ECHO Pro Staffer Dan Anthon breaks down nymphing basics and talks about why going deep is often the most effective way to get a grab.
With recent low-flow years, gin clear water, increased angling pressure and educated trout, our ability to hook and land fish seems to get more and more complicated with each day. If I could fool every fish with a dry or swung fly I would be the happiest guide on the water, but that’s just not the reality. In some watersheds, 85% to 90% of the trout population rely heavily on aquatic invertebrates – “nymphs”. It’s no secret; if you don’t believe me just look at the selection of bugs in your local fly shop. That is why successful anglers go down and dirty to catch some of their most memorable fish with a nymphing presentation. Here are a couple of tips and rigging suggestions that may help put a few more fish in your net.
First off, you need to determine the depth that you are targeting with your nymph presentation. Secondly, decide whether you should fish two bugs (if it’s legal, of course) to increase the fish attention and attract the ‘investigation bite’. Finally, determine how much weight should be added to your line, either with split shot or weighted flies, based on the water volume, depth, and river velocity.
I’m a firm believer in being a ninja when fooling trout. Use fluorocarbon leader and tippet material; it reflects less light than standard nylon and sinks, offering a better presentation. Get your flies in and out with no fish being the wiser until you set the hook. This is especially critical in really clear water.
Determine your maximum and minimal leader length that you might have to fish. If you’re planning on using a ‘dead drift’ presentation, I highly encourage the use of the best adjustable indicator available by Air-Lock.
Most importantly, when tying your flies onto the leader setup I recommend the ‘non-slip mono knot’. This helps give you the most realistic fly movement as the current pushes and tumbles your bug through the water. When tying on two flies, I recommend tying off to the eye of the top hook rather than the gap of the hook, which offers a better hookup.
Fly choice will vary depending on the river and time of year, but if you’re planning a trip, be sure to call your local fly shop as they have the most intimate knowledge of your watershed and the most up-to-date hatches.
As you begin, I would suggest a roll cast. Roll casting is the best option when all of this gear is on the line and will hopefully keep you from tangling up (unlike an overhead cast). Remember, big ‘D’ loops help fly delivery immensely.
Many books have been written about mastering the drift, and as a guide, it’s often the one thing that separates successful anglers from folks that are just casting. Being able to detect grabs through your drift takes practice!
Have fun with those nymphs!
Dan Anthon guides for Deep Canyon Outfitters and can be found at Confluence Fly shop when he’s not on the water. He’s an ECHO and Airflo Pro Staffer, to boot. Dan has been professionally guiding and instructing folks since 1997, spending well over 200 days a year working with anglers from all corners of the world with varying angling abilities. If you need to up your nymphing game don’t hesitate to book a day with him.