Friday, April 13, 2012


It happened that my family left for spring break. At home alone I feel a bit ghosted and plus it was a pretty glorious time to be out and about on planet earth. Fished a couple days. On one of the days around 2 PM I sat down with my fishing partner and he asked me how many fish do you figure we've caught so far... maybe 60? I thought for a few seconds and confirmed. With certainty. The specifics of the two days are not really worth relating; they can be summed up as an absolute assload of fish; pile of fish to hand, most came via tandem rig nymphing; few on dry flies (the fish weren't keyed into a hatch but would eat dry flies if fisherman persisted), bunch on black buggers. Better subject is some of generalities that have been lingering in my mind after this remarkable outing.

Nymphing: it's an art form. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. And is without a doubt the most reliable way to pry these trout from their holds. I'm not as venerable as a lot of guys who fish around here, but I'm no rookie either and my take is that nymphing is intriguing, difficult and deadly.

The conversation about indicators is over, IMO. Calling them bobbers is false. Even calling them indicators is slightly misleading in that there is almost always a visual mark that is watched by nymphers. Far and away the primary function of the indicator is depth regulation. Keep moving that indicator - that's what the guy in the MO River fly shop told me before I went out there and got murdered by that big river. But the point stands: assess the situation and regulate your depth. The suggestion that using an indicator makes things "easier" may have some truth to it, but it's an overly simply suggestion. I heard that if I put an indicator on above my nymph and cast it out there, it'll be easier to catch fish. But just the indicator... that's not what does it for you man. It's part of integrated depth regulation approach that uses nymphs, shot, a float and high-sticking. Laser-deadly shit we're talking about here man. Laser-on-deadly.

Also over is the suggestion that you should minimize your time in the water. Best positioning your feet and thus your angles for presentation trumps the need to stay out of the water. I like being in the stream. Better casting angles, easier landing of fish. Stealth in the water is a possibility. Prefer to be in the water myself, with boots immersed maybe up to the laces, crouched down surveying all angles. This also kills your silhouette better, getting down off any bank. Plus how the hell are you gonna land a fish without getting in? Hook it from the bank and then crash down in a rush to grab it... is that stealthier?

We touched so many fish man. There was a hairpin in the stream where we basically stood back to back and crushed these holes. Four doubles were noted. So many holes gave up 6-9 fish.

THere is one rule and one rule only; all other suggestions are corollary to it: study water and know how to read it. Know where the fish are laying up. I don't always do this but any success I'll ever find is a direct function of the right reads followed by getting nymphs to the fish. Dry flies and streamers require some but less of this reading, IMO.

And corollary #1 would then be: after reading the water and knowing, knowing the fish are there... determine whether or not you should fish to them. A good quote out there I read once that said "learn to identify dead water, and avoid it." The reasoning being your time will be more focused on good water and thus more productive per unit expenditure. But it extends into fishy water too: learn to identify water that is too tough to fish, and avoid it. Like the aquarium stuff. Like water that will give up one fish and then no more. IMO, the key here is to zero in on the absolute locks: that water that provides the fish with a feeling of security; water that provides you audio and visual camoflauge. Broken water. Gray water, etc. Places they figure they are safe. Places you can iteratively work over with nymphs and shot until you get flies in front of faces. Skip a lot of water. I suppose it depends on your goals and your timeframe, your zen-state, etc. But skipping some fish in favor of others can be a very good deal.

We operated like surgeons on said water. Pretty much that simple. And the glory of the valley shone down on us. What a time to be out walking: no veg yet; 60 F. Full sun. Remarks and exclamations were often involuntary.

Second day I fished by myself. There was one spell of 30-110 minute range out in the middle of nowhere sitting on a stump where I just stared straight ahead and then snapped back to it. Burned some time there but I couldn't get going for a while. Then after revving up again I worked over the holes in said fashion. At one point after catching 2-3 fish from a very skinny piece of water I started snapping frames of each fish... just to see how far this stuff could go. It went pretty far. Note times in the captions in the collage below.

Some fish on dries and emergers just to feel the grace in the casts but that wasn't the deal. It was nymphing. Methodical applications. Something joyous about it too.

And one pretty big fish ate a black streamer (from Roughfisher) around 6 PM one night. This fish was not in a hole but rather hiding in a V behind a log. Sweet lay. Beautiful fish well into high teens.

Finally: the water is skinny now. And water that looks like it can't hold fish... is full of fish. Little gray water notches beside riffles. Small holes. We even danced streamers over riffles and had fish materialize out of nowhere in crush mode.

Deep down in the valleys both days. No people, no road crossings, no row crops. One cabin and two hunting trailers sighted. Cows around. Things greening up. Nothing more to say on it; some pics help communicate.

[pics from both days follow; kind of mixed up]


Blogger John Montana said...

Written in 2007:
There is a certain, undeniable magic about nymphing. You cast out with little more than faith and wait for the moment to come together. When nymphing the way one should, you don't look at the tip of your flyline, you don't look at your indicator, you don't watch the water for flashes or study the point where you leader enters the river. You just fish. You might be focussed on the swirl of water that marks an unseen boulder on the river bottom, you might be listening to the quiet roar of the rapids just upriver, or you might be watching the grass on the other side of the river sway and bend in the wind. Yet every so often you lift your arm, and there is a fish on the end of the line. Sometimes you lift your arm and it is a rock, or a stick, or nothing at all, but sometimes its a fish. Magic. If nymphing was anything but magic...a skill or a trick or something you could learn, practice or teach than at the end of the day you could explain it. You could say to someone "Yep, I set the hook because the tip of my fly line was moving too slow against the current. I lifted my arm because I saw a shadow on the river bottom move. I tightened the line when the perfection loop broke the surface tension." Sometimes you can say these things, and usually mean them, but when done right...when really nymphing you are usually as shocked as the fish. Call it a hunch, but what it really is, is magic

As a (formerly) respectable nymph fisherman, I 100 percent agree with you.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous jrs said...

"Nymphing: it's an art form. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. And is without a doubt the most reliable way to pry these trout from their holds." I love it. Very well said.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Ross Brecke said...

I personally use the force...when nymphing. Great Post!

5:06 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Some guys weighing in who are beyond me re nymphing ability. Should have let you write this post. But anyway, glad to garner some appreciation on this one.

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