That is an age old question that dates way back. In the early 1970's, Carl Richards and Doug Swisher mastered the art of extended bodied and articulated flies, like the Extended Body Wiggle Nymph. I'm not sure what pre-dates their research and techniques but they were very instrumental in the techniques that many tyers are using today.
"Observation of nymphs swimming about in the aquarium revealed possibilities for several different patterns. We noticed that many species, especially Ephemerella, Stenonema, and Leptophlebia, swim with a distinct undulating movement of the abdomen. Also, the front pair of legs extends forward while the middle and hind pair extend to the rear. Attempts to imitate this situation resulted in extended-body and wiggle nymphs...."
Selective Trout: Revised and Expanded Edition Swisher and Richards
If you aren't aware of this book, you need to get it and read it. Every fly angler should know who Carl Richards and Doug Swisher are. The world of fly fishing wouldn't be where it is today without the work of such greats as Richards, Swisher, Whitlock, Pobst, Lyons, and Rosenbauer (to name a few). We'd still be in the dark ages without all of their incredible contributions. Honor them. Remember that we are all able to do what we are doing today because of their accomplishments.
Anyhow, I'll crawl of my soap box. Articulation, whether used on streamers, nymphs, or dries, gives increased natural movement to the fly. It has been proven time and time again that the undulation and movement of articulated flies fools more fish. Of course, it's not about catching fish, it's about the experience of being one with Mother Nature. Right? That's what I've been told at least.
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