Three Proven Options For Deep, Deep Nymphing

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Photo Louis Cahill

Photo Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

It’s time to make like Captain Nemo and go 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Sometimes the only trick to catching fish is getting the fly down to their level. When you’re nymphing and you’re not catching fish it’s always a good idea to add weight before changing flies. Often one split shot is the difference between fishing and casting.

I have fished with friends who were shocked at how much weight I use on my nymph rigs. They always end up following my lead and catching more fish. Especially in the heat of summer or cold of winter, weight is usually the answer. But just because you’re fishing heavy doesn’t mean you can’t fish smart.

Here are three rigging options that will help you make the most of the weight you use.

The String of Pearls

The struggle in fishing deep is not sinking your flies. They are usually weighted and sink pretty quickly. It’s your leader that needs the weight. You can pile up a couple of #7 shot or a half dozen size BBs just above your tippet and it will drag that leader down but there’s a smarter way to use the weight.

I use hand-tied leaders and they are perfect for this technique because the blood knots make solid stops for the split shot. I’ll place one or two BB shot just above the tippet and then a single BB shot above each of the blood knots. I’ll continue this past about four sections of the leader. This pulls down the thicker sections of the leader quickly.

This technique is great for tight line nymphing. It gets the flies down in the zone quickly and keeps the leader under control. It’s not a rig you want to cast sixty feet, in the right situation it’s deadly.

The 90% Indicator

This is a great setup for when you’re fishing a lot of water that is a consistent depth and you need the flies deep. It’s a really effective method on a lot of rivers when fishing from a drift boat. It doesn’t require as much weight to get the flies down, but it is more time consuming to adjust.

For this method you will need a dedicated leader and a serious indicator, like a Thingamabobber. Use a short piece of 20 lb mono, a foot will do. Connect one end to your fly line and tie the other directly to the bobber using a clinch knot. Then tie your tippet, whatever size is appropriate for the water you are fishing, to the bobber in the same way. Your tippet length should be the same as the depth you want to fish. Then tie on your flies and place your weight about about 8 inches above them.

There are two things that make this system work. The thinner tippet cuts through the water much more easily than a traditional tapered leader so the flies get down quickly with less weight. The 90% connection at the bobber allows the tippet to hang straight down rather than pulling down the arch of a leader. It’s much more efficient.

The Toilet Bowl Drop Shot

This is a really unusual technique. To the best of my knowledge it was devised on the Frying Pan river in Colorado for fishing a deep pool called The Toilet Bowl. It’s as effective there as it is radical. You may not feel like you’re fly fishing but I’ve seen some real pigs fall prey to this rig.

You will fish a cast of flies, usually three. Tie your tippet on, leaving 8-10 inch long tags on the leader end of you blood knot. It’s absolutely imperative that the tag comes from the leader and not the tippet. Tie three of these blood knots and tie your flies to the tags. Then on the end of the last piece of tippet, tie a surgeons loop. Place as much weight as you can afford, or at least cast, on the loop. Do not use an indicator. Here’s where it gets weird.

To fish this rig you cast it upstream into a deep pool and let the weight sink to the bottom. The weight will act as an anchor, just like surf fishing with bait. The flies will flutter in the current at the end of their tags. When your leader starts to move mysteriously across the current, set the hook. I’m not shitting you. It works.

Next time you need to fish really deep, think about the conditions and see if one of these creative setups might work for you. Each of them is a proven method for catching fish on the fly in deep water.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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