Tip of the Week: When nymphing, set downstream!

A lot of anglers leave the river after a nymphing session wondering why they dropped so many fish. It’s the hook set, baby! This is such a simple principle. Adhering to it will result in a noticeable increase in your catch rate. Check out this diagram:

A proper nymphing hook set goes downstream, into the mouth and the mass of the fish.

If you accept the proposition — and I feel strongly about this — that most fish are won and lost at hook set — a good set is critical to nymphing success. Picture your fly moving downstream, a few inches off the bottom. The trout is facing upstream, sees the nymph, and decides to eat. You detect the strike (look for a reason to set the hook on every drift) and set the hook. Don’t set upstream. Doing so essentially takes the fly away from a fish that has said “yes” to your offering. Instead, drive the hook point home into the fish’s mouth — downstream — using the mass of the fish against itself. What if you’re indicator nymphing and your drift has the fly 30 feet below you? On the take, sweep set off to one side.

Do this every time and you’ll be netting a lot more fish. And of course, you’re constantly checking your hook points to make sure they’re sticky sharp…right?

Thanks Russell Library and nymphing tip of the day

Many thanks to the Russell Library for hosting me last night. We had a small but enthusiastic crowd for “The Little Things,” and if you were part of the group, thanks for coming out. Here’s a segment from the chapter on nymphing — three little things to help you catch more fish the next time you’re out on the water.

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 12.20.47 PM

Farmington River Report 5/21/15: The Awesome Power of a Single BB Split Shot

I was indicator nymphing a favorite pool this morning that I knew held trout. But despite my best efforts to fish it systematically and cover water, I was blanking. Thirty minutes in and not a single strike. I knew I was fishing deep enough — there had been several false positives provided by the bottom. The water wasn’t particularly fast or deep. Maybe add another BB shot to the one at the terminal end of my drop-shot rig to slow things down a tad? Yessiree Bob. That simple change quickly had me into fish.

A someteen-inch wild Farmington brown that hammered my size 12 black beadhead Squirrel and Ginger nymph. These fish can be quite aggressive in their takes, even when you’re tracking your fly along at the speed of the current. You can immediately sense that you’ve got a good fish on. DCIM100GOPROG0020505.

I fished for a little over four hours today, mostly committed to the nymphing cause, bouncing around to six spots outside the permanent TMA. Water was on the low side of medium (270cfs in the permanent TMA) and 51 degrees. No significant hatch activity, (nor surface activity) although there were caddis just about everywhere. Once I made that adjustment to slow my drift, the fishing was quite good. I found multiple trout willing to jump on nearly every place I fished. They really liked the size 12 black beadhead Squirrel and Ginger nymph; only one trout, an acrobatic rainbow, chose the top dropper, a size 16 soft-hackled pheasant tail. Conditions look good for the weekend. Get out if you can and enjoy this wonderful resource.

Mister brown buck with the big fins, endeavoring for gator brown status (maybe next year?), close to freedom. DCIM100GOPROG0020591.

Farmington River Report 9/4/14: Delusions of Chrome

I don’t care how good an angler you are: sooner or later, you are going to make a mistake on the water. Sometimes you pay. Others, you still inherit the forune. On this morning, I got a little lucky.

It was another session dedicated to the nymphing cause. I hadn’t been doing any serious nymphing since there was ice along the river’s edge, and it felt good to be returning to my fly fishing roots. The first spot I visited was a blank. I fished it hard for 45 minutes, then decided to head upriver.

Another ten minutes without a take. Then down went the indicator. And this is where I messed up. I had been repeatedly reminding myself, “set downstream.” So what’d I do? I set upstream, as Eric M so eloquently expressed it, “instinctively doing the wrong thing.” Almost immediately, I corrected with a hard downstream set. Thus begineth the battle. I could see I had something good after his first impressive clear-the-water-by-a-few-body-lengths aerial, followed by one desperately ugly surface somersault. All worthy of fresh chrome. Eyeballing aside, I can always tell I have a good fish when I have an “I think I may be snagged on the bottom” moment. Then I feel that dampened head shake sensation as the fish yields to the pressure. This cantankerous creature did not want to come to net. After several runs and a short walk downstream, he was in.

Another fish that clearly has been in the river for some time: wide pink banding, perfectly formed paddle tail, and just look at those fins. Fat, healthy, and powerful — he’s been eating well. A measurement placed it just a bit shy of the 20″ mark. No complaints here.

Big Rainbow 9-14

A few minutes later, I landed his younger brother. Then a wild brown. Spot C, another classic nymphing hole, delivered a few more wild browns. As the sun edged past its noon zenith, I fished Spot D, a collection of current seams (oh, that phrase), pockets, plunges and runs. Another brown, and then what I believe to be a brown/Atlantic salmon hybrid*. I am not exaggerating when I tell you this guy made head high aerials. (That is correct. Plural.) I figured rainbow, because of its color and acrobatics, but when I got it to hand it looked — well, different. Damn me, I didn’t think to get a picture. 

Here’s what was most fascinating to me today: I fished a two fly nymph rig with a size 12 bead head Squirrel and Ginger on point and a size 14 soft-hackle Pheasant Tail top dropper. The fish took both flies — but with one exception, all the wild browns took the soft-hackle. Again, some very subtle takes on the soft-hackle — almost like the indicator stalls for a microsecond. Set, and I was on.

The rainbows found the size 12 bead head Squirrel and Ginger to their liking.

BHS&G Nymph

*In conversations with DEEP Fisheries biologists, they’ve revealed that they think some of the more precocious Atlantics canoodle with browns. I believe this is the second such offspring I’ve caught.