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Notes on Nymphs and Nymphing

03/25/10 – Not all nymphs are created equal. Some nymphs are designed to sink  The Copper John is an example of that with it’s streamlined shape and extra wraps of lead stuffed up against the bead and then overwrapped with copper.  That’s a fly that is going

Copper John

down. Others are designed with a neutral density or even to float. Which one you should be using depends on the conditions and what you’re fishing for.

However, often when people stop into the shop and look at nymphs they are only thinking about bottom bouncing.  In fact the most common complaint I hear from people trying to learn nymphing is how aggravating they find hanging up all the time.  The get tired of losing flies. My suggestion to them is to back off on the weight they are using. My take on it, and this is just my opinion, is that bottom bouncing is an indicator.  If I’m using added weight I add enough to bottom bounce and then I back off a bit.  Once I’ve got an idea how much weight I need to get HARD to the bottom I lighten up and fish just UP off the bottom.  Those fish aren’t stuck to the bottom then can come up to a fly.

When I move to another run I just repeat that process.  If I’m using an indicator (yarn or Thingamabobbers are my favorites) I often don’t move the indicator because every time I move it I’ve got a new kink in my line.  Instead I change my tippet length.  Say I need less length between my strike indicator and bottom, in that case, I cut my leader at the fly and then cut off 6 or 8″ of my tippet and retie the fly.  If I need more length I again cut the tippet at the fly and then add a piece of tippet material to my leader and retie the fly.  Many people would rather move the indicator but I find tying a Surgeons Knot to lengthen and then retying the fly knot to be a quick easy way to make adjustments.  If knots give you heartburn by all means just move your strike indicator.

More commonly for my fishing I’m not using a strike indicator or split-shot. In water depths to say 4′ or so I’ll use a 7 1/2′, 3X tapered leader, a size 14 Copper John (Copper color in moving water Red in stillwater), then 4X tippet tied off the bend tied to a small Brassie or Curved Caddis size 14 or 16 with 5X tied You'll get fantastic control on your line with our fly fishing the bend of that and then a smaller pattern that strikes my fancy that day – often an 18 Pheasant Tail   .  It works for me.

If I move to a deeper run I often add a Mini-Lead head (12 or 24″ section of sinking line looped on each end) or switch to a short head sink tip line.  I don’t mind switching spools and over the years have learned to do it fairly quickly.  But with the introduction of the new Poly Leaders I may do less spool changing since changing to a sinking leader is so much easier. However, I just started using them late last summer and then had an Achilles Tendon injury that shut down my fall fishing.  I will be trying them out this spring to see if I like them as much as I think I’m going to.  They cast easier than a normal leader with split-shot on it and seem to sink well.

Another note on nymphing with split-shot, indicators, weight flies or a combination of them is how to cast them.  I often see people hesitating or slowing their casting stroke when using these rigs.  I go at it just the other way around. My strokes, forward and back, are just short of aggressive.  I want line speed as that’s what keeps the flies from dropping as they fly through the air.  I do open my loops but only slightly.  The concession I do make to these rigs is to drift my casting hand at the end of the stroke – AFTER THE STOP.  Drifting your hand a bit after the stop helps soften the transition from backcast to forward cast and vise-versa end of the stroke. This helps prevent break-offs and tailing loops.

Size matters.  Unless there is Stonefly activity or fast fast water I generally have size 14 or smaller nymphs tied on.  Mainly because there aren’t that Sexy Stonemany insects down there that are bigger than size 14.  Some Stoneflies, Dragonflies and Hellgrammites do get bigger than that but most Caddis and Mayflies aren’t well imitated with size 8 and size 10 nymphs.  And, of course, attractor nymphs like the rubber legged Sexy Stone are also exceptions.

Also of note is that in Maine three flies are legal but three flies are prone to tangles.  I will prospect with three flies if fishing is tough but prefer two flies.  A favorite combination is to use a high floating dry and a small bead head dropper.  There is a fine line between nymphs and emergers. Hanging either off a dry is a good thing to do. Putting a midge out in back of a dry is also a good practice and catching a few fish on the midge pattern (and you will) is a great confidence booster.  You quickly become more comfortable fishing midge patterns when they start producing for you.  I do this more often in stillwater but it works on the river.

And with that I guess I’ll end this Thursday Review and this will be the last one until next fall.  Tomorrow will start my Friday Updates and I guess my first Friday Update will be like many of last year’s and read – the river is high and dirty. But that should change soon and since we’ve had 4 high water years in a row the odds are in our favor for a good year of normal flows.