Advanced Nymphing Techniques

After working with several people new to nymphing this summer, I would reemphasize the following:

a. Presentation is everything. As the water cools in winter and the fish become less active, a drag free drift becomes even more critical. To achieve a drag free drift, you have to keep your fly line off the water. I accomplish this by using a 9 foot rod and a "high stick" presentation. There are times when a fish will respond to a fly that rises up at the end of a drift, so if you want to do this, lower your rod tip slightly as your fly drifts past you, then raise it slightly as the fly reaches the end of the drift. Honestly, this doesn't work very often for me, but sometimes when fish are taking emergers, nothing else works.
b. Learn when to set the hook. Wish I had a system for this. I could probably make some money. I learned how to do this by trial and error. Basically, any time my strike indicator stops, twitches, or does anything other than float with the current, I set the hook. I still hook some fish that I didn't sense were there, probably from being inattentive. In waters that I fish often, this is easier to do. I know how deep the water is and can judge whether I'm dragging or not.
c. Put the fly in the right spot the first time. When I fished with DD this summer, he insisted that I never fish a bad cast through. I've been giving that some thought. Is it better to fish through a run when you know you are dragging and hope to fix that by mending, or remove the fly as soon as the drag starts and maybe spook the fish when your fly/leader comes out of the water? Neither situation is good, so I've been going more with the later. One advantage is that it seems to keep me focused.

Hope this helps. Tight lines!

by Rich Osthoff. Some of the chapter titles include: Long Line Nymphing for Active Trout; Micronymphing for Inactive Trout; Beating the Heat; Dealing with Dirty Water; Parlor Tricks; etc. Here's one of my favorite tips from the book:

"After you tie on a fresh nymph, jam it right down into the stream bottom and rub some silt into it. That saturates the nymph and removes internal air pockets so that it sinks readily on the very first presentation. It also helps remove any alarming scent."


"If I don't catch them today, I'll catch them another day." Art Flick


Idaho Resident Craftsman/Artisan
I agree, never fish a bad cast through. If I don't get the mend right, right off the bat then I recast. From my experience, fish feeding on nymphs keep feeding and don't spook as much as fish feeding in differnt or more than one pattern. Especially if a hatch is on.

Ok now for my next tip, Mending: I call it "stacking". How natural your presentation is depends upon how well you mend the line within 2 seconds of your fly hitting the water. (variables being water depth and speed) If the water between you and your strike indicator is moving slower than where you've placed your fly then you need to mend "down stream" in order to avoid fly drag. If the water is faster (in between) then "stack" the line upstream, above the strike indicator, using what I call a barrel roll mend. You just roll a loop or a double loop in the line upstream of your indicator.

I've never used the "high sticking" technique. I would be afraid I wouldn't have the leverage I would need to set the hook properly. If you've already got your rod up then where are you going to set the hook too? I am sure there is a trick to it. Can anyone shed a little light on this subject.

Oh yeah, as for one fly one fish: I see the wisdom in this. However, I usually fish more than one fly untill I start catching them consistently on one fly. Then I take the other off.

This is a really useful conversation--I've been reading lots lately on nymph techniques and trying to improve my skills but this one post has provided a number of new options I'm eager to try. Keep it going!

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
Thanks to everyone for sharing and taking the time to do these posts. The tip Bright Rivers quoted (post #16) brings to mind a question about how far is it acceptable to go in masking human scent. More specifically, is it O.K. to rub some "non-bait" scent (such as anise or garlic or whatever) on one's hands to mask it, or is this considered a no-no in flyfishing? I don't mean putting any directly on the fly itself, but merely rubbing the scent-producing substance thoroughly all over one's hands to the point where it is all rubbed in, leaving no significant residue, before tying on. I do this in my gear-fishing, but is it an acceptable practice where unscented flies are required? Or do I have to eat alot of raw garlic the night before?:YUM It seems to me that this would be more of a concern when nymph or wet fly fishing than when dry flyfishing.

:DUNNO Jimbo

Old Man

Just an Old Man
What do I know---I'm just an old man

I'll probably get slapped down for this. But you talk a good deal about nymphing but of all the times I've fished with you and you used nymphs,I don't remember see you do any of what you talk about. But I've only seen you fishing for sea runs. Do you do it like you said for other fish?



Idaho Resident Craftsman/Artisan
I'll forgive you Jim Because you obviously don't see so good these days. Hehehe Sometimes I "nymph by Braille" and I know you've seen me do that. You've also seen me use some of my "advanced nymphing techniques" for Chum. Never mind, chances are you were lying on the bank resting your back.