Well-known fly pattern creator John Atherton wasn’t much for literal imitation when it came to tying his flies. Instead, he was the discipline’s answer to impressionist painters—nothing looks exactly right in an Atherton creation, but nothing looks too out of place, either.
Thankfully, trout often seem to look at flies the same we tend to look at great paintings.
Above, Tim Flagler ties the famous Atherton No. 2 Nymph, a pattern that doesn’t look like any bug in particularly, but looks sufficiently buggy to be worth a shot.
Of note: Atherton’s pattern calls for Hungarian partridge for the wing collar, a material I often use when I’m tying soft-hackles for swinging during mayfly hatches.. When I first fished an Atherton, I fished it on the swing on the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park. It fished so well, that my “Firehole” box is never without a few size 16 Atherton No. 2s.