What is Nymph Fishing?
Why do people nymph? Because they flat out love catching lots of fish. Nymphing is the most productive way to get a trout into the net, time after time, situation after situation, and river after river. So it’s worth your time to become proficient in this art.
Unlike dry fly fishing, where you replicate the adult stage of a bug that’s drifting on the surface of the water, nymphs aim to imitate the insects’ subsurface stages as they grow and mature in the cracks and undersides of rocks.
How Do I Fish Nymphs?
- Setting the position of your indicator is the most crucial part of rigging up for nymph fishing. The wrong placement means you will not be drifting your flies at the correct depth. What dictates the correct depth? The fish. Every day on the water you’ll need to find what depth makes the most sense to place the indicator. The general rule of thumb when fishing streams is the indicator should go above the fly about 1-1/2 times the water depth.
- Split shot, lead putty, and weighted flies are all part of the nymph fishing game. It’s the nature of down deep nymph fishing.
- Find the right depth by experimenting with indicators and splitshot until you find where the fish are. If you’re running an indicator at 8’ deep and only catching whitefish or chubs, try ditching the splitshot and slide your indicator down and fish in the middle of the water column. That may be where the trout are feeding.
- If nothing is rising, run some nymphs and try out a few different patterns until you find success. Fly fishing is largely experimental. The more you experiment, the greater your success, because you’ll eventually find a winning combination.
Since we’re no longer casting “weightless” flies, the practice of indicator nymphing means our casting can be less than graceful.
- Open your casting stroke to a wider loop. Start your cast with the rod tip low to the water, as the line straightens out behind you, execute your forward cast overhand. Much like a softball pitch or a single spey cast, this keeps your fly line and leader away from each other as the cast plays out.
- Resist putting a bunch of split shot or one huge split shot on a single part of the leader. This will impede your casting and create headaches throughout your day. Stick to smaller splitshot. Disperse them along the length of the leader rather than bunching them up in one area.
Other Ways to Fish Nymphs
- Dry/dropper: This is a great way to maximize fishing efficiency when trout are also eating dry flies. Place your nymph dropper 16”-24” inches off the bend off a highly buoyant dry fly. Use the dry fly as your strike indicator and watch for any movement that may signal a strike on the submerged nymph
- European/tightline nymphing: Keep a tight connection between the leaders and fly line. This way, the leader/line will hesitate the moment the nymphs stop moving during the drift. You want to achieve a dead drift and eliminating slack in the system. You also want to control the speed and depth the nymph drifts. These are all basic principles of a good Euro-style drift. While it looks like indicator nymphing, you’ll it differs a great deal in practice.
Nymph fishing is something every trout fisherman should master. While consistent dry fly or streamer fishing isn’t always available, there are always drifting insects around for fish to feed on—and for you to imitate with a nymph. That’s why nymph fishing is so productive. It can put fish in the net even when nothing else works.