Last week Skip Morris gave a presentation on Nymph Fishing at the Southern Oregon Fly Fishers club meeting. Skip and his wife Carol Ann Morris are so in love with fly fishing that they travel, share and educate others all in the effort of bringing more people to fly fishing. They have published amazing fly tying books and videos as well as articles on their website. If you are looking to have Skip and Carol come give a talk at your local club or event drop them a line. The following are five tips that I picked up from his presentation that should help you further your skills when nymph fishing.
1. Stop looking for “Classic Water”.
Close your eyes and think of the perfect trout stream. Once you have that place set in your mind, blow it up! Those places either hardly occur or do not exist at all. Rather anglers need to understand what fish are looking for to rest, feed or move around in. Classic waters are classic for a reason, they hold fish, but you will get very frustrated trying to find these places. Just because they are classic examples of where fish like to be it doesn’t mean they are the only place fish are. Everyplace a fish can be, they probably are. So try looking at a stretch of water in smaller segments. Look for swirls, for small riffles, for bubble lines, shadows and cut banks. Your fish-able world becomes greatly expanded when you can take a seemingly boring stretch of water and pull fish out! Skip put it this way, “First you need to understand the water, then apply that to “non-classic water”, then it’s about honing your instinct.” So don’t be afraid to fish a new stretch of water just because it doesn’t look like a picture from Yellowstone.
2. Trout are not entomologists…
So you don’t have to be one either. Local fly shops are the best way to find out what flies are working for their respective local waters. Although, if you do find yourself at a trout stream where you do not know what to use, pick up a rock see what’s on it, look in your fly box and see what looks kind of like what’s on the rock. Simple. Your other option is to be obnoxious. That is, use an attractor fly. Skip’s Gabriel’s Trumpet is a classic example of an attractor fly. It looks like a nymph but there is no natural bug floating in the water that is as flashy as that pattern. Not only that, but fish take them time and time again.
3. Once the strike indicator hits the water, it’s your world.
This tip will guarantee catching more fish. In the majority of nymph fishing you are completely dependent on a strike indicator. Because of that you’re eyes need to be glued on that piece of yarn, foam or plastic so that you can see the strike. It is Murphy’s Law that as soon as you look away the strike will happen. That said, you also have to be vigilant with setting the hook. The difference between a two-fish-day and a ten-fish-day is seeing the strike then setting the hook, versus my new favorite word: strikeset!
4. Use a non-slip mono loop for a trailing fly.
One of the most unnatural things about a fly is the way it drags through the water. When you tie a clinch knot to the fly you connect that fly to any movement the tippet makes. This is not ideal but necessary. So, if you are nymph fishing with only one fly try using the non-slip mono loop, or try it with your trailing fly to break that immediate connection to the tippet and give your fly some wiggle room. It will give a little extra motion to the fly and nymphs are often erratic swimmers.
5. The midge is a small bug, but a big deal for trout.
These little guys may not look like a great deal of food but they make up in availability. Midges hatch all year long and are a familiar sight to trout in many waters. Even in the dead of winter you can hook up a steelhead on a size 20 midge. You have to remember that fish have to eat every day, so if they see something that they know is food chances are they’ll take it. Try the pattern below as a midge/attractor pattern.