Nymphing for Steelhead...why are folks against it?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by jroni, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. I haven't done much fishing for steelhead lately but I enjoy the posts on this forum when I can't get out. This year in particular I've noticed lots of comments that folks don't like "nymphers" for steelhead. I was curious why? From afar It seems like an elitist thing or is their another reason? I personally would rather catch any fish on a dry fly but am willing to switch techniques if the conditions merit it.
  2. It is because most fly fisherman look at "nymphers" as gear fisherman with a fly rod. plain and simple thats what it is, it is the same as a jig/float setup but it is with a fly reel and rod.
  3. It's pretty much an elitest thing. Catching on the swing is a way more awesome experience, so some just feel that nymphing is either a waste of time, or so effective that it's "cheating."
    jasonj likes this.
  4. nothing wrong with it, why others might think so...I don't know:confused:, but don't let it bother you, I don't :beer2:
  5. This will be a 10+ page thread

    Time to kick back and watch
  6. Jroni,

    I don't know that anyone is against it. I guess with my bias I would be opposed to claiming the same degree of accomplishment for a steelhead I took nymphing as for one taken swinging a floating line. But I'm not against it. In fact I've tried it. Just not long enough to have caught one doing so. The comment that it is more like bobber and jig fishing, only with a fly rod instead of a spinning rod, seems pretty accurate.

  7. More people are against it this time of year than in. . .say. . .March. . .when they're Jones'in for a hookup and out comes da bobber!

  8. this is where the bigger controversy lies:
  9. I for one enjoy catching a steelie on the swing much more than on a nymph, however I enjoy "Catching" steelies more than not, so when in need I nymph. As for the comment of being similar to gear fishing, ya it is somewhat, but many times on the Ronde this year, I have followed unsuccessful gear guys through a run with a nymph and have caught fish. Is there a trick to successful nymphing, some guys say no way, but indeed there is.
  10. The bead is so effective this time of year and a lot of the rest of the year because it is the predominant hatch (they are matching the hatch) and also locked into the instinct/memory, as small as that is, of the trout/steelhead/whitefish. Lots of rivers fill up with spawning salmon. The float fishermen that use jigs tipped with shrimp/prawns/sandshrimp have now added the bead as a trailer, in fact several of the float guides are using a 2 bead setup with no jig and no bait. Although when I check their boats out they are full of smelly jelly. The reason flyfishing is so effective from the drift boats, is the guide, rowing 10' from the slot the exact speed the bobber is drifting and covering massive amounts of water and when a fish is found going back up through the hole several times. With only 10' of line to the bobber you can see every little touch on the bobber and get a decent hook set. When long lining a float or for that matter an indicator/nymph and bead it is much harder to see the little bobble and a lot harder to get a decent hook set.
  11. Because it's morally wrong. Basically all people that nymph for steelhead are bad people, void of values and strong ethics. I've always believed that steelhead nymphers are the kind of people likely to be attracted to hysterical cults and such. Just saying.
  12. iagree
  13. What the hell is this Nymphing stuff you are talking about?
  14. i knew i should have taken a picture when i saw you under the rayonier bridge on the sol duc with a bobber on your spey rod :rofl:
  15. Joe, dead drifting with a pinned bead and thingamobber is not nymphing, its totally different and everyone knows I've never done that there or anywhere else. What you saw was something I had no control over--kinda of like when someone get's kidnapped and is forced to engage in unspeakly acts against there will. Speak no more of this......no more.
  16. I use every flyfishing method you can think of to catch steelhead, and some methods that probably don't have names. My preference is dry flies, but I do spend the majority of my time nymphing. Not only is it more productive, but it is also more interactive with the river and requires a higher ability to read water if you do it right.

    I think most of us have had this discussion at some time or another with other flyfishermen. I think that when most people think of traditional steelhead flyfishing, they think of swinging and so I think this is where some people feel it is the "purist" method of catching a steelhead. It is also damn cool to have a steelhead slam a fly on the swing and try and take the rod out of your hand....

    It has always seemed to me that if you really look at it objectively, nymphing is a more pure form of flyfishing than swinging. When you are swinging, you are using streamers that don't really imitate anything natural and trying to induce a strike by pissing them off. With nymphing you are at least generally trying to imitate something natural and present it in a natural manner. Steelhead clearly respond to flashy, audacious flies, so the flies don't always end up representing natural bugs all the time, but we do use a lot of stoneflies, caddis, shrimp, and egg patterns.

    I also don't for a second buy the argument that it is just gear fishing with a fly rod, or that it is the easiest method. Gear fishermen use monofilament line and heavily weighted jigs, often with additional weight attached somewhere on the line. They can just cast it out there and generally do not have to worry much about line management.

    Having used every method and taught others each method, nymphing is by far the hardest one to teach somebody to do properly.

    Setup: With swinging, the setup is easy. Tie a fly on the end of your line, either with a longer leader for greaselining or a shorter one with a sink tip. With nymphing, just getting set up with your indicator at the proper depth for the water, getting the proper amount of weight to get it down but not drag down the indicator, etc. is difficult to get the hang of.

    Line management: With swinging, you pretty much just need to be able to cast, mend, and set the hook. You need to be methodical in making sure that you hit the whole river, but as you are bringing your fly through all of the various current seams on each cast, you really only need to make a few mends, all upstream. With nymphing you need to manage the amount of line you have out (cast upstream, strip in as the flies come toward you, then mend out line as they move downstream of you). You also need to manage your mends in order to maintain a dead-drift. Your mends may be upstream OR downstream and in some cases you may need to make an S-shaped mend in which part of your mend is upstream and part of it is downstream.

    Reading water: With swinging you need modest understanding of how to read water. You need to be able to find water that is going to hold fish and the speed of the current may require you to mend more or less aggressively, but generally you find a run and cast across the hole, set up your mends, and let it swing across the currents. Step down a couple of steps and repeat the process. When you get more advanced at swinging you do start using the currents to swing the fly into specific current seams in some locations. Nymphing requires a whole other level of understanding the river, the currents, and the potential holding spots for the fish. You need to be able to identify specific likely holding spots and then figure out how to get your fly there on a dead drift. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get the drift past a specific point just right and get the take. When you start targeting holding spots on the far side of multiple currents it gets really tricky to figure out the mends or get out further into the river to take some of them out of play altogether. You have to be very methodical in working through a hole to target each and every little holding spot individually and get the proper drift along each side of each rock, current seam, etc.

    Setting the hook: Hooking a fish on the swing is an awesome sensation. Just pure power. You definitely don't get the same experience hooking one on a nymph. The nice thing about getting a hard take on the swing is that the fish often sets the hook themselves. I still recommend driving it home, but once you make your cast and set your initial mends up, you can essentially swing blindfolded and hook fish. With nymphing you have to be much more in tune with what is happening to hook a fish. You have to detect the strike, which is sometimes surprisingly subtle, and then you need quick, powerful reflexes to set the hook the minute you detect a strike and also have the proper line management skills to be able to set the hook. With swinging the line will already be under tension, with nymphing you may have some slack line to account for. It also can make for an interesting first few seconds of the fight if you have to pick up a bunch of line. You may not have much ability to take up line if they come at you.

    I do get the argument that it is more rewarding to catch one swinging, because the strike is more ferocious and it is a less frequent occurrence. By that argument though, I'd say the ultimate would be landing one on a size 20 BWO on the dead-drift with a 0-wt rod.
  17. Because it works? Because some have a preference that is not nymphing? Who knows?
  18. I once pulled plugs for steelhead. This really means I sat in a boat while a real nice dude rowed the boat and talked my ear off. I lost the one fish that was hooked. I didn't feel like I had lost a thing. I suspect I would have the same lack of feeling if I lost a fish that I had nymphed up. This is one reason why I don't gear fish or nymph for steelhead.

    Additionally, I moved here to the PNW from the 'cuse in upstate NY. I caught many a steelhead in lake Ontario trib.'s nymphing. It was all anyone knew and I can honestly say, it sucked. I literally moved 3,000 miles so as to swing for steelhead. I went years before I caught a winter fish and it was worth it. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't nymph because I think it sucks.

    BTW- The next elitist flyfisherman I meet in the PNW will be the first. That's my experience.
  19. What the hell is nymphing????
  20. Sageman,

    Thanks for posting. You brought up some great points. The one thing that may be lacking, which is very important for some folks, is swinging has a longer history, more lore, and lots of pioneering authors who have written extensively on the subject while fly fish nymphing for steelhead is a relatively new approach. Some of those pioneers would argue that it is more satisfying to get the steelhead to come to a swung fly than to simply drift an egg past its nose. They would argue that to nymph for such a magnificent fish as a steelhead when it could be caught swinging would be sacrilegious. But then again, some of those old-timers thought Pacific salmon would not come to a fly so I guess it shows what they knew.

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