Advanced Nymph Techniques from 12/2/2002 by Ryan Davey Key Point 1: Depth Control Depth control is one of the most important keys to success in catching trout with nymphs. If your not touching bottom, your not deep enough. I build my nymph leaders with about 50 % 30 pound test, and then step down frrom there to 20, 13, 3x, 5x, 6x etc. When your nymph fishing, the leader generally doesn't turn over the nymphs anyway, it's the weight of the split shot that turns it over. This also allows me to have one long piece of mono to work with to move my indicator up and down. The first key to controlling depth is your indicator. I like the yarn indicators personally, although I buy the ones frrom the store and then cut them in half. I find that they float great, I lather them with floatant at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day they're still floating. I tried the foam ones for a while, but they twist up your fly line and after a few hours fishing you have to take it off and let your line out into the current to get rid of the twists. White is my favorite color because it sticks out to me, yet doesn't look as spooky to fish as a bright pink indicator. That and I've had fish actually rise to my strike indicator while fishing a flourescent one, and that just doesn't seem right. I think the most important things about an indicator are that 1) it floats well, 2) it's easy to move, and 3) it doesn't move when you don't want it to. Leader length is the second key to depth control. The old adage as far as leader length goes is one and a half times the depth of the water. While fishing on the Rio Grande in New Mexico, I met a guide who outfished everyone else I saw, and I of course watched him like a hawk to see what he was doing differently. I noticed that he spent quite a bit of time fiddling with his leader and his strike indicator, and when I finally talked to him about it, he was actually lengthening and shortening his leader, adding and removing split shot, and adjusting his indicator. It doesn't really take much time if you just spend a bit of time practicing off the water. Mostly, I stick with one leader length and use my idicator to control depth frrom there. My average leader length for nymph fishing in say the Yakima this time of year is between 9 and 11 feet. To bring us back to the original point of using two small flies and controlling depth precisely, the third component of the system is weight. I carry one of those yellow selector packs (made by Moyen, they say "Super" on the top) with about 8 different sizes of split shot. Interestingly enough, in most situations, I use, and have for many years, mainly one size, the Number 6. This is probably because I have used that size for a long time, it has a good intermediate sink rate, and I am used to how fast it sinks. If I'm starting out for the day on most waters that I know or have fished at least once or twice before, I'll usually use two Number 6 size pieces of split shot. This leaves me plenty of room for adjustment. Adjustment is of course, the fourth key to depth control, and is very important. All of the REALLY good nymph fishers I've ever seen or fished with are always fiddling with something. Trout "generally" are holding in the bottom six inches of the water column, the area know as dead water (that is if they're not feeding on the surface and holding further up in the water column). This layer of water does not move nearly as fast as the rest of the water column, and therefore allows a trout to rest and hold in a feeding position without expending too much energy. Putting the fly into that zone is the key. To give you an example, say I'm using a 10 foot leader, a size 18 Brassie and a size 18 BWO Emerger (my usual late Fall setup), with two pieces of #6 split shot. My indicator is probably six inches below my fly line on the leader. I make a few casts into likely holding areas, ie. in front of rocks, along the seam that is formed by the back eddy behind rocks, along seems of slack water/fast water, etc. The water is moving quite fast, OR is quite deep, and in the first few casts, I notice I'm not getting anywhere near the bottom. I'm probably not going to catch as many fish like this! What do I do? Add another piece of split shot. I will RARELY, if ever, fish with more than four pieces of split shot, unless it's a super deep hole, but in that case I'm probably using a sinking tip anyway. If I find that I am still not getting near the bottom, I may add another two feet of tippet material for extra depth. Let's look at the opposite situation. The water I am fishing is a bit slower, or shallower. Every cast I am snagging the bottom very early in the drift, and my flies are not spending much time in the "zone" as I'm snagging up too quickly. I have three options, I can either take off a piece of split shot (pain in the butt), take off a bit of tippet (not going to happen), or shorten my strike indicator. So after I shortening my strike indicator, it's a bit better, but I'm still snagging too much. I will continue to play with the depth until I'm in the right zone. frrom my experience, on the ideal drift, you should touch the bottom at the middle of every or every other drift. The middle of the drift is the point at which your indicator is adjacent to you. When you move to the next run down, you may find that you have to adjust again. I often find myself adjusting many many times throughout the day. It becomes second nature. Key Point 2: Rigging There are only three knots I use in fly fishing (in freshwater), and they are the double overhand loop (for creating a loop in the end of my leader), the triple surgeons knot (stronger than a blood knot, and also quicker to tie, I tie mine with three turns instead of the standard two, that's just the way I learned and I rarely have one break), and the uni knot. The Uni knot is much quicker to tie than the standard clinch knot (fisherman's knot), easier to tie in low light or cold situations, and is stronger. The average breaking strain that I found for a clinch knot is 78 % of the actual (not rated) line strength. The average breaking strain of a uni knot is about 90 % of the actual breaking strain of the line. I learned this while attempting to break the world record kahawai on a fly rod while I was living in New Zealand. Being a member of a local gamefishing club, I had access to line testers, and spent a lot of time testing knots. Also, Left Kreh fishes with the uni knot, and that should be all the proof you need. A very important note I will mention here is when you are tying ANY knot, there are two things to keep in mind. The first is always lubricate your knot before tightening, by placing it in your mouth. I learned this lesson the hard way while working on charter boats, I lost a VERY large hammerhead shark for a client because of not lubricating the knot. If the knot isn't lubricated, it will "burn" when it is tightened, and weakens the knot. The second point is to always leave a little bit of tag on all your knots, the number one reason why knots break is because they slip. Leaving a tag will help alleviate this problem. There are many different ways to create a double nymph rig, but this is how I do it. To start out with, I usually use 5x floro to my first fly. I personally feel that floro catches more fish than regular mono, due to a lower light refraction rating, although I've never done any diffinitive studies on the matter and I may just be brainwashed by the line companies. This fly is attached with a uni knot. My second fly is always tied to the bend of the hook, and is always tied with lighter line, in this case 6x. That way if your second fly snags on something, you don't lose both flies, you only lose the bottom one. In addition, if you find that your catching more fish on your bottom fly and they are both similar patterns, you may try dropping down a line class, as the fish may be leader shy. I attach this fly to the bend of the hook using a uni knot as well, I actually tie the knot in the tippet first, then place it around the bend of the hook and tighten (lubricate first). The second fly is attached again using a uni knot, and is between 12 and 24 inches behind the first fly, although mine is usually around 18". There are a number of different ways to attach split shot to your leader, and I've tried quite a few. The first way I tried was to just crimp the split shot directly onto the leader, but after watching friends catch more fish while I broke off more, I figured out I was crimping the mono. I then tried using a second piece of mono and tying it onto the leader above the first surgeon knot up frrom the fly, using a uni knot. The problem I encountered there was if the split shot snagged, it would tighten on the main monofilament line and break it. Finally, someone showed me a good trick. When I tie my surgeon knot between my 3x and my 5x (i.e. the tippet going to the fly, or the last surgeon's knot before the fly), I tie this connection with an extra long tag, and only clip one tag. I then crimp the split shot onto this tag (very tightly), and place two overhand knots in this tag. A word of warning, you don't want this tag too long or the split shot will get tangled up with the main line and anything else it can find. Usually, I start with a long tag, attach my split shot, tie my overhand knots, and trim. Keep the split shot close, as close to the main line as you can, but leave enough room for an extra piece of split shot in case you need it. Key Point 3: Line Control Line control is very important in nymph fishing and is usually overlooked. Many people fish very large strike indicators, which cause drag and also drifts faster because of the increased surface area. To get a longer drift and more control, fish close to yourself! Try to stay within 30 feet. I will stand 7 feet inside of a current seam, and cast at a 25 degree angle upstream. As the rig drifts back towards you, strip line in. It should drift by you about 5-10 feet out, depending on the accuracy of your cast. When the inidcator is directly perpendicular to you, flick the like upstream of the indicator, WITHOUT moving it. If you move it, you will lose your depth. Feed line out as it drifts past, again without moving the indicator but also without placing too much slack on the water, or you may loose a fish when he strikes. When the indicator has reached about thirty feet below you, hold onto the line. This causes the nymphs to swing upwards towards the surface, which can stimulate strikes frrom fish that mistake your nymphs for an emerging mayfly on speed. Another trick a friend showed me is at the end of every drift, lift the rod tip sharply to set the hook. More times than you would expect, there will be a fish there, but you will never have noticed. Much has been written about Zen and the art of nymph fishing, and in one of his books John Gierach talks about "just knowing" when to set the hook. Over time and watching the strike indicator, you will learn what causes the indicator to move a certain way, and why. Sometimes, you may even set the hook for no reason, and find a fish there. Any slight pause, twitch, and of course, submersion, is a reason to set the hook. You learn over practice which ones are fish and which aren't. Key Point 4: Casting Many people have a hard time chucking split shot and two nymphs because they spend half there time untangling there leader. The first thing to remember is when casting, OPEN UP YOUR LOOP! Slow down your cast, drop your rod tip more on your forward and back casts, and open your loop up. Most of the time when I'm nymph fishing with split shot, I don't use a standard cast, I use a roll cast, or a water haul. The roll cast needs no explanation, just make sure to keep your rod tip high so that the split shot has a chance to fully turn over and doesn't pile up on the strike indicator. The water haul is simple, either allow the line to straighten out FULLY behind you, or roll cast the line out straight behind you. This will not work with slack in your line. Then, with the rod parallel to the water and pointing 180 degrees away frrom the direction you want the cast to go, using a fair bit of power, make a forward cast while doing a single haul at the same time, allowing the line to shoot as you do so. This is my most common cast while double nymph fishing.