NOTE: Lately, I seem to have nymphing on the mind. It’s probably because I’m reviewing and updating my notes for the Nymphing Class I teach every year at the Fly Fishing Show in various locations across the country. This year I’ll be in Denver, CO; Somerset, NJ; Lynnwood, WA and Pleasanton, CA. The classes are small and it’s a lot easier to talk about and demonstrate rigs and tactics there than to write about them with any precision in a blog post. Nonetheless, I’ll give it a try. If you’re interested in attending my Practical Nymphing class at one of the 2015 Fly Fishing Shows check out the Fly Fishing Show website for dates and times in the cities listed above.
THE BASIC NYMPHING RIGS
When it comes to nymphing I almost always rig to fish two nymph imitations. If I’m short lining with a high stick and a buoyant strike indicator I typically rig the nymphs in line. That means I tie the first imitation to the end of the leader. I then tie an 8-inch to 18-inch long section of tippet material to the hook bend with a clinch knot. I tie the second nymph imitation to the end of the tippet section. The length of the tippet section between the two imitations depends on how I want the second nymph, sometimes referred to as the point fly, to present to the trout.
The strength of the tippet material I choose to connect the two flies together pretty much depends on the size flies I’m using – the smaller the fly the lighter the tippet material. I like to use a weighted fly in the first fly position and an unweighted fly on the point. When I fish two unweighted flies or small flies that I need to sink quickly to the stream bottom I attach weight to the leader 8 – 16 inches above the first fly.
If I’m tight-lining without a strike indicator or in some cases with a strike indicator I turn things around a bit. I fish a true dropper fly and a weighted anchor fly. The dropper fly is tied to the 6-inch to 8-inch tag of tippet material that’s left over when you tie a section of tippet material to the end of the leader.
For example, let’s say you want to tie a length of 5X tippet to the end of a 4X leader with a double or triple surgeon’s knot and fish a dropper fly when the knot is completed. To accomplish this you need a 6-inch to 8-inch tag end of the tippet material left over after you’ve tightened the knot. I always retain the 6-inch – 8 inch tag of 4X material for the dropper and trim the 5X material close to the knot (see photos below). An easy way to identify which tag is the 4X material is after the knot is tightened. The 4X tag will tend to lie alongside the length of 5X material that you just tied to the leader. The 5X tag will lie along the 4X leader.
Tie the anchor fly, which is also called the point fly, to the end of the 5X tippet material you just tied to the leader. The weight of the anchor fly depends on the depth and speed of the water you’re fishing. You want the anchor fly to sink quickly to the streambed and then tick along the bottom as it drifts downstream. Once the anchor fly is on the bottom you want to “stay tight” on the fly and lead it downstream with the rod tip.
Although you can fish this rig with two or even three dropper flies and the anchor fly, I usually fish a single dropper fly and the anchor fly. I like anywhere from 12-inches to 20-inches between the anchor fly and the surgeon’s knot where my dropper fly is attached to the tag.