NYMPH FISHING WITHOUT AN INDICATOR "101"
I have read several "posts" on FAOL from members who have tried nymph fishing and feel it's too difficult and "dead drifting" nymphs is the only way I fish and I feel it is not that difficult. I will not say that it is easy, but, it is not hard either. Once you learn the technique, I feel most will find it, like me, to be a very enjoyable way to fish. What follows is how I nymph fish without an indicator but this is not meant to be the only way. It is just how I do it and maybe using some of my techniques will help those who are having problems.
To start off, I do not use an indicator. I have tried them and have caught fish using them, but, I just do not enjoy using them. Back in my tournament bass fishing days, I fished for and caught bass as deep as 25' and never used an indicator. I relied on my eyes watching the line where it entered the water for any unusual movement plus I made sure that I was using a rod that would be very sensitive and let me "feel" the strike. I think I brought those two "strengths" to my fly fishing and feel that is why I prefer to "dead drift" nymphs and never fish dry flies. Nymph fishing, to me, is such a joyful and rewarding way to fish, plus I feel more one-on-one with the fish.
The equipment I use is a 9' BVK rod in either a 5wt or 6wt. I use a weight forward floating fly line and attach a 6' furled leader to the end made from Berkley Vanish Transition Gold fluorocarbon and then attach at least 6' of six pound test fluorocarbon to the end of the furled leader and then attach my nymph, streamer, etc., to the end of it. This is just what I use and what you use can differ. I know that some use longer rods and that there is now some newer equipment on the market that is made for "dead drifting" nymphs and may help some, but, the equipment does not catch the fish. The fisherman catches the fish and the equipment is only meant to make it easier to present the fly. I know that I can "dead drift" nymphs using a 6' rod and be successful.
The patterns I use most often are woolly buggers, flymphs, streamers and wet flies. All my patterns, except for wet flies, are weighted either by a brass/tungsten bead or lead wire on the hook shank under the fly body. The wet flies are not weighted because I only use them when I find fish feeding close to the surface and I just want to drift the wet fly through the feeding fish.
Now that is the equipment that I use and in no way am I stating that you should use what I use. You use whatever equipment that you have confidence in because, I am serious about this, the equipment does not catch the fish. You must present your fly pattern to the fish and the equipment is just a tool to help you do that and nothing more.
Now we will get to what I feel is the most important part that must be learned if you want to be successful with catching fish by "dead drifting" flies without using an indicator, and that is the presentation of the fly using your equipment. The following technique is just my way of presenting my flies and none of my techniques are carved in stone. This is just my way and nothing more and maybe you can use some or all of it to help you be more successful. I always make my cast upstream and as soon as the fly has touched the water I make a mend of the fly line upstream and will continue to mend the fly line upstream as the fly drifts towards me. Once the fly has drifted past me, I cannot mend anymore line and just allow the fly to drift down and across until it is directly below me. The reason for the immediate mend when the fly touches the water is because the fly and leader will and must sink but they are attached to a floating fly line which, if allowed to be downriver of the fly, will continue to pull the leader and fly up and not allow the fly to reach the deepest depth that it can. When you do the mend, try to only flip the fly line upstream and not pull on the leader and fly. Most people mend too aggressively and end up mending the fly line, leader and fly and this is not what you want. Just a simple wrist movement to cause the tip of the rod to flip the fly line only upstream is all that is needed and will allow the leader and fly to continue to sink. As the fly and leader are drifting down and you are mending your fly line to keep it from pulling up on the leader, keep a close eye on the end of the fly line. The end of the fly line is your indicator. If it twitches, stops or starts upstream, you need to set the hook. The unusual movement of the end of the fly line can only happen if one of two things has happened and that is either a fish has taken the fly or the fly has touched/snagged the bottom. Either way you need to set the hook. I think that most of the time it will be a fish. I cannot express how important it is to constantly watch the end of the fly line.
As I am fishing, I am not aware of anything or anyone around me. I am totally "into" watching the end of the fly line. That is part one of my technique and part two is "feel". The BVK rod that I use is labeled as a "fast" action but I do not feel it is as fast as my XP. I feel a faster action rod will transmit the "strike" back to your rod hand better than a "softer" rod. You also need to keep the fly line between you and where the fly line enters the water as straight as you can because any slack in the line will stop the "tell-tell" tick of the strike from being transmitted to your rod hand. I have tried to determine many times if I set the hook because I saw the line movement or felt the "tick" and I cannot tell which came first or if they both happened at the same time. I can tell you that if the strike comes upstream of you, your only indication of it may be the unusual movement of the line and you may not feel the strike because everything is coming towards you and there is slack in the line. Once the fly and line are past you, you will see the strike and feel the strike because the fly line between you and the water is straight whereas when the strike is above you, there is a belly in the fly line caused by the mending and this will muffle the "feel" of the strike.
So, if you are still with me on this, you cast upstream and constantly mend your fly line only so your leader and fly will sink and keep a close eye on the end of the fly line. Once the fly and leader has drifted past you, you maintain a straight line between you and the fly so that you will feel the strike. Once the fly is straight away downstream from you, the floating fly line will start to lift the leader and fly upward and this upward movement of the fly will trigger a strike many times. I will allow the fly to "hang" below me in the current and do several 6" strips to see if I can trigger a fish into striking the fly before I strip the line in and make another cast upstream and repeat the technique. The two most important things I can tell you are: Concentrate on watching the end of the fly line and maintaining as straight a line between you and the fly as possible so that you can feel and see the strike.
I sincerely hope that I have explained my technique well enough that maybe it will help those who want to become more successful with nymph fishing without using an indicator.
Warren Patterson – Tullahoma, TN