Merican Nymphing

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Johnny Spillane

There is a lot that goes into indicator nymphing.

There are many different types of nymph fishing, Czech nymphing, French nymphing etc, but I’d like to think that what we do in Colorado and most of the west could be classified as ‘Merican Nymphing. Might as well give it a name. There are many different options and many more opinions on this style of fly fishing but we will keep it simple in this post and address it’s applications.

First off, how do you choose your indicator? They all serve their own purpose, I use Thingamabobber or Fish Pimp products but there is something to be said for old school yarn or pinch on indicators. Whatever product you choose, keep in mind its application because that will play a big role in what will work the best for you. If you’re moving around and changing depth frequently, something that doesn’t destroy your leader and is easy to adjust might be best. If you’re constantly fishing the same depth with minimal weight, a pinch on indicator might be better.

There are many different ways to nymph fish with an indicator, but the number one thing you need to keep in mind is that the goal is to put the fly where the fish are. Setting your depth, in my opinion, is far more important then fly selection. How well does a fly work if it is 2 feet above or below where a fish is feeding? You can change patterns until you are numb but unless you are putting the fly in the fishes feeding column, more often then not you will not get a strike. This holds especially true on tailwaters where the fish are “educated” and wont move to take a fly.

Fish move up and down and back and forth in the water column based on a few key factors; water temperature, hatch stages, sunlight and oxygen content and not necessary in that order. This is a huge simplification, but 99% of the time, if you know these four key things, you can determine where the fish will be holding and what depth to set your rig.

My general rule of thumb is to place your top fly 1.5x the depth that you think the fish are holding in. For example, if you can see fish that are 3 feet deep, you need to set your indicator 4.5 feet from your top fly. The water depth plays almost no bearing on how deep you set your rig because if the run is 10 ft deep but the fish are holding in the top 2 feet of water feeding on trico emergers, why set it any deeper? The only time you truly need to be fishing the bottom of the river is if it is hot as hell, and the fish are in 15 ft of water or if it is the dead of winter and the fish are hugging the bottom trying not to turn into a block of ice.

Indicator size is also important. Always fish the smallest indicator you can. It wont hurt and you will pick up more subtle strikes. Match the indicator to the amount of weight you are using, I like it to barely support my rig so I can see any type of movement that might detect a fish. Sometimes a take is so subtle that the indicator will slightly pause and then continue on its drift. Make sure you set on everything because if you don’t set the hook you will never know if it was a fish or not.

Try these techniques and I’m sure you will get a few more hook-ups.

Tight lines,

Johnny Spillane

Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
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6 thoughts on “Merican Nymphing

  1. I’ve never nymph fished before but have vowed that this year I will give it a go and make it work. Most of the streams I fish in are roughly 2 foot deep on average, so dry flies and terrestrials have always worked just fine.

    Still, I have always thought I was leaving something on the table by not trying out other methods, so this year, I’m going to fix that. Good read, certainly some info here that I think will be helpful to consider.

  2. I do a lot of nymphing in spring creeks. In faster water I might put on a Thingamabobber, if slower than I use a Pula float. I have tried Fish Pimps but can’t keep them on and have watch them float down stream unattached to my leader.

    If you can see fish you can get an idea of how far up the leader to set your indicator. But what if you can’t see the fish and don’t know how deep the water is that you are fishing?

  3. Great post…very helpful tips. I agree 100% that setting depth is more important than fly selection. Also especially important to set the hook on any twitch, stop, or motion on the indicator…I’ve had many times where it was a nice trout on the other end. Love your stuff, guys and we link back to it frequently.

    Spencer
    Feather and Fin Blog

  4. Very helpful tips. I agree 100% that setting depth is more important than fly selection. Also especially important to set the hook on any twitch, stop, or motion on the indicator…I’ve had many times where it was a nice trout on the other end. Love your stuff, guys and we link back to it frequently.

    Spencer
    Feather and Fin Blog

  5. Pingback: Tandem Tactics for Trout Part Two: Below The Surface | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

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