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Fishing With Nymphs

It is often claimed that the highest percentage of fish taken on flies are taken on nymphs. For that to work for the beginning angler, there are two major problems that have to be conquered. (This is assuming you have chosen a nymph that represents one of the insects inhabiting the waters you are fishing of course.)

Go back and do a little refresher from the previous article on Part 22: The 10 Best Nymphs. In the recommendations on fishing those nymphs, using a weight placed above the fly, attached to the leader is a common thread. But how do you know if you have enough weight?

The fly should be bumping along the stream bed. As much as I dislike a strike indicator of any kind, based on seeing little bits of day-glo colored strike indicators washed up on stream banks, it can be a helpful method of 'seeing' what your fly is doing. Another way to accomplish the same thing - making the action of your fly visible - is to use a high bouyancy dry fly with the nymph as a dropper. A highly visable fly makes it even better. With the strike indicator or the top-water fly as an indicator, you raise your rod tip when the indicator disappears under water. Yes, it's just like using a bobber. Sometimes fish will take the top fly too. A real bonus.

Without using either of the above methods, the angler will learn in time the correct 'feel' of the nymph as it bounces along the bottom. Anything different, calls for raising the rod tip. It could be a snag, or a momentary slowdown caused by a large rock or log underwater. Or a very nice trout! But feeling the 'difference' is the key. Once again, be observant.

Line control is the other problem anglers encounter in fishing with nymphs. Being able to present a dry fly correctly, and getting the maximum free drift from that fly, has to include mending the line. A recent Saturday morning fly fishing show featured Dave Whitlock guiding a television personality. Dave instructed the angler to mend his line. He made a neat mend - DOWNSTREAM! Oopps! Dave quickly corrected him. Amazingly the show producers didn't cut that piece of video from the show. But then, maybe the producers don't fly fish.

All line mending on moving water is produced by making a flip of the wrist with the rod hand UPSTREAM! Or by making a letter "c" with the tip of the rod. It might be a backward "c" depending on the direction the water is flowing. Line mending has also been described as a half-roll cast. Controlling the line in any form of fly fishing is extremely important. Positive results from your fishing depend on your ability to control the line.

Having a dry fly behave in the same manner as the natural insect depends on having a drag-free float! If a fish will not take a fly that doesn't behave in a normal way on top of the water, why would the fish take a fly that does not behave in a normal way under the water?

So the control of line is critical as well to fishing nymphs. The fly has to have a drift that is normal. It has to move along with the current at the same speed as the current. Drag caused by line being pulled along with the current speeds up the fly. Not only is the speed of the fly wrong at that point, the fly cannot get down as deep as it needs to be. There is an exception, (isn't there always?) and that is when the insects are hatching from the nymphal form. But for my money, that's the time for an emerger pattern fished in the surface film and not a nymph. Try it both ways and make your own judgement call.

Generally the best way to fish a nymph is to cast not directly upstream, but quartering upstream, and allow the fly to drift downstream past you. All the while, making mends upstream in your line to achieve the longest, drag-free ride. Once the fly has passed, retrieve the fly in a series of short swimming strips toward you. No takers? Take a step or two up or downstream and repeat the exercise. Have a question? Email me! ~ DB

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