Big horn river fly fishing Tactics – sight nymphing

Big horn river fly fishing Tactics – sight nymphing

March 30, 2011 9:29 am Published by 2 Comments

A rainbow in shallow water

Sight fishing with nymphs is probably the most exciting fishing for me. It is as much hunting as it is fishing and when done effectively, increases your fish to cast ratio significantly.

A key piece of equipment to have when spotting fish underwater is a pair of polarized glasses. Light brown or rose colored lenses are good for a wide number of conditions. Dark gray lenses filter too much light and don’t let you pick up contrasts well.

One of the most important guidelines in fishing is to simply observe your surroundings for a few minutes before fishing. Most people just step into the water and begin casting, not knowing they just spooked a number of fish right from under their feet.

This observation period is crucial for sight fishing nymphs. Walk the bank in a careful, slow, methodical manner. Quick movements and loud noises in the water will send fish running for cover.

Many people fail to spot fish because they are looking for the whole fish.

If you’ve ever watched the show Top Sniper, the final test is the snipers must sneak up on two highly trained observers. The two observers have found 100% of the snipers. Why? Because they aren’t looking for snipers, they are looking for subtleties that might indicate a sniper. Subtleties such as out of place color changes, grass moving in the opposite direction a gentle breeze is blowing or a round spot in the middle of very uneven vegetation. Spotting trout is very similar to this.

One key to spotting trout is having good light. It is difficult to spot trout on overcast days. Bright sun penetrates the water and gives you the ability to view a lot of water. Be aware of the shadow you are casting. If your shadow passes over fish, they will spook.

Look for out of place colors. Red is a color that doesn’t occur often in a river. If you see red, you are probably looking at the side of a rainbow trout. Also a feeding trout will often move side to side and will be opening its mouth. You will notice the white of its mouth or the flash of it moving back and forth. You may also catch flashes of the underside as a fish moves back and forth as it feeds. You may just notice a color that looks out of place from everything around it.

As you notice these subtleties, many times a fish will form around it.

Once you have spotted a fish, don’t cast right away. Take the time observe around the fish. Many times you will notice other fish. Take the time to determine if there are larger fish.

When you do cast, make your cast as close to the fish as you think you can get way with. Give the fish two choices, to eat your fly or not eat it. A long drift will usually go bad long before it reaches the fish and it will shun your flies every time. A short drift keeps your flies clean and drifting naturally when its most important, right in front of the fish.

Next, watch the fish for its reaction. Don’t rely on a strike indicator. When fishing in close, a fish can mouth and spit out your flies and the strike indicator will never detect it. Even when the fish can’t spit out the flies, it can be seconds before the indicator does anything. Many times the fish will change its position slightly. Other times, your flies are dead on and the fish will simply open and close its mouth. It is when you notice the movement that you should begin to set the hook.

If you don’t notice a change in how they are feeding, let your flies drift past a little ways and cast again. Keep your casts close enough to the fish that you keep getting good drifts right in front of the fish.

When you spot a fish, they aren’t where you see them. Refraction causes the fish to appear closer than it really is. Cast so that your split shot lands in line with the image that you see. That way, your flies will be more in line to where the fish really is. If you make a couple casts and see no reaction from the fish, cast so your split shot lands slightly beyond the image that you see. Also, the deeper the water is, the farther away the fish will really be.

Once the fish takes your fly, you’ve set the hook, now what? You’ve just hooked a fish a few feet from you that has 100% of its strength. Start by not panicking and try to hold the fish in close. If it wants to make a run, let it, especially larger fish. Many people try to land the fish immediately and it usually results in lost flies.

Also, try not enter the water unless you absolutely have to. Hooking a fish may or may not spook other fish, but a lot of noise in the water by walking around will.

After landing and releasing the fish, the process starts again. Approach the area slowly and carefully. If you spotted more than one fish the first time, many of them will remain.

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This post was written by Bighornangler


  • John Pennock says:

    Good stuff… I think this applys to small water possibly even more than larger rivers like the horn. I use this method , always, even fishing lakes around the shoreline.

    • mtangler says:

      That’s Right. Observation is everything, regardless of what body of water you are fishing. Study the water before you begin fishing and train your eyes to spot fish.

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