It has been about 50
years since I first started the practice of nymph fishing. It was a
natural growth from my first method of fishing, which was with wet flies.
Nymph fishing seemed to be a new procedure in fly fishing and had just
started being used in East Tennessee as new types of flies were coming out
onto the market. The first method that I saw
used was almost the same
as fishing wet flies since there was no weight used to get the flies down
into the lower depths of the water column. Pretty soon we began
experimenting with split shot about 12 inches above the fly, and these
results were very good. The only method we had to detect strikes was
to look at the end of the fly line to see if the line jerked or twitched.
At about this time, I began to learn about reading water, and for some
time I was shown how to refine this door to a fine art. I was taught
to look for all of the possible places that a trout might be hiding and
waiting for a live nymph or other type of food to come floating by, pounce
on it, and then return quickly to its resting place. It seemed that
the key thought was to look for water that was greener and darker, which
indicated depth. Along with the green color was the movement of the
water. Fast, swift moving water was not desirable for the trout to lie
in to rest. Along beside of the swifter water, there runs water slowed
and even flowing backwards, and these are the most likely spots for the
trout to wait in to rest for food to come floating by.
Hydraulics can be an
important factor, and there are many rocks and obstacles in the creek, which
can break or disrupt the water flow. Trout can find these spots and
use them to their advantage. Rock ledges or outcroppings are also
favorite places for big trout to hide and ambush unsuspecting minnows.
It is commonly known that trout seek out larger holes for their depth in the
colder months and begin to move out and feed in different water columns as
the temperature rises.
After several years of
fishing nymphs with split shot to get this fly down deep, I learned to tie
flies using lead wire as the weighting property. About the same time,
I learned to fish a tandem rig style. These two factors along with
reading the water began to really have an impact on the number and size of
fish that I caught. The method that I used to tie on the tandem rig
was to tie an improved clinch knot to the eye of the point fly and leave
about 10-12 inches of leader material to tie on the dropper fly with using
another improved clinch knot. For many years, this was the method that
I used for nymph rigging. Many years went by and I expanded my
knowledge of reading waters on every stream that I could fish. I had
learned to approach a hole by staying low or to one side and back in the
trees to break my silhouette, and to cast to all the likely spots while
working the lower ends and looking for underwater rocky ledges or other
objects that would break the flow of water or offer a hiding spot for a
hungry trout. I would continue to work all the way through the hole to
the upper sections where the water would break over from the next pool.
The presentations of
the flies had become refined and each cast was more on target to put the
flies in the proper feeding area. The retrieve had become more of a
work of art, so as to hold the rod up high and keep the fly line off of the
water in close-in situations; or in longer casts to be sure to start mending
the line to keep all of the slack out and watch the very end of the line for
any abnormal action, such as slight jerks, twitching, or just stopping.
It is very important to strike immediately when any of these things happen
to a normal drift. Two or three things in the retrieve can make the
difference in success or failure. In a long cast or short
high-sticking retrieve, you must keep the fly line coming behind the fly in
a normal drift with a slight bow or arc in the line as it goes down to the
water. This type of retrieve will keep all slack out of the line and
leader so that all strikes can be detected. This same procedure is
followed on longer casts, but the fly line is in the water, and it is
constantly being mended to keep all slack out. As the fly line and fly
comes by you, raise the rod and continue to hold the line behind the fly
until the current begins to tighten the line. It a good idea to extend
your arms in a reach to lengthen the drift. As the fly line begins to
tighten, the fly will begin to raise in the water column eventually bringing
it to the top. This has been found to imitate a hatching insect, and
many fish are taken as the fly reaches the very end of its drift and is just
about to come to the surface. Another practice that is useful at times
is to begin very light three to six inch retrieves with the left hand, which
is known as strip jerking. Many times when trout will not touch a dead
drifted nymph, the trout will strike savagely at a fly being strip-jerked.
I would like to go over
the whole procedure again to highlight all of the steps, so that every
person will be able to use these methods well when they get on the water:
#1. Try to tie one or two flies on that will
match the nymphs that are known to be hatching at the time that you are
fishing. Tie all of your knots with the Pitzen knot. Plain
leader material in the 4X --6X range will work best. Tie in
tandem rigs about twelve inches apart. The best procedure found up to
date is to tie in the point fly with the Pitzen knot and then, tie in about
12-14 inches of leader material with a Pitzen knot tied in the air.
This Pitzen knot tied in the air is placed around the hook bend of the point
fly and tightened. The dropper fly is then tied on to the end of the
leader material coming from the hook bend of the point fly. This makes
all of the knots have 100% strength and less chance of slippage.
#2. Make your
approaches in a stealthful way, keeping low or back into the trees or bushes
to break your outline.
#3. Read the
water carefully and identify all of the places that trout might be hiding.
#4. Work the
water from the tail out all the way to the head of the hole, looking for
rocks, logs, ledges or any breaks in the current, which might give the fish
a place to hide and rest. Try to make two to three drifts through any
given stretch of water.
#5. Be sure to
keep the line mended and keep the fly line in a slight arc behind the fly,
so that the slack is taken out, but also that the fly is drifting along
naturally without being pulled.
#6. Always be
prepared to strike if the fly line or leader stops, jerks, twitches, or
makes any abnormal movement.
When fishing water that
has become somewhat warm (mid 60's), it is best to use unweighted flies and
fish riffles that are highly oxygenated. The fish may be holding in
water that is only inches deep. Look for any break or slower movement
that might be slightly deeper that would give a fish an area to hold in.
The strikes may just be a stopping of the line or hard, fast takes. Be
ready to strike instantly. If fishing in very cold temperatures, try
to fish the deepest holes. You may have to drift the fly many times
through the same spot. If the water levels are up slightly, some extra
weight may be needed. Weighted putty works really well at this time.
A normal take in these types of conditions is for nothing more than the fly
line to stop.
My desire for you is
that you will take these methods that have been tried and tested for many
years, and have proven to be the most successful methods of fishing that I
have found on the waters of East Tennessee. Try them and continue to
practice them, so that you will eventually just be using them as a second
nature to yourself. The methods will eventually land you some of the
biggest fish in the creek. Good Fishing to all!
All Content is Copyright © of Hugh and Carolyn Hartsell
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