We zoom in on the microscopic dynamics for fermions and quantum gravity within the asymptotic-safety paradigm. A key finding of our study is the unavoidable presence of a nonminimal derivative coupling between the curvature and fermion fields in the ultraviolet. Its backreaction on the properties of the Reuter fixed point remains small for finite fermion numbers within a bounded range. This constitutes a nontrivial test of the asymptotic-safety scenario for gravity and fermionic matter, additionally supplemented by our studies of the momentum-dependent vertex flow which indicate the subleading nature of higher-derivative couplings. Moreover our study provides further indications that the critical surface of the Reuter fixed point has a low dimensionality even in the presence of matter.