Wet Flies & Nymphs Fly Fishing – How To

Wet Flies & Nymphs Fly Fishing – How To


(instrumental guitar music) – That was cool! – Yeah, baby! Woohoo! – Hi, and welcome to the
Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing. I’m your host Tom Rosenbauer
and in this episode we’re gonna explore the world of subsurface fishing for trout. And you know people that
say that trout feed 90% of the time underwater
and that may be true. The problem is we don’t usually
know what they’re eating. So, there’s a lot
of mystery involved, a lot of trial and error. Join us and we’ll
show you some tips on subsurface fishing for trout. (instrumental guitar music) – Now you got him. – Oh, wow! – Hee hee! – I know you’re so tame
when you’ve been caught. – ‘Cause this is
the way we cast. – [Announcer] This show
has been brought to you by Orvis Rod and Tackle. Ontario: Yours to discover. Ontario’s Algoma region:
Where Huron and Superior Meet. – 150 years ago trout
fishing was done solely with what today we would call
traditional winged wet flies. Anglers fished as many as 10
of them on a single leader, and even cast them over
rising fish with success. Then people began experimenting
with floating flies a little over 100 years ago, and this concentration on
more exacting imitations of insects and crustaceans
gave rise to the nymph, really just another
kind of wet fly but usually without wings. Today we fish wet flies
and nymphs interchangeably, but wet flies are more
often swung in the current than fished dead drift. (instrumental guitar music) Fishing a wet fly or
nymph on the swing, in other words across and
downstream on a tight line, is both a return to a
more traditional way of fishing with a fly and a relaxing and
elegant way to fish. One of the really pleasant
things about fishing a wet fly is that they don’t have
any air resistance at all and so they don’t have as
much air resistance as a dry and unlike most nymph fishing you don’t have an indicator
or weight on the leader so the casting is just
really easy and pleasant. Because trout often take
the fly on a tight line the strike is felt immediately and fish often hook themselves. It’s also a great way
to cover a lot of water when you’re not sure
where the fish are. This kind of
fishing a sunken fly works best in shallow
water with a gentle riffle and it’s tougher with
conflicting currents and in very deep water. Wet fly fishing is
also most productive when you see the
occasional rise. I’m just letting that, I don’t even really
have to make a mend in this nice, slow water,
I can just let that fly… Whoop, there’s one. Oh, we lost him! Don’t even need to mend, this water is so nice
and gentle and uniform, I can just let that fly
swing across the current. Although most of the time
when you fish nymphs, you strive to eliminate
drag on the fly, when swinging a wet fly the
drag is subtle and controlled. Some aquatic insects can swim. A swung wet fly can
imitate a tiny bait fish or it might also imitate
an aquatic insect rising to the surface to hatch. We don’t know exactly why
fish take a swung wet fly, but that’s part of the
fun and the mystery of fishing this way. Frequent mends keep the fly
from swinging too quickly because a tiny insect
can’t swim that fast against the current. So the slower your fly
swings, the better. Keeping the rod
tip relatively high also helps to keep the
fly swing more moderate. One more scientific way of
fishing a wet fly on the swing is called the Leisenring
Lift, or induced take. Here you cast the fly
slightly upstream and across, make some mends, follow the line through
its drift with the rod tip, and when you think
the fly is close to where a fish should be, stop moving the tip
or lift it slightly. The fly will suddenly
rise toward the surface, and often it encourages
savage strikes from the trout. Before we move on to the
more complicated issue of fishing nymphs, let’s visit Pete Kutzer
for some helpful tips on casting with a
strike indicator and weight on your leader. – Through all these
presentations, I’ve been talking about staying in the straightest
line possible. We wanna stay in that
nice, tight straight path that’s gonna keep that
loop nice and tight. When you’re dealing
with heavy flies or wind-resistant flies
or great big poppers or maybe you have
an indicator rig with a lot of weight on that,
on the end of that leader, that’s where we
might wanna actually start to travel in a
little bit of an arch. That’s gonna help
open up those loops, and prevent that heavy
fly or that big popper from colliding with the rod. I have seen rods
break just by a piece of split shot coming forward. So we wanna open up that loop by traveling a little
bit of an arch. That’s gonna help get that
fly still out to those fish, but keep that fly well
away from that rod and away from that line. – Another great way to
cast nymphs and wet flies is called the water load where you let the river
be your back cast. Sometimes if you’ve
gotten a lot of wind, if you got a lot of brush, you got two flies
and an indicator or weight on your leader and you don’t wanna be
casting all over the place you do what’s
called a water load. And what you do, very simple, you wade until the
line drags behind you, you pick up the rod tip,
and flick a cast forward. So you keep doing that. As soon as the line
drags behind you, especially with nymph fishing you don’t need to be
that super delicate, just pick it up and
make a forward cast. That way you don’t
have to have your line going back and forth in the air and your fly’s tangling
and getting in trees and things like that. You know it’s not all
about catching giant fish. Sometimes just
swinging a wet fly through a riffle and catching
small trout is a lot of fun. Doesn’t always have
to be a monster. As you can see, even
this little rainbow’s bending that 6-weight rod. (instrumental guitar music) Nymphing is one of the
most effective ways to catch trout day
in and day out. It works all day long whether
trout are rising or not and in all kinds of water. Feeding trout seldom pass
up a well presented nymph, and will accept these
flies more readily than dries or streamers
in most cases. Artificial nymphs can imitate
the larvae of mayflies, caddis flies, stone flies, midges, and also freshwater
crustaceans like scuds, crayfish, and even aquatic worms. But the method of presenting all these imitations
is the same. What fly do you tie on? Most people think that
trout are not as selective when feeding under the surface, and you might wanna pick a
nymph that’s popular in the area or one that a guide
told you about. But in an unfamiliar
stream with no other help we can get an educated guess by looking at submerged rocks
and along the edges of rivers. So one thing you can do
when you’re nymph fishing obvious thing is to
turn over some rocks and see what’s on the bottom. Here we’ve got these
brachycentrus, I think. Anyways, they’re
called caddis flies. Their case caddis flies. I think they’re brachycentrus. We don’t need to
know the Latin name. So you turn over a rock and you try to see
what’s in the river and then you try to match that with the closest
thing in your box. All you know is what’s
there in the water. It’s a clue and it’s a start, but not knowing exactly
what the fish are taking you’re at a disadvantage. And that’s why fishing
with a wet fly or a nymph is so exciting, mysterious,
and interesting. (instrumental guitar music) One of the biggest issues
when fishing a nymph is getting the fly deep enough when trout are feeding
close to the bottom at the same time letting
the fly dead drift without showing any pull
from the line or leader. Current is always
faster near the surface than near the bottom, so when line and leader
land on the water they immediately
exert pull on the fly unless you remedy the situation
with your presentation. As a result, even though we
think we’re fishing a fly close to the bottom
with a dead drift, it’s not often the case. And most aquatic
insects and crustaceans, when they drift, don’t swim or
are at best feeble swimmers. So trout often shy away
from a fly that’s dragging but it’s hard to see drag
when your fly is underwater. (instrumental guitar music) You can often tell if
a fish takes your nymph by watching the tip
of your floating line or by watching your leader. If it hesitates or
dips under suddenly, you’ve either hung bottom or
a fish has taken your fly. But strikes can be quite subtle, and fish can take and reject or spit out your
fly very quickly, and unless a fish takes your fly in fast water or
very aggressively many strikes go unnoticed. Just as with any other
kind of nymph fishing, any time that floating line
hesitates, wiggles, twitches, does any that looks weird,
it looks suspicious, set the hook immediately. With nymph fishing those
fish are gonna take that fly and spit it out really quickly and you gotta set
the hook quickly. That doesn’t mean wrench
it way over your head and break the tippet, but you gotta be quick
and just about this much. Just like you’re gonna
make another cast, but do it quickly. So to help stack the
odds in our favor, we use strike indicators. These are little more
than tiny bobbers. In fact, I once fished
with a nymph a whole day on the North Flat
River in Wyoming with one of those big
plastic bait bobbers. I bought it in the gas station. It was a little
clunky but it worked. Strike indicators
turn nymph fishing from something that
was almost a black art into one of the easiest ways
to catch trout on a fly. In fact, nymph fishing
with a strike indicator is a lot like fishing
a worm with a bobber, and some of the
deadliest nymph anglers are those who started out
fishing worms for trout. It’s not that different, except the fish spit out
your offering faster. Indicators come in all different
colors and sizes and types and most people carry
a variety of them. Different colors show up better under different
light conditions, so you should experiment. Also, carry a range of sizes. The indicator
should be big enough to hold your fly and
weight off the bottom but not so big that
it spooks the fish. Most people these days use a big plastic or
cork strike indicator. They’re really buoyant,
they float all day long, but they do land kinda hard and there’s some times when
you want something more subtle. That’s a time when you
wanna use a yarn indicator. Yarn indicators on flat water
like this are very subtle. They don’t land with
a lot of commotion and you can really see
the slightest twitch in the yarn indicator so they’re one of the
best things to use on flat water like this. Indicators serve another
very important purpose. Besides being strike indicators,
they’re drift indicators. You can’t tell if your
fly is dragging underwater but you can watch your indicator and if it begins to
struggle against the current you know the fly is dragging and that you need to mend line. If you watch your
indicator and make sure that it’s traveling
at the same speed as the bubbles or
debris in the current you can be pretty sure you’re
getting a drag-free drift. If it’s not drifting properly, mend the line to
adjust your drift or use a reach cast the next
time you present the fly. Exactly where to put your
indicator on the leader is part trial and error based on how often
the fly ticks bottom. Okay, when you put an
indicator on your leader, general rule of thumb
is to have the indicator about one and a half
times the water depth. You want that fly to be
riding just above the bottom and the fly is never,
seldom, gonna hang directly below the indicator. So, you wanna estimate
the water depth and then the water’s
pretty shallow here. I think it’s about, you
know it’s about this deep, so I’m gonna go right about
here with my indicator. And I’m just going to put the
indicator on my leader here. This is the foam kind. It’s got rubber bands inside. You just twist it a few times, and that holds it
wherever you want it, yet when you change water depths when you go to another place
you can slide that indicator and move it to
wherever you want. This is only a general
guideline, though, so play with the strike
indicators position until you either tick
bottom once in awhile or you catch a fish. (instrumental guitar music) Despite our best efforts,
even with a weighted fly and weight on the leader the fly may not get deep enough or may not drift in
a realistic manner. So we have to combine some
presentation techniques and perhaps add more
weight to the leader. Let’s discuss
presentation first. One way is to cast
straight upstream so that your fly and
weight and indicator are all on the
same current lane. But that’s a lot of work. You have to gather a
lot of line quickly and you risk putting
your fly line right on top of the fish. It’s best for short casts. When fishing across the
current, you can also mend line sometimes frequently
throughout a drift, but mending often
moves the fly too much and it’s better to get
that upstream loop of line before the fly hits the
water with a reach cast. Keep trying different approaches until you find
something that works. (instrumental guitar music) When you’re faced
with a deeper run and you’re fishing smaller
flies like we are today you need some weight
on your leader. Nobody likes to put
weight on the leader. It makes casting tougher and
you get hung up more often but sometimes you gotta do it to get your fly
down to the fish. So what I’m gonna do
now is put on one shot. You try to start with as
little weight as possible, and then you add the
lightest weight first and then you add
weight to the leader until you’re ticking bottom
every half a dozen casts or so. Your fly’s gotta be
occasionally ticking bottom or you’re just not
fishing deep enough. The thing you wanna do, you don’t wanna try to put
these on with your teeth ’cause they’re hard, you
need a pair of forceps. And I’ve got a knot
above my first fly, it’s about a foot
above my first fly, and I’m gonna attach the
shot right above that knot. Shot tends to slide
on your leader, so you really wanna
put it above a knot. Rigging a nymph with weight
is not an exact science, so experiment with
various arrangements until you catch fish. It’s really satisfying
when you figure it out. (instrumental guitar music) (instrumental guitar music) Now most people fish
nymphs with indicators. It’s easier, it’s better
in conflicting currents, and usually they fish two
flies under an indicator. You wouldn’t think so but
trout are just as likely to take the upper fly
with a piece of tippet sticking out of both ends
as they are the lower fly. The section of tippet
between the two flies can be anywhere from
six to 20 inches long, but the longer that piece the more cumbersome the
whole arrangement gets and a typical separation
between the two flies is about eight inches. The tippet section
between the two flies can be the same size
as the upper tippet or a smaller diameter especially if the lower
fly is a lot smaller than the upper fly. (instrumental guitar music) Now that you know
about rigging nymphs and some basic presentation it’s time to learn more
about how to present them. Fishing with an indicator is sometimes called
long line nymphing, and it’s the best way when you
can’t get close to the fish. But if you can it’s
always better to cast as close to the fish as you
can without spooking them. This is called high sticking. One way to fish nymphs
is with what’s called short line nymphing and it’s done very close to you. It’s done almost
under your rod tip. You want the fly line to stay
out of the water if possible. You use heavily weighted flies and/or some weight
on your leader. You lob them upstream and
you just follow the nymphs down through the
current like this. (instrumental guitar music) You can high stick nymph
with or without an indicator. If you do it with an indicator
it’s sometimes easier, especially when you got wind
blowing like we do today. It’s very difficult to
see that leader twitching because you’ve got the wind
blowing your leader downstream. So sometimes a strike
indicator helps a lot, and there you just keep the
line above your strike indicator and just follow the
strike indicator down through the current. Strikes in high stick nymphing
are gonna be fairly subtle. You’ll just see that leader
twitch upstream or tighten and it’s either
bottom or a fish. So the minute you see that
leader dart a little bit or move a little bit or do
something that looks wrong or doesn’t look like the other
cast set the hook quickly. There are times when you won’t
be able to high stick nymph. High stick nymphing
is really effective ’cause you have that dead
drift right in front of you and it’s really easy
to follow the flies down through the currents seen. But when you have to cast longer to get across a piece
of water like this then you have to cast your
indicator upstream and across or across or a
little bit downstream but make a quick mend right
after the indicator hits. As your indicator goes
down through the current, sometimes you’re
gonna have to mend once, twice, even three times. Try not to move the
indicator when you mend. Just flip enough
line to get that line upstream of the indicator. Toward the end of your drift
just before drag sets in, you can also release
some slack line to make that indicator float even further
downstream dead drift. Just have some extra line in
your hand, some slack line, and flip that slack
line into the current. Sometimes when you’re nymphing just a little change in position will really make the difference in whether you
catch fish or not. You may wanna move
upstream a few feet, you may wanna move out a little, move downstream, sometimes
even fishing that same pocket just a little bit of
a change in position, might get your flies
in there just right. (instrumental guitar music) One of the most exciting
things in nymph fishing is sight casting to
a fish that’s feeding in shallow water with a nymph. A naked nymph which means
no weight on the leader, no indicator, just a
tiny weighted nymph thrown to a fish
in shallow water. You watch the fish’s reactions or you watch your leader
to see the strike. That was cool! Wow! That’s a big fish and I’m probably not gonna
get him out of there. Well, maybe, maybe, maybe,
maybe, maybe, maybe! Oh, I got lucky on that one. Alright, you ready, Patrick?
– Yup! – The nice thing about
fishing without an indicator is you can reel the fish
right up close to your rod. Yeah, baby! Woohoo! Bring him out in the sun here, get him in the clear water, burp him a little bit
like they do the salmon. They roll ’em on the belly and
get all the air out of ’em. There he goes! At the other end of the scale
from sight fishing nymphs is fishing them
from a drift boat. It’s one of the easiest
ways to catch trout. In fact, some people
think it’s too easy. With an experienced
guide at the oars, by casting about 45 degrees
in front of the boat you can get long,
drag free floats as the guide works to
keep the boat drifting at the same speed
as the indicator. But you still have
to do your part and mend the line periodically. I joined experienced guide
Molly Seminek in Montana to learn more about proper
positioning and drift of indicators when
nymphing from a boat. – When the person in the front,
in the bow, casts downstream and their float the boat
catches up to the fly and the fly gets to the oar then they pick up and
recast downstream. – If you like to catch
lots of fish in a day there is probably
nothing as productive as fishing nymphs
from a drift boat because you can
cover so much water and the trout are always
eating below the surface. No matter what kind of
water you like to fish, from brawling rivers to
tiny mountain streams nymph fishing will
often save the day and it’s really not that hard. (instrumental guitar music) (instrumental guitar music) Fishing with a subsurface
fly in moving water adds a lot of
mystery to fishing. You never really know what
trout are eating down there, but striking to an unseen fish and suddenly feeling the
weight of a hefty trout is a thrill that never gets old. To learn more about
wet flies and nymphing, go to the Orvis learning
center at orvis.com/learn for more information.
Thanks for watching! – [Announcer] This show
has been brought to you by Orvis Rod and Tackle. Ontario: Yours to discover. Ontario’s Algoma region:
Where Huron and Superior Meet. (instrumental guitar music)

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