Stillwater Nymphing.

Hobart trout guide Bob McKinley revisits a tried and proven method.

I like nothing better than sight fishing for trout and fishing the dry fly has to be the champagne of all fishing. However we all find those times when conditions are less than perfect, no fish are visible and we find ourselves having to go down to find the fish.

Although there are several excellent searching techniques, one that I will always consider above others is nymph fishing particularly with novice clients, sometimes on their first day out with a fly rod, as this method is often the simplest, easiest and most effective method available.

There has to be a reason why nymphing is one of the oldest forms of fly-fishing.
Think about the following:
Trout take more than 80% of their food sub surface.
Nymphs are present in the water all year round.
Feeding trout will take a well presented nymph at any time.
During a mayfly hatch they will take up to 10 nymphs for every dun taken on the surface.

Tasmanian waters have a wealth of various nymph, larvae, pupa and amphipod in them so when ever you get to any unfamiliar water and find there is nothing happening on the surface, the best way to find out what is available is to get down and have a good look under the rocks and logs where you will always find nymph or larvae of some kind.

Mayfly nymphs are present in most waters all year round and trout will take them no matter what else they happen to be feeding on at the time. In summer during any mayfly "Dun" hatch the nymph can prove absolutely deadly, so in this article I will concentrate on the Mayfly nymph as it represents the best bet at any time of year.

One of the great things about this style of fishing is that almost everyone has a range of mayfly nymphs with them during summer, alternatively there are plenty of stores with a good range of local patterns available.
If tying your own or buying them then a good all round mayfly pattern is a black or dark brown fly tied onto a #12 #14 or #16 heavy hook. This will let you match the size and approximate colour of the nymphs available in each water.
Best results are always with unweighted flies tied onto heavy hooks allowing the angler to fish the fly very slowly which best imitates the real thing.
Weighted or beadhead flies are some times required to get the fly down quickly and they take their fair share of fish however we have found that it is generally the way you fish the fly, not the exact pattern of the fly that will ensure success when nymphing.

Searching with the nymph.
As you search for trout on the average Tasmania stillwater lakes you are likely to come across gutters, submerged creek beds, rocky outcrops, treed areas and log snags, these are prime areas to prospect with the nymph.
If you are observant enough you will often spot the fin of a feeding fish and it is here that the nymph really comes into a league of its own particularly when it is in a tight corner or weedy spot.
Don't worry that the trout will probably be feeding on their staple diet of snails and stick caddis, once your mayfly nymph appears they will normally take it immediately.
You will need to exercise some caution when fishing amongst weed's, reeds and heavy timber areas as you are likely to lose the lot if using more than one fly as the fish heads for cover, whereas in open water searching with up to 3 flies is common practice.

Hooking up.
Getting the fly out in front of a fish is only part of the job at hand and it is hooking up on the fish that often frustrates the angler.
The best way to successfully fish the nymph is to firstly let the fly sink into the weed then lift it back out as slowly as possible whilst maintaining a contact with the fly by eliminating all slack in the line. Believe me these fish can suck a fly in, taste it and spit it out before you can react to the take and your best chance to hook one is a dead straight line from the rod tip to the fly.

Wade nymphing.
When hunting pockets of open water among the weeds, the wading angler will often go for the nymph as the first choice. No special gear is required other than a floating line, tapered leader and a single fly set up. This will allow slow searches and a fair chance of landing that big one without having to worry about a second or third fly tangling in the weeds.
As with all nymphing, if the fly has not been taken on the drop then you will often induce a strike with movement and it is that first upward lift that is likely to trigger a reaction. You should try several casts to each area before moving on to another spot, as it may be some time before the fly is spotted.
Again, hooking up will require minimal slack in the line and quick reflexes.

Loch style nymphing.
The boat angler with a good drogue to allow for slow drifting has all the advantages and one successful boat technique is to combine "loch" style fishing with nymphing.
Broadly speaking this method of fishing consists of casting up to three flies downwind from a slow drifting boat and as you are targeting fish in what is essentially shallow water of 2 to 4m, no special equipment is required.
You simply need to deliver a set of flies 10 to 15m out from the boat, so use your favourite rod and a floating line, add a 4 to 5m length of  6lb tippet, attach two droppers, tie on three nymphs and go fishing.
When nymph fishing in deeper water it is critical to give the flies time to sink and if you don't get the occasional weed hook up, you are not getting down far enough.
Once the flies are at the required depth it is then critical to lift the flies with a slow retrieve, to represent the movements of the natural. It is here at the first lift of the fly where 90% of all strikes will occur, just as the flies start to lift slowly up out of the weeds.

So next time you find nothing happening on the surface try Nymphing and it may save the day.

Bob McKinley
Fish Wild Tasmania

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