Sunday, March 27, 2011

Get Bent.

Nymphing Your Life Away.
There are basically two-forms of nymphing that we practice around here. Straight-Lining (a.k.a. highsticking) and Long-lining (a.k.a. right angle nymphing). The names pretty much explain the techniques. Straight-lining involves nymphing water where the target zone (that is, where you think the fish are) is relatively close, usually within 15 feet of where you're standing. This is mostly done in faster water with a broken surface, where you can approach the fish without spooking them- think riffles and pocket water. The high sticking part is what you do with the rod to control drag on the line.

It goes like this. Cast up and across into the seam where you think the fish are (look for your bubble lines!). The key is to cast upstream enough so that the flies will sink to the right depth when they are in the vicinity of where you suspect the fish is laid up (maybe a rock, or a depression in the bottom, etc.). As the fly sinks and drifts back toward you, raise your rod tip high into the air to lift the fly line off the water and control drag on the line. As the fly passes by your position and goes downstream, lower the rod tip and follow the fly to extend your drift. An indicator is optional, and if you use one you may opt for something small like a pinch of putty or a piece of Rio Kahuna on the leader.  The other consideration is that you want to keep your leader straight so you can detect strikes quicker.

Pretty simple. The key is balancing a straight line, and maintaining a good, natural drift through the strike zone. If you can do these two things simultaneously, with a fly that is on the menu, you are going to instantly detect strikes and be able to brag to your buds with stories about how you crushed 'em that day.

The other method of nymphing commonly utilized is long-lining. Think of trying to reach lies beyond 15'. This is usually done in a pool or run where the water is flowing are a relatively even current between you and where you intend to drift your bug. Because of the distances involved, getting your fly into position is usually less precise than when high-sticking. For this reason, this method tends to work better when fish are actively feeding and may willing to move a bit off their feeding lane to grab a nymph. The problem with long-lining is that you need to be diligent about managing drag because of the excess fly line between you and the fly/indicator.

Mending is a non-negotiable requirement, you've got to work the line on the water with the rod to control drag in this situation, usually by throwing upstream mends all the way to bobber (but not always, depending on current speed- at times you may actually be mending down stream if the water between you and your indicator is slower than the water where the indicator is drifting). Long rods make this job easier than short rods. Nymph-taper lines with fat bellies mend better than dry fly lines with skinny bellies designed to make delicate presentations. Strike indicators help to fight the effects of drag on the fly below the surface, and will help keep the fly in the feeding lane or seam. A tuck cast will drive the flies and shot deep into the water column with more force and velocity, which helps to get the fly into the strike zone quicker. And finally, putting a right angle (90 degree) bend in your leader will assist by keeping the fly (or flies) directly below the indicator. 

There are a number of ways to put a 90 degree bend in your leader. First you can set up for it by running a heavy piece of butt section leader tied off to a strike indicator like a thingamabobber or yarn puff with an O-ring. You then run a thin piece of tippet, tied to off to the indicator, which goes down to the fly.  This is fine if you plan on fishing the same depth water for a while and you don't need to adjust the distance from the indicator to the fly as the water depth changes.  Otherwise, you need to cut off the fly and add more tippet to get deeper or cut off the fly and subtract tippet to get the fly up in the water column.

Let's face it, in reality, on any given day on the stream, you may be fishing dries, then nymphing in any combination as the day goes on and things progress and evolve. And in reality, it's nice to be able to adjust depth quickly, without re-rigging and tying a bunch of knots, until you get things dialed in. 

It's easy to get caught up in fancy rigging and think that you are giving yourself some advantage by all of the extra effort that you put into tying knots every 10 minutes. But the reality is, the longer you spend tying knots and frigging with your rigging- the less time your fly is in the water, which may just be the single most important factor in successful angling. 

So, for all of you lazy (but efficient!) anglers out there who are guilty of fishing the same 9' factory tapered leader all day, here is a quick and easy way to put a 90 degree bend in your leader when you decide to punch a drift into a far away seam that you just know holds a big fatty chomping on Hendrickson nymphs.
First, get yourself some styrofoam indicators and medium thick rubber bands. Cut the rubber bands into 1" to 2" pieces depending on the size of the indicators. Foam ball indicators usually come with toothpick pieces that are designed to jam into a pre-formed hole in the center of the indicator. You can keep the toothpicks for later when you are straight line nymphing, just remember to put the indicator on the leader before you tie your fly on! Using the toothpick instead of the rubber band will keep the leader straight. But for our purposes, we are looking to put a bend in the leader.

 Next, make a bite in the leader. Push the bite through the hole in the indicator as shown.
 Now, slide a piece of rubber band into the bite.
Bright Side Up!
Finally, pull leader with the rubber band back through the indicator. By pulling the leader up into the indicator- Voila! you have put a 90 degree bend in your leader and you are ready for a long line drift. The best part, you can quickly and easily adjust the depth of the fly by loosening the rubber band and sliding the indicator either up or down. No cutting, no re-tying to add or subtract tippet. Quick, clean, and efficient.

Now if it would just warm up a bit.


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