Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - Dec 3, 2012

Sysadmin Note
Part twenty can be found here

July 20th a full day on Armstrong Spring Creek is the assignment, I got to tell you this is tough way to make a living. (Chuckle)  Neil was able to join me for this day long adventure on Armstrong's, the Lady Fisher showed as well to watch and offer advice as you know she has been having problem with her shoulders and presently is not fishing very much.

The weather throughout the day was nice with the morning lows at 50 degrees and the afternoon highs reaching 80 degrees, and the winds were variable out of the WSW at four to six miles per hour.

Morning----there was little in the way of rising trout during the morning hours and those that did rise were "one timers" meaning that they rose once and that was it. We had started out below the Bridge (now a culvert since 1996) on the upper end of the creek. There are a couple of nice riffles in that section and we chose a couple of them to start the day early on there was no insect activity on the surface of the water or beneath it and when the "bugs" are not moving then neither are the trout. This is a fact that often frustrates anglers not familiar with mood of the spring creek or those who think that I am here where are the fish. Please remember the trout will feed on their schedule not on our schedule.

During mornings like this I do a little insect sampling and a lot of watching, waiting for a trout or two to move into a feeding area, I like to fish the base of riffles as riffles are insect factories and you often see trout beginning to work these areas before there action anywhere else. Finally some trout begin to move into the base of the riffles and they began to feed. I knew from my insect sampling that the two most abundant insect in the water this morning were PMD Nymph and Midge Worms, I had also noticed that there were a fair number of red midge worms in the samples that I had collected. My position allow for an excellent angle of vision so decided to sight nymph for those trout.

To use this method you must be able to see the trout very clearly, for an imitation I chose a size 16 Natural Sawyer Pheasant Nymph and dropped a size 18 Red Sawyer PT Nymph twelve inches behind it. The tippet to the first fly was 4x and the dropper was on 5x, yea I know many of you who fish the spring creeks are using 6x or 7x; however I don't believe using anything lighter than the situation calls for and seeing as how I was fishing a riffle I didn't believe that a lighter tippet was called for.

Sight Nymphing is not for everyone yet it is a very method that was developed on the chalkstreams of England at turn of the 20th Century by George Edward MacKenzie Skues who is often call the "Father of Nymph Fishing," for those of you who are unfamiliar with this method allow me to offer the following information.

The Skues Method of Nymphing

When considering the Skues Method of nymphing, remember, Skues was a chalkstream angler, where the waters are clear. It was on the chalkstreams that his methods were developed and his observations were made. Today many anglers refer to this method as Sight Nymphing. Regardless, of what term you use, it is the method that started anglers on the road to nymphing in an effective and efficient manner.

The Skues method was not developed as a searching method, it was a method that was designed to take trout that were visibly feeding, by casting up and across to them. This method works very well on Spring Creeks, Tailwaters or on a rich body of water where the trout are visible. The keys for success are two-fold, first you must be able to see the trout and secondly to observe, collect and select nymphal imitations which closely resemble the naturals. There is no doubt that you need to be able cast with a fair amount of accuracy.

For anglers who have not yet tried the Skues methods (sight nymphing), select slow to moderate flows, in flats, tail-outs, pools and easy, gentle runs. With the sight nymphing method developed by Skues, no strike indicators were used, and primarily Skues was fishing his nymphs in the upper half of the water column.

I remember those days prior to the common practice of using strike indicators, and I suspect that the one reason nymphing was not popular in the early years was the lack of indicators. In those early days of nymphing, the rules stipulated that you were to fish the dry fly, upstream to visible rising fish.

Therefore, the nymphs had to be fished the same way, again due to rules of the fishery. With the dry fly, the angler can see the fly and see the trout rise and take the imitation off the surface of the water. However, with a nymph determine how far ahead of the target to place your offering, this would be determined by the depth at which the trout was feeding, the sink rate of the imitation and the speed of the current. Then you must be aware of when the imitation reaches the trout and be aware of the movements of the feeding trout, in other words, being aware of the take and reacting to it. Simple, huh! This method demanded acute discipline in observation and awareness to the trout. It is therefore understandable why not everyone embraces this method.

Much of the fishing in Skues time was done from the banks, today in American waters; the angler must also be concerned with a careful approach, lest the trout becomes spooked. Remember the time and place where Skues developed his methods, for most of his fishing he was dealing with trout in the upper third of the water column, the deeper in the water column that the trout is holding the more challenging it becomes for the angler to be successful. Why, because the deeper the water the further above your target that you must cast, thus opening yourself up to major drift and drag problems.

Many anglers on both sides of the pond mastered these skills and became very adept fishing the nymph. Some claim that these anglers had an uncanny sixth sense about the take and always knew the proper time to lift and tighten into the trout. However, I believe that the "Uncanny Sixth Sense," was a supreme confidence in their skills and abilities, which came about through practice, observation and a complete understand of what they were attempting to accomplish. But, from this method the understanding was born and all methods evolved from that first nymphing method.
In today's world of nymph fishing only a few fly fishers accept the challenge of casting single nymphs to visible feeding trout, without the use of a strike indicator.

Besides, fishing up and across, anglers can fish upstream, down and across and even almost straight across to visible feeding trout, and enjoy success from all angles. Suggested tackle for this method would depend on a number of factors, but my overall suggestions are as follows; use fly rods from 8½ to 9½ feet, with lines ranging from 1 to 6 weight. The length of the leader and the tippets would depend on the angling situation at hand.

Additional Fishing Tips:

Depending on the length of the leader, current speed and sink rate of the fly, I would grease the tip of the fly line, butt section and part of the leader. Greasing the butt section and portion of the leader will allow you to track the progress of the drift.

Once I was in the proper position and could see the feeding trout clearly, I would study any and all currents between my position and that of the trout's. Upon making the cast, I would be prepared, if necessary, to mend the line and/or part of the leader and would lower my rod tip to within two or three inches of the water surface.

I would take the slack line as it is fed to me by the speed of the currents. All the while watching the trout and being ready to react to the take.

Actually, on my first cast, I would not cast right to the targeted fish but a little to one side to ensure my judgment of the distance was accurate, and would give me a chance to gauge the currents and the entire situation at hand.

I can't tell how many times I have seen angler hit the feeding trout right in the head with that first cast, and of course spook the fish.

A couple of casts to judge the distance, currents and the feeding rhythm of the fish, this is not a race take your time and do it correctly.

Remember, you are dealing with clear water, therefore when picking up to recast to your target do not cast over your target or you will throw water droplets on the trout, (it is called raining on your trout) which may spook the target. If the hatch is sparse, you may find the trout moving around a fair amount. If that is the case then you will find yourself working more across and less up stream, to keep the trout in sharp focus. As the key to sight nymphing, is to be able to see the trout feed!

As I stated earlier, few anglers in today's world fish this way. Most employ the use of a small strike indicator or even use a dry fly with a nymph dropped off the back at a specific depth. There is nothing wrong with that method,  however, developing the skill set to sight nymph will give you skills that others do not possess and allow you to take trout that others will only spook. There are many waters in the east where the Skues method will be effective, furthermore, with sight nymphing you are seldom making forty and fifty foot cast, to be effective you must approach with twenty to thirty feet. By improving and honing your approach skills, it will improve your fishing regardless of the method you are using.

Now back to the morning on Armstrong's Spring Creek before I ramble off on the information on sight nymphing I was getting ready to fish the base of riffle using the sight nymphing method. One thing about sighting nymphing is that you need to be as close as possible for the best results; this is so you can see clearly see the trout and gage the speed of the current and the depth at which the trout is holding and feeding. Then you can place your cast above the trout and watch the trout if the fish moves or open its mouth when you think that you imitations have arrived then you simply lift and tighten into the trout.

During the morning I was able to hook four trout of which I was able to land two trout both of the stomach sampled show PMD nymphs and Midge Worms as the morning meal. During the morning Neil had no luck, he said that the midge worms kept coming off those small hooks. [just kidding] The trout really were not showing nor was there much insect activity of any kind. The afternoon will be covered in part 22.

Sysadmin Note
Part twentytwo can be found here


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