Recently I’ve been working over my approach to this method of fly fishing for trout, when I started almost a year ago I used a few indicators mostly larger flies but quickly started blind nymphing almost out of ignorance. I should state have no problems with indicators, I’m sure I’ll use them yet this season. My reasons for continuing to blind nymph rather than using an indicator are the following; 1st it is easier for me to cast a weighted two fly rig if it doesn’t have an indicator in the mix. 2nd, I don’t like changing position of the indicator constantly to match the needed depth. I guess I’d rather add weight or take some off than spend time adjusting an indicator, and finally the third and main reason is that I enjoy the challenge that is inherent when fishing without an indicator. I should also say that I do carry indicators, I have used them but I rarely choose to.
With that I’ve been working on the best method for deciding how to prepare my rig to present to the trout. I first watch; the water, the fish and then I pick bugs, if possible I choose a riffle that is upstream from the location I want t0 fish. I try not to disturb the fish or the water to pick a few bugs, this can sometimes take me a while. I do this to eliminate guess work, typically I pick two different size imitations if the rocks show me that the stream holds a larger and smaller sized food source. If not, I match to the size but typically I rig a larger fly trailed by a smaller fly, this is nothing new and has been described and written about at length by others, I’m just describing how I prepare when I am nymphing.
Recently I had the opportunity to rig up and hit some sweet, sweet trout water for an afternoon under the sun. Conditions were right for nymphing, it was early afternoon and there were no signs of rising trout. In an effort to better understand the mechanics behind blind nymphing and to practice this method I set out to find a good spot for some trial and error. I picked a few bugs leading me to choose a larger caddis larva pattern and due to lower water temps (~55) combined with my observation that the trout were holding low in the water I chose a weighted pattern. With my lead fly picked out, I decided on a smaller PT nymph based on several mayfly nymphs, mostly Ephemerella (interesting, I thought this hatch was over in S.E. MN) sitting side by side the caddis larva.
Starting with both flies and no other weight my typical approach involves watching and timing how long the flies take to sink to the bottom, usually I will go downstream and try to simulate the depth and current of the water I am going to fish and watch how my flies react, based on this observation I add weight accordingly. Sometimes it can be difficult to stop, relax, and take the time needed to get this right but as I found on this day, it is well worth the extra effort.
After I got set and tied my flies on leaving about 8-12inches of line between the lead and trailing fly I got to work. With the rain from the last few days everything is beautiful, I’ve never loved the color green so much. Along with the greenery around me the water was ever so slightly tinted in the deeper pools making my approach slightly easier. Water levels are still low around the area but the steady amount of rain has been good and I can see it is going to be a good summer season.
I decided to try a run that I knew held smaller fish downstream of the run I really wanted to concentrate on just to see what the initial reaction was. As my second cast was drifting towards me I noticed a quick flash and a tug on my line, I was late but I knew I had chosen well. After practicing my cast a few times and making plenty of crappy presentations I moved onto the real test. I was cautious not to spook the trout while getting in position. It was evident immediately I needed more weight for this second run. I added one splitshot a few inches above my lead fly and made a few more casts. I know how much weight I can toss without it getting stupid, I combine the weight with mending and hopefully the fly gets to the trout. I got a strike, two strikes and I even landed a few trout. I observed that it took several passes before I got a strike, never once did I get snagged so I decided to try adding abit more weight.
That was it baby, once the rig was set for the hole I was in the butter zone. Almost every pass had a strike, I watched the tip of my fly line for any change and tried to set the hook at the slightest sign of a different drift. I lost at least 60 percent of the takes because I failed to notice the take or I set the hook too late but I took several trout and despite alot of poor casts with the bulky weighted rig the trout weren’t put down once. I walked each trout downstream as I played them, this gave the others time to relax and me time to enjoy the spoils of blind nymphing.
Things to remember for next time. Let the fly drift all the way through the hole. I found I lost alot of fish as I was beginning to pull my rig up and out for another cast, had I waited longer I might have been able to set the hook properly. Just set the hook. Quite a few times I would slightly put pressure on the line, feel the trout and then it shook once and was free. Had I just trusted my gut I would have probably set the hook on half of those I lost. Wait, choose the cast. I need to limit how many times I just toss the rig in the water. I would cast into wind and it wouldn’t end up the way I wanted, had I just waited a few minutes I might not have made so many poor casts.
Later I worked on a few PT nymphs to help match what I saw in the stream. Liz and I went to a few garage sales this last weekend and I found a set of plates featuring a few fly fishing flies, they caught my eye and I swiped them up to decorate an already cluttered fly bench. I worked on bead head versions of my swimming nymph PT pattern. To match the darker brown and black nymphs I found at the stream, I tied these with darker pheasant tail fibers, I’m looking forward to testing them soon.