Following on from my previous Techy Thursday working through a number of questions emailed to me from a Canterbury angler, this week are my thoughts on how to properly suspend a heavy Stonefly nymph, or heavily weighted nymph? His issue are that yarn indicators usually drown.
First you need to determine just what it is you are trying to achieve with that heavy nymph. Are you fishing it to get down deep, or are you looking to get down immediately in pocketwater for short drifts? Very rarely do I personally want to suspend a nymph. If the former, are you really looking to suspend it as such, or let it freely sink with the benefits of the full length of the leader? If you wish to suspend it, then you will require buoyancy, and yarn indicators may not be your best option here unless you look for an ultra-dense clump. Foam Tip Toppers from Loon are designed to hold up nymphs, ride high in turbulent water and remain easily seen. However foam indicators are rather wind resistant and combined with a chunk of lead covered by spanflex can make casting a nightmare.
How about ‘nymphing naked’?
Removing your indicator is the first step to becoming a more astute nymph angler, for you then turn your endeavour from more so a visual activity into a sensical one. Longer leaders and more weight can now be employed to get your imitation down into the bingo zone, an area which may not have been achievable before whilst maintaining a reliable visual indicator. You are now utilizing a combination of senses to detect the moment of the take, rather than just watching for a sign that may be so subtle that you do not pick it up anyway.
The first step to ‘contact nymphing’ is to be able to feel your fly and the weight of the line. I often introduce clients to this with heavier streamers to provide a resistance they can easily feel, and get them to lead a short line through a riffle by tossing it upstream on a 45 degree angle, and dragging the streamer back through via a high rod tip. Your rod tip is not following the line, but subtly leading it downstream.
To begin, once the cast is made, do not follow through to the water as you normally would, instead, raising the rod tip a few inches as your presentation falls. Follow this with a couple of short, controlled strips of the line to remove any sag, or slack line which may develop at the point where your fly line touches the water. Immediately you will notice that what would have become a saggy ‘L’ shape in your line now resembles a tight curve from your raised rod tip to the point at which your line enters the stream.
Immediately begin the downstream swing of your rod, leading the line as it follows in the drift. Strip in any slack line as it develops to maintain a consistent curve below the rod tip. This tight curve acts as both a lifeline to your nymph (any bumps or knocks will be felt if constant tension is maintained) and a visual indicator of the slightest of takes (if the curve tightens at all, strike). Often you are left wondering whether you saw, or felt the tightening of the line as a fish hits.
It is important when contact nymphing to retain an anchor of fly line upon the surface. The grip of the surface film will prevent your line from sliding back beneath your rod tip, and reduce the effect of wind on your curve. Short line = shorter anchor, whereas longer line requires a longer anchor accordingly.
Another important note is that due to the rod tip remaining often at chest height or above, I use the rod tip more so to remove any slack from the line upon the take, and it is the downward strike of the line hand which hooks the fish. Thus said, when stripping line during the drift, I prefer shorter, quicker retrieves so as my line hand spends more time near the rod hand, to enable a quick and effective downward strike.
This is my personal preference when fishing heavier nymphs. If you can see the fish, strike on cue. If not, ‘use the force’
Don’t get stuck in the rut. Go do it