I'm confused. My wife says that's a permanent thing with me,
but she always says things like that. However, this one has
nagged at me for a long time (the problem, not the wife).
My problem or source of confusion is the apparent fear of
water a lot of fly fishers have. Or, maybe it's a fear
of insects? You be the judge.
The fastest way I know to determine what the fish are feeding
on is to investigate their dinner plate. By that I mean, what
types of food are floating past the fish. If you don't know
what the fish are seeing, you won't have a clue about what
flies they might be feeding on. Of course, you could just
change flies until you find something that works, but that's
like shooting blindly into the forest in hopes that you'll
eventually fill your deer tag. The results are far from
Last week a customer asked what size the stonefly nymphs
were running in a local stream. He went on to ask what
color they were and if there were other nymphs he should
be aware of. I suggested he try netting some of the
nymphs when he went to the stream so he could match
the naturals with a close imitation. You should have
seen the look of horror on his face. You'd think I
had asked him to sell his grandmother into slavery.
Friends, the best way to match the hatch is to catch one
of those insects/nymphs and find a close match in your fly
box. Using somebody's published hatch charts, asking the
guy at the fly shop, or asking somebody who just had a poor
fishing day what to use are poor ways to select the right
fly for your fishing activities. Sure, they are better
than blindly casting your offerings to the wind, but
there is a much better way to get the job done.
There is a little used, almost unheard of, powerful tool
called a nymph net. People are deathly afraid of those things.
If you actually tell some fishermen that you use one of those
tools, you'll get looks similar to the looks you get when
you tell them you tip your nymphs with a piece of worm or
marshmallow. I don't know what it is that creates that
reaction, but those people are missing one of the greatest
tools a fly fisher could possible have.
Running a nymph net is one of the easiest activities you'll
ever participate in while gearing up for a fine day on the
water. It only takes a few minutes to do, especially if you
have a partner, and the critters you discover in that net
will make fly selection a breeze. More important than that,
about 50% of the time, you'll select killer flies that aren't
on any hatch charts or lists supplied by the local fly shop.
Even better, there will be times when you'll be clobbering
the fish and the rest of the fishermen will be wondering
what your secret is.
If you want some entertainment the next time you're on the
water, try this little experiment. When some nosey guy
approaches you and asks what fly you're using, hand him a
nymph net and tell him you're using the fly that matches
what you found in the net when you checked earlier that
day. If he doesn't kill himself when he drops the net
and backs away from you in a hurry, the look in his eyes
will tell you that he's very frightened by your actions.
As far as he's concerned, you just told him you believe
in Santa Clause and are close personal friends with the
guy. At least he won't bother you with any more
The story a nymph net tells you is a simple one. If you're
a nymph fisherman, you'll quickly notice which nymphs are the
most abundant and then you'll be able to match them with a
close imitation from your fly box. If you fish dry flies
exclusively, discovering the most abundant nymph will clue
you in on the next hatch and give you some clues as to the
size, species and shade of the adult. Even if your insect
knowledge is near zero, you'll be better at selecting the
right dry fly if you know whether the nymphs are light or
dark, and you can determine the approximate size that the
adult will be. An insect guide like the pocket sized
streamside guide from Orvis is helpful since it shows
color pictures of the nymph and the corresponding adult
with size suggestions. Just match the nymph to the picture
and select your flies accordingly.
The guys who manufacture nymph nets also sell another nice
tool. Little bottles you can place your captured insects
in for observation and maybe preservation for later use are
available wherever nymph nets are sold. If you want to
preserve the insect for later use, just fill the bottle
with rubbing alcohol. I have a fairly extensive collection
of those filled bottles next to my fly tying bench. I believe
I tie better flies because of it.
Although the instructions for using a nymph net are complex,
I'm going to take the time to list them here. Here goes:
You can buy a nymph net commercially, or you can build your own.
If you elect to buy your own, JW Outfitters (a sponsor here)
and a company called Wind River sell complete aquatic bug
collecting supplies. You can contact JW Outfitters through
the sponsor's section. You can
buy Wind River supplies at this web site:
flysupplies.freeyellow.com/page10.php. If you want
to make your own, simply staple some window screen between
two heavy wooden dowels. Small nets which attach to your
landing net are also available, check a
Product Review here for Quick-Seine.
1. Place the net in the water so that anything drifting in
the water can be caught by the net.
2. Wait for a while.
3. If you have a partner, you might ask your partner to sift
the bottom a little with their feet (upstream from the net,
of course). Called the 'San Juan' shuffle, it is not allowed
in some places. As always check local regulations when fishing
4. Remove the net from the water.
5. Look to see what's in the net.
6. Match the "hatch" with something in your fly box.
Considering the response I've had when I used my nymph net in
public, you might want to buy a ski mast to hide your identity.
Do nymphs really exist, or are they just a fable designed to
trick new fly-fishers into performing strange acts in the
water? ( I guess that would be like snipe hunting?) Yes,
my friends, there are nymphs in the water; and they can be
observed by using a nymph net the next time you visit the
water. ~ AC