The difficulty facing anglers practicing tactical nymphing (or euro nymphing) strategies is casting a heavy payload to a targeted area while maintaining complete control of the presentation. Not only must you control the speed and depth of the drift you must also keep a tight line; thus allowing for the immediate transmission of information when a fish takes the fly.
To be successful at the tight line methods, we must master the following challenges:
- Maintain contact, keeping a tight line.
- Control the depth and speed of the presentation.
- Awareness – Visual & tactile information and immediate angler response.
- Fighting fish on barbless hooks.
I experimented during recent guiding seasons allowing some the beginning anglers to use my Euro nymphing rods and my jig flies. To my surprise, every one of my guests picked it up rather quickly and had success catching fish much sooner than during previous seasons where my guests were taught the dominant slack line bobber method in use in the American West. I shaved off nearly an hour of frustration for both guide and guest advancing their skill level where they can make fishable presentations. The only limiting factor I noticed in all instances, was the anglers awareness of where and what the fly is doing underwater and then reacting fast enough to set the hook effectively. Many anglers took too long to respond to, or even notice a fish take quickly enough to effect a proper hook-set. On good presentations where the angler was able to maintain contact with the fly, the take of a fish was transmitted immediately.
Maintaining contact with the fly usually comes easy if you are already presenting your fly at the proper depth and speed. If you are using a fly with the appropriate weight for the water you are fishing, you only need to focus on maintaining the proper rate of the drift. If the weight of the fly pattern is out of synch with the velocity and depth of the water, you will have minimal feeling or tactile sensation of the presentation, typically when the fly is too light. Adding a heavier weight fly will often bring you back into contact with your fly. Sometime a half mm bead size increase will be enough. If on the other hand, your fly is bashing into rocks throughout each drift, go with a lighter beaded fly.
A tactical indicator or sighter should give you visual feedback to the location of your fly and inform you if you are in proper control of the drift. If you are maintaining a good drift allowing for minimal slack-line to form between you and the fly, your sighter should be pointing to the location of where your fly is located. Optimally, your euro nymphing sighter should be maintained downstream, leading upstream to the position of the fly during the first half of the drift. Sometimes you may be required to initiate intentional drag by pulling the fly downstream to speed up the leader and line to match the speed of the fly thus keeping the taught.
As the fly drifts by your position, you will be lifting as much line and leader above the water to maintain direct contact with the fly, at this point, the tactical sighter should be mostly vertical but still leading the fly along its path. As the fly progresses downstream of your position, the sighter will thus act like the hands of a clock rotating around while still pointing to the fly. When the fly passes downstream of our position, a tight line is crucial for detecting the take. If our sighter lingers in the current too long or if drag occurs allowing the fly to drift downstream of our sighter, we will lose contact with the fly and not detect the take. Correcting drag during a tight line presentation usually involves keeping the rod tip pointed downstream of the sighter and sometimes even pulling downstream to tighten up any slack that may occur.
Whew! Take a breath and reread the last paragraph.
Achieving the proper depth requires selecting the correct weight of fly or combination of flies fished in tandem to accomplish this task. Since we also desire to go lead-free, the use of additional weight attached to our tippet is a no-no. Subsequently; a well-stocked fly box must contain a full gamut of sizes and weights of fly patterns. Carrying a wide range of sizes and weights flies in a well-stocked fly box that will aid in your tactical approach to nymphing all water types.
My rule of thumb to ensure that I am fishing at the right depth or weight is that I should be tapping bottom at least once every couple drifts through the targeted zone. If I am never touching bottom, I switch to a heavier fly or lengthen my tippet section under the sighter. I find five feet of tippet under the sighter is the best length to start. I rarely increase that length and am likely to switch to a heavier or lighter fly making the necessary adjustments.
If I am touching bottom repeatedly during a single drift, I will turn to a lighter fly pattern or combination of fly patterns. Fishing too heavy of a fly requires manual adjustments the depth by raising the rod and line higher into the air and leading to shoulder and arm fatigue. When you dial in your appropriate weight required to make the proper presentation, your fishing becomes more efficient and enjoyable because you are free to concentrate on maintaining a good drift speed.
In conclusion, when making tactical presentations, focus on switching fly patterns more frequently to achieve the perfect drift sometimes a change in a bead size will make all the difference in your success. An ideal presentation matches the exact speed of the current at the optimal depth. Tapping bottom on occasion should indicate that optimal depth and matching the pace of the bubbles in the feeding lane you are working also indicates a good drift.
Tactical Gear Considerations to Improve Your Angling Success.
Euro Nymphing Tactical Sighter:
The tactical sighter I use indicates the most subtle of takes while also giving a visual clue to how well I am matching the speed of the current and location of my nymph. The markings marks along the length aid in keeping a visible track in the rivers current and any unusual movement that may not be felt resulting in more successful hookups. You will be amazed when you are dialed into your sighter on a good drift how responsive you become at even the slighted deviation occurring in your presentation.
Use the finest tippet you can get away with. Most lightweight Euro nymphing rods protect the finest tippets so you can go light. I love the new Fulling Mill Masterclass 6x tippet. Look for my complete review soon of this new game-changing tippet.