This week on getting started we will look at the three most common fly fishing techniques; Nymph, Dry Fly and Streamer fishing. Today we will talk about the basic techniques, but as you get more comfortable as a fly angler don't be afraid to experiment or make adjustments to what you read here. Lets look at nymphing first.
Nymphing is a technique where up to three flies (check your local regulations) are fished subsurface, usually under a strike indicator. This is usually done on deep rivers with relatively consistent depth like the Bow, and is particularly deadly out of a drift boat where drifts can be prolonged. A typical nymph set-up consists of two to three flies; a worm, a leech with the third fly being a nymph pattern like a Jimmy Legs. The first fly will be tied to the end of a 9’ leader, with the second fly being tied using tippet about 18” below the first fly through the eye of the hook. The third fly can be tied in a similar fashion to the eye of the second fly.
On the bow setting the strike indicator at 6’ from the first fly is a great starting point. Getting to the bottom is critical, so if you are not hitting bottom make sure to move the strike indicator up the leader a ways until you are hitting the bottom every 5 casts or so.
Types of water you should be looking for when nymphing are places where fast water and slow water meet, this is called a seam and is a great place for fish to spend little energy in the slow water while still having access to the food and safety that the fast water brings. Another great spot to nymph is where fast flower water dumps into a deep bucket, creating a similar situation as the seam.
Here are a few tips when nymphing. Casting can be tricky with so much weight away from the end of your leader, casting with a more open loop is pretty much necessary. Make sure that your fly line is not providing any drag on the indicator by mending your fly line so that it is moving at the same rate as the indicator. This is done after you have completed your cast by lifting your fly line off the water and either flipping it upstream or downstream to match the flow accordingly. One last tip is to set the hook every time you see the indicator move, most of the time it will be the bottom, but you will tie into a lot more fish by setting the hook when its not a fish then if you don't set the hook when it is.
Dry Fly Fishing is a technique where flies are cast and then drifted on the surface of the water. This can be done in any water where you see fish rising, and in general matching your fly to what you see on the water is a great approach. A dry fly is tied to the end of a 9’ leader and cast delicately in front of rising fish. A small mend may be made at the start of the drift but then the fly should be left to float drag free over the fish to ensure it looks as natural as possible. Small dry flies like an Adams or a BWO sparkle dun are great choices for dry flies, but again try to match the size, color and profile or what you see the trout feeding on.
Here are a few tips when fishing dry flies. Cast 4 to 6 feet in front of the fish you are trying to catch, landing a fly or your fly line on the head of a fish you are trying to catch will spook it and cause it to stop feeding for a while. If you see trout inspecting your fly but not trying to eat it, you can add a 2’ piece of tippet one size smaller than your leader and/or try switching flies.
A dry dropper is a very popular technique, which is done by tying a nymph pattern under a larger dry fly like a hopper or a stonefly similar to how you tied your nymph rig together, through the eye of the first hook about 18” below using tippet. This allows you to fish on the surface and nymph at the same time, ensuring no matter where the fish are feeding you have a good shot at them. This technique is mostly done when “prospecting for fish” which means casting to areas that look fishing but where you don't necessarily see fish rising and is particularly good along banks and in rifflely water.
Streamer fishing is done using a large heavy fly, usually imitating a bait fish like a Kreelex minnow, and casting it towards a bank and then stripping it back towards you. Streamer fishing is a more active style of fishing and is more complicated than casting drys fly or nymphing, but its a great tool to have in your tool belt as when dry flies and nymphs are not working because of water conditions tying a streamer on can save your day. Streamers are also particularly good if you are specifically targeting large fish like Bow River Rainbows and Browns or Bull trout on mountain streams.
Some tips for streamer fish are incorporating a trailing fly like a Woolly Bugger Leech. This is done by tying a smaller streamer of the eye of your first streamer about 18” below it. Another thing to focus on when streamer fishing to a bank is getting your flies as close as possible to the bank. Alot of the time a trout will be hiding in the slack water 4-6" away from an undercut back or contour in the back so getting the flies close is critical. You should also consider shortening your leader and possibly adding a sink tip to then end of your fly line. Again streamer fishing is more complicated than Nymphing or Dry Fly Fishing so its best to focus on those two first before moving on to streamer fishing.
That wraps up week 4, next week we will wrap up this 5 week series by talking about getting connected with the Southern Alberta fly fishing community and what are some next steps once you feel like you have a good grasp on the topics we have covered. Tight Lines!