Nymph Fishing – A Bighorn River Primer

Nymph Fishing – A Bighorn River Primer

October 17, 2010 11:52 am Published by
Let’s face it nymph fishing isn’t the most glamarous form of fly fishing.  I often refer to it as bait fishing with a fly rod, especially when you find yourself with a San Juan Worm, a bobber(yeah it’s a bobber) and lead hanging off the end of your rod.  However when done right it is down right effective and fun.  

Achieving Your Drift
Presentation is everything. Period.  In the case of nymphing, a flawless drag free drift will result in fish to the net.  Speaking in general terms the nymph fisherman is trying to keep his/her flies on the bottom and in the strike zone for as long as possible.  By using the proper rod angle, controlling  the right amount of slack on the water and precise mending the angler can present their flies drag free and efficiently cover their water.
Here is a typical drift sequence:  This is certainly easier to effectively describe on the river with a fly rod in hand, but here it goes.  Cast your indicator rig up and out into the current, after your flies hit the water you should have slack in your left hand and some on the water to feed into your drift.  As the indicator starts to come towards you keep your rod tip high to keep the slack off the water.  When the drift is about to come even with you mend your slack line upstream getting all of your fly line upstream of your indicator.  (This step is crucial in setting up the rest of your drift.  If your line is below the indicator the current will create drag before you want it.)  At this point your rod tip should be lowered and pointing straight out.  Once your indicator starts going below you begin laying slack line on the water to feed your drift down river.  As the drift is even or just pass you is the most likely time to get a strike because your flies are on the bottom and drag free, keep your eye on the bobber.  Continue feeding line through a series of small upstream mends until your indicator drags out.  This is the most effective way to cover the most amount of water in most situations, adapt your mending and line control depending on the water you are fishing.

Equipment  I like to fish longer rods when nymphing especially on large western river.  Rods in the 9′ to 10′ length in 5 – 7wt rods are ideal for casting nymph rigs aka “junk”, controlling your drift and mending your line.  Longer belly fly lines are ideal for mending and controlling line, all of the major manufacturers make specific nymph lines specially suited for indicator fishing.  My indicator and leader choices are always dependent upon my nymphing technique and fishing location.  Your indicator is really personal preference be it yarn, cork, foam or plastic.  I like many others like to use the Thingamabobbers.  They float well, relatively easy to cast and when guiding are easy for me to see on the water.  When it comes to leaders there are a few choices depending on where and how you are fishing.  I always run monofilament leaders to fluorocarbon tippet.  This is a personal choice of mine.

Nymphing Technique & Rigging
Traditional Indicator Rig– When fishing with a traditional indicator setup I like to use a heavier and larger diameter monofilament leader tapered down to finer fluorocarbon material. I typically start with a 9′ foot leader, place a blood knot 81/2 to 9′ feet from the indicator to hold my split shot, then another 16″ – 20″ of tippet to my first fly then the same tippet section to the second fly. This is my general template, especially when fishing from a boat or fishing tailwater rivers.  The heavier butt section and leader material allow my clients to get exceptional turnover which is key when fishing with indicators split shot and two flies.  The fluorocarbon tippet provides stealth and helps with getting the flies down quickly.   When wade fishing with this rig I always adjust my indicator placement on the leader according to type of run i’m in and water depth.  On even riffles and smooth wide runs it is not as crucial to move your indicator as it is when you are fishing seams and drop offs for example.  There have been countless times when a client has stepped out of the boat to fish a spot with no success and as soon as I adjust the indicator the same drifts produces results.  The same rules apply with your split shot and fly selection, small adjustments can lead to great success.  A conscious angler is always adjusting their rig and technique.

By Terry Epsen

Right Angle Nymphing  Right angle nymphing is not as common as the traditional nymphing rig, but still involves the same terminal tackle, just rigged differently.  I find that this technique works the best on freestone rivers and rivers with fast current, slots, seams and pockets.   By using shorter, straight line leaders tied 90 degrees off your indicator your flies get down to the fish quicker in the type of water I have previously mentioned. This rig works great with larger nymphs such as stoneflies, princes, crayfish and buggers.
How to do It:  Loop to loop a two to three foot section of butt material to your fly line then clinch know the other end to your strike indicator.  Note that a yarn indicator with an O ring or thingamabobber work best here. You then tie your leader material which is a straight piece of monofilament or fluorocarbon directly to the butt section with a double surgeons loop or clinch knot.  At the bottom of your leader tie on your fluorocarbon tippet with a blood knot to hold your split shot and then tie on your tandem flies.  Note on this rig you do not use a packaged leader but straight mono so your flies get down quickly.  I don’t fish this at deep depths because of the use of the straight non tapered leader the rig is more difficult to turn over.

Dry – Dropper 

With a dry dropper rig you are ultimately using your dry fly to suspend your nymph at a specific depth in the water column.  The dry fly doubles as a strike indicator.  On most freestone rivers a dry dropper rig is used to search for fish along the bank and provide the fish with two offerings to feed opportunistically on.   On tailwaters the same technique is used especially during hopper time, but the dry-dropper technique is also used during technical sight fishing in skinny, shallow water.  The dry fly acts as an indicator and looks natural to the fish and suspends the nymph at just the right level where the trout is holding.  This is a deadly technique out of the boat when you have located fish.

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