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Nymphing with a floating line  

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High Sticking

Braided Leaders - What they do


When I get to a stream or river and nothing is hatching; I don't turn and leave. I also don't start casting a dry fly hoping to bring up a fish from the depths. Instead, I go down after them. Down however proves to be a relative term. An emerger three inches under the surface can be defined as down. The question is - how far down is enough. 

Well, since trout normally hold near the bottom where they can get some shelter from the current, the bottom is where I start. The bottom can be a hard place to reach at times, especially when I have optimistically strung my rod with a floating line. The first thing I do in this situation is admit that if I don't change lines, I must find shallow water with a moderate current. Otherwise, I just can't get the fly down. Even using Split-shot (non-toxic of course) about 4 feet deep is my limit. The second thing is to at least change my leader. That nine foot braided butt leader just won't sink quickly enough to do the job. 

What leader I change to depends on what I have found for shallow water. Here are some examples: 

2 - 4 feet deep glide, depth varies, few obstructions,  bottom of gravel, stone or  bedrock, few weeds, moderate flow

My leader of choice is a 9' 2x tapered knotless leader. Too this I add a 12" tippet of 3 or 4x. Nine feet of leader would probably be enough, however I add the tippet mainly for the knot. It stops my Split-shot from sliding down to my fly. I want to keep that Split-shot about a foot away from my fly. With this system I often use a strike indicator. It helps. Start with the indicator 2 times the depth from your fly. Do not allow the indicator to suspend your fly. Cast with open loops, you do not want that Split-shot to hit your rod, or your head. (Better to hit your head) You can push this deeper than 4 feet, but you must go to a 12 foot or longer leader.

  2 - 4 feet deep glide, depth uniform, few obstructions, weedy bottom, moderate flow.  This leader also works well if you  wish to suspend your fly.

Here I use a special leader that makes a right angle. That's right about 2/3's of the way down the leader I want it to make a 90 degree turn. To do this I start with the butt section of a 7 foot braided leader. To this I add a 12 inch piece of 0x for a mid-section. I tie a jam knot in the terminal end of this mid-section. Then using a cinch knot tied above the jam knot, and around the mid section, I attach a 5 or 6x tippet about 12 inches longer than the depth. I then slide the cinch knot against the jam knot, and trap it there by adding a strike indicator to the mid-section. Tie on a bead head or weighted nymph and go for it. It casts better than you think, but you know it's different. This is a good rig for suspending a fly in the water column when you suspect mid-depth feeding cause by natural nymph drift cycles. (Normally around dawn or dusk) 

  2 - 3 feet deep glide, slow clear run, weeds or rocks 

Here I use a 12 foot braided leader, with a 5 or 6x tippet & a lightly weighted nymph or small bead head. Usually I can see the fish or I am probing a likely looking spot. No strike indicator or Split-shot, because I am afraid I will spook the fish. If I am probing blind, I also strike blind, but gently, gently. If I don't get a take I repeat the drift, and if my blind strike was gentle enough I may get the fish on the second or third pass.

All three of the water types are found in the wadeable area below the Shawmut dam

You have to move around some to find them, but if nothing is hatching, well, why not. There are deeper runs that will produce fish, but you just can't nymph them with a floating line. If you want to fish the deeper runs, and don't want to switch lines; use a long leader, and a wet fly or streamer.


High Sticking

Put on a fairly long leader 8 to 9 feet in length, with a terminal diameter of 2, 3 or 4X. Remember to size the leader to your fly. Tie your fly on with a Duncan loop. You want to use a Duncan loop so that the fly will have good movement in the water.  Find some broken water. You're looking for boulders, logs, outcroppings and fairly fast water. The eddies behind these stream features often create the much sought after prime lie, or pocket. Depth for protection from birds, shelter from the current and a steady supply of food. Now get as close as you can (remaining downstream and to the side) and drop that fly as far above the pocket as you can without missing the pocket. Drift your fly through the pocket, raising your arm as the fly comes downstream and dropping your arm as the fly drifts below you. If you're working with more than 10 to 15 feet of line outside your tip-top you've got to much line out. Try to keep all of your line off the water. Now pick your line up and do it again and again and again. Try different angles and depths. I try to drift a pocket at least five times. Don't forget to hang on, when they hit they hit hard. 

Not sure what rod to use for High Sticking - use an 8 1/2 or 9 foot, six weight. Medium-Flex.
This type of rod is a good general purpose river rod and can handle the weighted flies you should think about using.  If you go much longer or heavier - a day's fishing becomes tiring - that rod gets heavy.  Don't go much lighter in line weight because if you do you won't have enough rod to handle big fish in heavy current. And last but not least - if you decide to use a Tip-Flex rod for this type of fishing - use a heavy leader, because tip-flex rods aren't very forgiving.

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