The humble little Brassie. If there was ever a fly pattern that had little to no recognition of how deadly it is, it has to be the Brassie. A simple pattern with no more than three materials on it, that catches loads of fish and big fish at that.
My first experience with the Brassie was on the waters I grew up fishing on. In those days, I didn’t know about the Brassie, not to say it wasn’t around. We merely weren’t aware of it and didn’t fish it, if we were though, WOW!
It wasn’t until years later, on one of my annual return fishing trips, that I had the pleasure of fishing the Brassie, and only then did I begin to understand how effective the pattern really is.
In the below article, we will go through what makes the Brassie such a great pattern and how to tie and fish it.
Why the Brassie Nymph is Great
The Brassie is by far one of the easiest patterns to tie and one that accounts for many fish. This simple little pattern has a few materials to it and can be tied in minutes. It’s a very durable pattern that can be fished in a variety of methods.
Whichever way you choose to fish the fly, dependent on your waters, it will always produce something. Many have varied reasons as to why it is so effective, and I believe it is the combination of a few things that just work.
The peacock herl, which as a thorax, is just deadly. Let’s be fair here and say that anything with peacock in it catches fish. The second crucial part of the fly is the copper wire abdomen. Originally sourced from a piece of electric wire, stripped and wrapped on the hook, it plays such an essential role in adding weight and a sheen to the pattern that trout can’t resist.
Combine these elements, and you have a deadly pattern that catches fish.
A Little History of the Brassie Nymph
As the story goes, the Brassie was invented by two fly fishers who were said to be electricians or electrical hobbyists. Ken Chandler and Tug Davenport are said to first tie the Brassie in the early 1960s. The pattern wasn’t as refined as they are today, but it still worked very well.
The electrical side of the gentleman can be seen by the use of copper wire from the stripped electrical cord and the thorax in the form of black heat-shrink material. That was it! Over the years it has developed with the upgrade of various colors of wire and peacock herl as the thorax with a little solarez as the thread head.
Either way, the Brassie is a very durable, tough pattern to have and fish. You only have to tie them once a season, as they hold up very well. Tied to imitate small midge nymphs, caddis pupa, and other small nymphs, the Brassie covers an array of insects.
Change the body wire to a green color, and you have a classic free-living caddis. This is also a great pattern to have in the fly box.
What Fish Does a Brassie Nymph Catch?
The Brassie was tied to catch trout, specifical trout in spring creeks and tail waters. The pattern is best fished in the early season, but I have had great success with it throughout the year. In the warmer months, I tend to fish a smaller size pattern behind a more visual sighter fly.
The Brassie is also a great pattern that I use to catch smallmouth yellowfish. This is a species of fish indigenous to South Africa. They are a great fish to target in the warmer months and absolutely devour a Brassie.
How to Setup a Brassie Nymph
Fishing the Brassie doesn’t require a special setup. It can be fished on any setup, really, as long as you keep in contact with the fly at all times.
There are three ways that you can fish this pattern.
- As a single fly below a strike indicator, this is an excellent option to use when you are starting out.
- As a truck and trailer style rig suspended below a visual dry fly or an attractor wet fly pattern or streamer. The Brassie is a small pattern that can sometimes go unnoticed, so the visual pattern in front is what gets the fish’s attention.
- As a double brassie rig, this is a good rig to fish as a nymphing rig. I like to fish the point fly as the heavily beaded option and the dropper fly as an unweighted fly.
What Does the Brassie Nymph Represent
Given the size of the pattern, it covers all the small foods that are on the trout’s radar. Midges, Chironomids, and other small mayfly nymphs.
On the Chironomid’s, these are a whole different section of patterns and deserve their own write-up. What’s nice is the Brassie can also imitate a basic buzzer imitation and when fished on a suspension rig it can be a deadly technique.
GUIDE PRO TIP- Fishing the Brassie on a suspension rig with a hover or midge line it can be a very deadly method of fishing. Fished as a tandem rig with a bright Blob or wet fly pattern in the front of the nymph. Fishing with a slow retrieve with a long pause is the best way to cover the water when fishing from a boat towards the bank.
Brassie Nymph Favorite Size and Color
Below is the selection of brassies that I have the most confidence in.
- Classic Brassie– this is my go-to pattern especially fished as a dropper pattern. This is great for a dry dropper rig in sizes #16-#20
- Copper John Brassie– this is a hybrid pattern called the Copper John, using the brassie materials and mindset, with a few additional materials tied in for a stone fly imitation. This pattern can be fished as a heavier point fly with the above pattern as the dropper fly. The sizes used, range from size #16 to #14, these are my most regular choices.
- Jig Nymph– this is another hybrid that I love fishing. The red wire abdomen is a great trigger and often changes the days of fishing. Fished in size #16 as a point of dropper fly. The peacock herl is a great attractor as well. We have spoken about peacock’s fishy attributes, and I am a very confident fisher when I have some in the fly pattern I am fishing.
Where to Buy Brassie Nymph
I always say it’s best to support locals where possible. So, if you don’t tie your own flies, then please try to get them from your local fly shop.
If you would like to learn to tie your own flies, then this is a very simple pattern to learn to tie. You don’t need any experience or many materials.
Please see below the step-by-step.
How to Tie Brassie Nymph
- Hook: Size 14 Wet Nymph Hook
- Thread: 8/0 Black
- Body: Copper Wire
- Thorax: Peacock Herl
Get a FREE PDF with materials, pictures and instructions. Download 👉 BRASSIE FLY PATTEN RECIPE
- Secure hook in the vise. Suppose you are trying a beaded version of the slip bead first.
- Start with a solid level thread base ending at the bend of the hook. On a scud hook, stop 2/3rd back down the hook shank.
- Tie in the copper wire, ensuring the tag end runs all the way to the hook eye or behind the bead. This will keep the pattern even.
- Wrap the wire forward, ending behind the bead or 2mm behind the eye.
- Tie off and trim or ‘wind break’ the wire.
- Tie in your peacock herl and wrap forward, going over the previous wraps and making sure you make a smallish head.
- Whip finish and apply head cement.
One Last Cast with the Brassie Nymph
What’s not to love about this pattern? It has a great story and history, is easy to tie, and is deadly to fish.
I’m actually going to fill my fly box up with a few more of them once done with this article. I love to fish, tie them, and catch fish on them.
If you don’t have any in your fly box, I would suggest changing that as fast as possible and making sure you are stocked and ready to fish before your next trip.
More Nymph Fishing Articles – WHY because NYMPHS Catch Fish!
- Best Rod, Reel and Line for Nymph Fishing – All about the equipment to nymph fish.
- How to Tie and Fish a Traditional Nymph Setup – An introduction to rigging up for nymph fishing.
- Nymph Fishing Styles Explained Traditional, Euro and Indicator – An overview of nymph fishing techniques and when to use them.
- Reading the Water for Nymph Fishing – Learn how to recognize the right conditions to fly fish with nymphs.
- A Complete Guide to Stillwater Nymphing – The title says it all, learn how to nymph fish lakes.
Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.