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Advanced Nymphing Banner Image

Advanced Nymphing Quick Guide- Lesson 2 of 2
  'Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks'

Top Performing Nymphs
Tungsten Nymph Head Logo

Prince Nymph Head Prince
Nymph Head
Hares Ear Nymph Head

Hares Ear
Nymph Head

Pheasant Tail Nymph Head Pheasant Tail
Nymph Head
Copper John Nymph Head Copper John
Nymph Head
Hares Ear Olive Nymph Head Hares Ear Olive
Nymph Head

The most important elements of nymphing, which we will be covering in this guide are as follows:

     1)  Get Close to the Feeding Trout
     2)  Tippet Choice
     3)  Casting Techniques
     4)  The Presentation
     5)  The Strike
     6)  Flies to use

Get Close to Feeding Trout

If you are able to stay on the bank without wading at all, do it. Get as close to the feeding trout as possible. Coupled with a pair of polarized sunglasses, this will allow you to observe the trout and see it take the fly. If you can't see the trout, you will still want to be close enough to watch where the leader and water intersect.  If you are not fishing with a strike indicator, use this intersection point as your strike indicator.

If you are able to see the fish in the water, try this the next time you are on the water.  Mark the trout's location in relation to a streamside landmark, move well back from the bank, and then walk far enough upstream to remain undetected when you move back toward the stream. Once you’re next to the water, crouch and sneak down toward the fish as close as you dare. 

...but before we get too carried away, let's make sure you're properly equipped.  What tippet are you using?

Tippet Choice

Depending on the water, 5X or 6X tippet is a common choice when fishing small nymph flies.  On occasions you may fish some small nymphs which will have trouble breaking through the surface tension. If this happens, lengthen the tippet to 3 feet or more.  A longer tippet will not only help break the surface tension, but it also gives the fly better action under the surface. Of course, if getting your fishing flies down becomes a problem, you can switch to fluorocarbon, which will break through the surface tension and sink a little better.

...ok, now you are ready to cast your fly.


Listed in order of preference, you want to aim for the following casting angles:
Option #1 -across-and-upstream, #2 -across-stream, #3 -across-and-downstream, and finally #4 –downstream casting position. 

Typically, the downstream casting position is a last-resort for when all other options are unavailable. It's not that you can't make an effective drag-free presentation downstream, but your chances of spooking the trout increase dramatically while casting your fly over the feeding zone.

In an ideal scenario, you would be making a short upstream or across-and-upstream cast and then allowing your fly to swing into the proper drift lane slightly upstream from the trout. Once the fly has swung into position upstream of the trout, feed out S curves the same as you would do on a downstream presentation.

...let's continue on talk about the presentation of your fishing flies in the water.

The Presentation

The secret to successful nymph presentation is not often taught to beginners. The trick is to make a cast short enough to not spook the fish and then keep your tip up as you feed out slack with S curves of line.  It is crucial that you keep your rod tip high. Keeping the tip up keeps slack line off the water and assists with strike detection. It also suspends the fly just a bit as it drifts, and that's what makes it act like the real thing. 

So what should the fly look like under the water?  As a general rule of nymphing, a dead-drift presentation is the best.  However occasionally you can implement a slight “lift” with your fly presentation.  To perform a lift, s moothly and slowly lift the tip of the rod either when you see the fly a few feet in front of the trout or when you are entering into the optimum feeding areas.  If a trout is responsive to lifts, you'll see it respond immediately when you apply the action.  Once again, it is only practical attempting lifts with short casts.   

...but r
emember, a dead-drift is most consistently the best presentation to entice the strike .

Nymphing Dry Dropper

The combination of a heavy beadhead fly and a more buoyant nymph fly can be deadly. Dead-drifted, this rig puts the larger fishing fly on the bottom, while the bottom fly imitates an insect that has been knocked into the drift. If you twitch your rod tip, you can make the bottom nymph dive and rise again, which often triggers a strike.

The Strike

Strike detection can sometimes be illusive. If you hold the fly line between your thumb and forefinger, it will help to feel the strike.  Watch the leader–fly line connection closely for jerks or dips.  If the leader stops, hesitates, or does anything out of the ordinary, gently lift the rod.

If you feel a fish on, set the hook; if you don't feel a fish, lower the tip and continue the drift of your fly.


Flies to Use

This is where we can help you out.  Having the right nymphs in your arsonal is crutial to sub-surface success.  After all, this is what the fish are going to be seeing and feeding on.

The standard brass beadhead nymphs are great for mid-range sink rates.  Try a soft hackle nymph fly, they work exceptionally well when fishing it in combination with a multi-fly, tandem-rig.  Non-weighted nymphs  typically work exceptionally well in slower moving columns of water.  However when it comes to fast moving water or deeper pools, flies tied with tungsten beadheads are ideal for getting the fly down into the feeding channel quicker and keep it there longer per cast.  Both weighted stoneflies and non-weighted stoneflies are very productive during certain times of the year.  If you find that the trout are sensitive to the flashy metallic bead on the stonefly but you still want the weight, switch to a fly where the weight is hidden under the dubbing. Just ask us to tie them for you with a "weighted underbelly".

Quick Links to Nymph flies: Nymphs, Beadhead Nymphs, Tungsten NymphHeads,




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