted toward the head, so it likely bounces along the bottom with the hook pointing up. I can’t begin to claim that this effect limits tangles, since my experience is quite the opposite, and fishing with tungstens along crowded river bottoms can be an expensive affair! J

Though I’ve described tungsten nymphs as a great way how to get to deep fish quickly, I am certainly not in favor of using them generally, since, as is often the case, a good idea in the wrong hands always leads to poor results. I try to use tungsten flies as little as possible and only when other options aren’t available – only for targeted fishing, not to drag all over the river!


I use thin elastic thread, preferably in the same color as the body dubbing – in this case Hens Tying thread VNE 204 Elastic 0.08 mm is a great choice.


Tied from an olive-colored partridge feather. I pull individual fibers from the stem of the feather and form a small tuft that excellently imitates the tail of a Rhyacophila larva. Other effective tips can be made of bit of cut-off body material which covers the natural “tail” and transitions nicely into the body.

Body dubbing:

The best is material from aquatic animals – muskrat, mink, seal, etc. As I have previously written, aquatic animal fur has excellent characteristics and makes a very natural impression on fish. If you don’t have this kind of dubbing, fine rabbit dubbing can also work well - even beginner tiers should always have some at hand, since it is easy to obtain and used as basic dubbing for bobeš ??? and nymphs.

When choosing the color for larvae body material, we should keep in mind that we are imitating a particular animal with typical colors. I therefore like to use various olive shades from very light to dark green. Sometimes an excellent and unexpected choice could even be fluo green.


A braided band of Pearl Scudback (Braidback) in green or peacock is excellent for imitating the back of a free-living caddisfly larva.

For a more natural alternative, I use a combination of thick tinsel with a dark green Bodystretch or vinyl strip to cover it. After getting wet this kind of back produces an interesting effect through “muting” of the tinsel. The tying method for this type of back is different than shown here, however – follow the steps typical for tying a classical Czech Bobeš.

Ribbing wire:

I most like to rib the body of flies with colored wire, in this case 0.18 mm gold, but also green, black, or brown wire can be used, giving us the impression of a segmented Rhyacophila larva body.


The same material as for the tail, olive colored partridge feather.


For the thorax I always use a rougher and darker material than used for the body itself. In this case it is a mix of dark olive rabbit with olive seal, but of course other rough materials with a sufficient amount of guard hair are possible – nutria, opossum, seal by itself, etc.


Necessary to firm up the fly in between each step.

Tying steps:

Step 1:

On a H330 BL barbless hook, slide on a gold 3.5 mm tungsten bead type diamond+. Before moving all the way up to the eye, I always put a drop of superglue just behind the eye to fix the bead to the hook and prevent it from twisting, which could make the fly construction seem unnatural when fishing and degrade its effect.

Cover the hook shank with a thin layer of lacquer, around which we wind the tying thread. We’ve now moved to the hook bend.

Step 2:

We now tie in a short tuft made of individual fibers from olive partridge. Fix the feather along the whole length of the hook, and end with the thread at about the thorax, where we go to the next step.

Step 3:

Place a gold wire next to the hook and tightly fix with tying thread to the hook shank. Cover with a thin layer of lacquer, which is absorbed by the thread and firms up and stabilizes the whole fly, giving us a base on which to build subsequent layers of the nymph.

Step 4:

In this step we dub in the body – wind by wind – using the light (cream) green rabbit dubbing.

Take a moderate amount of dubbing with each wind of thread, so the body doesn’t become too thick, which can turn off fish. Barbel really like thin nymphs! They don’t believe in too large and thick-bodied nymphs, and actually avoid them even though they would mean a richer meal. So never overdo the dubbing!

Step 5:

At the thorax of the fly lay down flat and tie in the light olive green Pearl Scudback (or Pearl Braidback) material.

Step 6:

Hold this back material down across the back of the fly by the free end. With the other hand take the gold wire and with regular winds form the segments in the Pearl Scudback. When getting to the thorax, tie down the wire with thread and cut off the rest. Then cut off the Pearl Scudback material at the same length as the tail, and comb out the braids to form an irresistible complement to the olive partridge. Comb the dubbing material with a bit of Velcro and tweezers and pull out the denser guard hair.

Step 7:

Make the larval legs from the same material as the tail – olive partridge. Take care that the legs are symmetrical on both sides, not just on the side from which we are tying.

Step 8:

In this last phase of tying we dub in loops a mix of dark olive rabbit and olive seal. Comb the thorax with Velcro and reduce its volume with tweezers.

We can add a small amount of Spectra dubbing in the same color if we wish, but with the combination of the materials already mentioned I find this fly attractive enough as it is, so I try to use just natural furs in natural colors for the dubbing, nicely offsetting the glittery artificial materials (the head and back). Finish off the fly with several hidden knots behind the head, fix the knots with a drop of lacquer, and the Rhyacophila Barbus Tungsten is ready to use!

A word in conclusion:

I hope that tying my Rhyacophila Barbus Tungsten brings you as much joy as fishing with it,and leads you to many wonderful moments and experiences. I also hope that with this fly you join the ranks of fishers who don’t go to the water just for meat, but rather because of these irreplaceable moments!

Catch & Release Forever!

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