How to fly fish nymphs

How to fly fish nymphs

It’s been a hot topic in the fly fishing world for several years now, and it seems everyone has their own tried and true method on how to fly fish nymphs.  As a self taught angler, when I first saw someone nymphing; I had so many questions. How are they detecting strikes? Why are they using a bobber to fly fish? What is going on here?!  In my mind, I had always thought of fly fishing as making a delicate cast with a dry fly and watching intently for a rise. Catching trout on dries will always be my favorite way to fish, but it isn’t always a practical technique. The good news is that there are more options for fly fishing, and new techniques are being invented every year.  This is something I find very exciting.  Anyone could discover something on the river that could change the sport forever.

I don’t consider myself a nymph fisherman, and I’m hardly a dry fly purist.  To me, there’s really no sense in arguing over which method reigns supreme, because they are all effective tactics for the ever changing sport of fly fishing.  I’ve tried everything available on the market for nymphing over the years, and I wanted to give my personal feedback on each one.  I’ll leave out classic wet flies and streamers for this post, as they require different techniques, but could fall under the nymph category.

Bobbers/Strike Indicators

Pros:  Bobbers have got to be the most common way I see people nymphing.  They’re simple, easy to use, and remind us all of being a kid again.  For cost and efficiency, a bobber is a good way to get started.  A bobber allows you to suspend a nymph over fish a great distance away from you, while still giving you ample strike detection.

Cons:  They are undoubtedly a mess to cast, and scare away pressured fish when they hit the water.  If you’re going after tricky fish, you’re not going to have the element of surprise with a bobber.  I’ve seen fish actively swimming away when an indicator comes floating towards them.

All things considered, I think some strike indicators are less distracting than others.  A lot of people claim that a white indicator is a good choice, as it blends in a bit more with bubbles on the water’s surface.  I also see people having a lot of success with the stick on indicators.  If you’re new to nymphing, check out both the bobber strike indicator and hi-viz stick on varieties.

Euro Style Nymphing Leaders

Pros:  A great option for a more advanced form of nymphing.  Once you get used to detecting strikes on this style of leader, you’ll be able to increase your catch rate instantly. High line visibility!

Cons:  I fish to a lot of highly pressured fish, and the neon colored line can spook fish, primarily when floating it to see the strikes.  I’m willing to agree that it may not in all cases, but I’d prefer not to risk it.  In addition, if you’re using a 20′ custom leader, it can be difficult to switch techniques on the fly (pun intended).

Dry and Dropper

Pros:  You have two fly options for the fish.  They can take the dry, or they can take the suspended nymph.  It gives you the advantage of strike detection over a long distance, and is less conspicuous than a strike indicator.  Suspending nymphs from a dry is a great way to fish at a distance to finicky trout.  More on my favorite dry and dropper rig here.

Cons:  Tangles.  A lot of the time, you’ll have a weighted fly at the bottom, which makes casting difficult.  If you are fishing an area where a big dry will make trout wary, it can also be hard to float a heavier nymph with a small dry fly. The dry may sink often; effectively ruining your chances of detecting a strike.  You are also committed in a way to the depth that you are fishing, and it can be a hassle to switch out your depth.

Tight Line Nymphing

Pros:  To me, it’s the most effective way to nymph if you can get away with it.  There’s really nothing to scare the fish away, just the tippet and the nymphs.  I also enjoy the simplicity. A quick overview of how to do it here.

Cons: It works best for close range fishing, and is hard to be good at from a distance.

That’s a general overview of each method.  I could go into A LOT more detail, but I think that covers the basics.  What method works best for you?  Let me know in the comments.


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