Troutbitten Fly Box — The Bread-n-Butter Nymph

by | Apr 20, 2018 | 28 comments

This simple nymph is a winner. The Bread-n-Butter looks enough like a mayfly nymph, enough like a caddis, or enough like a small stonefly to be a very productive pattern. Whatever trout take it for, it gets attention and seals the deal frequently. It’s on my short list of confidence flies.

Yes. It looks like a Hare’s Ear nymph. Half the stuff in my box looks like a Hare’s Ear or a Pheasant Tail. When you turn over rocks to see what kind of bugs trout are eating, most of what you find fits under the category of “little brown things with some moving parts.”

My theory of fly selection is based in simplicity. I don’t carry hundreds of patterns, because I’ve found that I don’t need to. And carrying fewer flies forces me to adjust my presentation — to fish harder — instead of blaming the fly and changing what’s on the end of my line.

My Troutbitten friends are the same way. None of us carry too many boxes or fish complicated nymphs. Anglers often refer to simple flies as guide flies (fish-catching flies that are quick to tie). Fair enough, but even if I had more time at the vise, I’d still tie and fish simple nymphs.

Once a trout notices our fly, I believe it then looks for a reason not to eat it. And too many parts tied on a hook give trout too much to reject. For this reason, the nymphs in my fly box are constructed from just a handful of materials: parts of a feather, dubbing, a rib and a collar — that usually does the job.

The Bread-n-Butter resembles so many other patterns. It looks like Dave Whitlock’s Red Fox Squirrel Nymph. It looks like a Hare and Copper, and yes, it looks like the classic Hare’s Ear Nymph. But if you’re a fly tyer, then I’m sure you also have your own variations that you believe in, even more so than these originals. Such is the case with the Bread-n-Butter.

I carried and fished all three of the former patterns in their original form. Eventually, my Hare’s Ear’s turned into Fox Squirrel styles, tied in the round. A few years ago, those became a Hare and Copper. And for reasons I’ll detail below, they’ve now morphed into the Bread-n-Butter.

Here’s the video. Be sure to select HD quality in the settings.

Bread-n-Butter Nymph

Hook: Jig style #10-16

Bead: Slotted Gold Tungsten

Thread: Brown (I like 8/0 Uni-Thread)

Lead Wraps: Size to match hook shank diameter

Tail: Coq de Leon (I like dark pardoe)

Rib: Small gold wire

Abdomen: Hareline Dubbin Hare’s Ear

Thorax: Arizona Synthetic Peacock (Bronze)

Collar: Rust Brown 8/0 Uni-Thread

The Hook

Most of the nymphs in my box ride inverted, although they aren’t tied on a jig hook. I use scud hooks and 2XL nymph hooks for most of my other patterns, and tied with a bead and lead, they ride upside down. I’ve tested the. . . a lot.

However, I’m using jig hooks more often these days. I like them for the black finish, for the wider gaps, and for the longer points.

The Bead

The Bread-n-Butter stopped being what I could fairly call a Hare and Copper once I changed the bead color. Ninety-five percent of the beaded nymphs in my box were copper or black nickel. I wanted some gold, so I swapped the bead and rib color on the Hare and Copper and made a few other material changes.

The Tail

I like Wood Duck, and I use a lot of Pheasant Tail for tailing material too, but on the Bread-n-Butter, I like Coq de Leon. The thin fibers don’t take over and add length to the fly, but it’s there if the trout want to see it that way. I use about double the amount of fibers as I would on, for example, an imitative mayfly nymph.

The Dubbing

Hare’s Ear dubbing just catches fish. In one small clump, the variations in color and texture of the fibers make a fly look alive. I like to keep the dubbing noodle loose, not tight. And if there aren’t enough fibers sticking out, I rough up the fly with a piece of velcro.

Hare’s Ear is the bread, and Arizona Synthetic Peacock (Bronze) is the butter. A little gold and yellow shine mixed in with the brown fibers is a good look, and it’s a nice match with the bead.

The Collar

I believe a fly can have too much flash or too much eye candy, especially for my local limestone-region trout. The Bread-n-Butter already has enough going on, so I don’t want a super-bright collar. The Rust-Brown Uni-Thread is understated, but effective. I have plenty of fluorescent collars on my other patterns. This one doesn’t need it.

Photo by Pat Burke

Photo by Chris Kehres

The Bread-n-Butter is a quick tie, and it catches a bunch of fish. Of course, you could change any or all of these materials, and just use the style as a template. But then you’d have to give it a new name, wouldn’t you?

Good luck out there. Fish hard.

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky



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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. Great idea, Dom. Thanks. I also like simple, “guide,” flies. BTW, have you tried Perdigon nymphs?

    • Alex. Yeah, I tied a few but haven’t fished them much, to be honest. How are they working out for you?

  2. I forgot that I have another question. I fish jig nymphs on point and nymphs tied on conventional hooks on dropper. What are your thoughts on the matter?

    • That makes sense, assuming your point fly is your heavier fly, as opposed to vice versa (see Lance Egan). However, there is nothing wrong with using a jig on the dropper either. That way you only have to buy one type of hook and bead, instead of 2. If you already have standard hooks and beads, then use those on your upper fly.

      • Actually, all my beaded flies on regular hooks also ride upside down. Yours probably do as well. A jig hook is NOT necessary to make this happen. Neither are special beads. Every scud hook, 2X long or standard length hook in my box inverts by simply putting a bead on it and some lead wraps to mid shank. I tested this extensively for a couple evenings many years ago.


        • Hmmm, interesting.

  3. You l left out one of my key materials on all my confidence flies, a hackle collar of either CDC, hen hackle, or partridge.

    All my confidence flies are basically the same, pheasant tail tails, dubbed body/thorax, dark wingcase of natural dark brown/black materials or black thinskin, and a sparsehen hackle collar. Sometimes a rib of wire, but not always i leave out the rib on most flies under sz14.

    I really like the bread n butter idea, I think everyone has there own “style” of tying nymphs, simplicity is really gaining speed with everyone and with good reason, this is an excellent article!

    • What fly to have on dropper / point is a matter of depth and weight than what style it is. If you are in a situation where you want both flies close to the bottom – fish the heavy fly on dropper. If you want the light fly to ride higher in column fish heavy fly on point.

      If you always fish your “jig” on point Im assuming this is your heavy fly as well, thats cool, but just remember your “traditional” fly will be riding higher in the column,

    • Alex, I fish both hook styles in both positions. Doesn’t matter to me. Also, as I mentioned in the article, most of my beaded nymphs ride upside down even on regular hooks.

      Ryan makes good points about fly position too.

  4. I like those simple ties, too, Domenick. I’m going to give them a try.

  5. Ryan, when I have a hackled nymph on I feel like I always have a better chance at catching a fish. BTW I love the idea about having regular troutbitten “fly box” segments!

  6. Hi Domenick, Is that silver or gold wire on the Bread ‘N Butter. Looks like silver in the picture.

  7. Sorry, I can see it now, it’s gold. My screen at home made it look silver.

  8. Very nicely done. Love the concept and thoughts. Been tying more like this – simple, in the round, generally nondescript – and fishing them for years. Long ago had to stop blaming the fish, the water, the weather. Adapt, improvise, overcome. Varying my presentations has resulted in more fish; not better flies. I tie most of my nymphs on custom poured jigs. Weight is consist, I use premium hooks with longer shanks, wider gapes,. Always ride hook point up. Nice looking fly. I too like a bit of reddish colored thread somewhere on the fly. Not sure the fish take note, but I do.

  9. Why don’t you save a step and tie the whole fly with the rusty brown? I’m just curious.

    • Hi Gary,

      Good question. I just don’t like the look of the colored thread occasionally showing through the dubbing, especially when wet. I’m sure the fish don’t care, but it kinda bugs me.


  10. Ooh Yeah! I’m definitely going to tye some of these up. Thanks for sharing.

    • That’s the stuff. Thank’s Jeff. I’ll fix the link. Dom

      • Hi Domenick, great article. I’ve learnt so much from your website so far. I would just like to know how does the jig hook come into play during a dead drift?
        Does the hook affect the fly’s movement differently to a standard fly hook during a dead drift? Thanks

        • Hi Adrian,

          In short, no. For nymph sized flies, a jig style hook doesn’t change anything about how the fly moves during the drift. In large, streamer sizes, yes that can matter more. But then again, with streamers, we are (usually) actively moving the fly whereas a nymph we are (usually) attempting a dead drift.

          As I’ve also pointed out many times, almost all hooks invert when you attach a bead and a little lead behind the bead. There’s really no need for the jig hook.



          • Thanks for the info Dom, I appreciate it.

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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