Short Line vs. Long Line Nymphing
|The Proof's In The Pudding|
Fly fishing with nymphs is, by and large, the most consistent way for fly fisherman to catch trout. The majority of a trout’s feeding occurs along the bottom of a creek or river. However, nymphing methods vary far and wide across the globe. Here in the United States, it's popular for many folks to want to nymph fish with an indicator rig using split shot, which if done correctly creates a “hinge” effect, similar to how a door operates, that gives a visual indication of when you should set the hook. However, this system can create some problems and there is sometimes a “time lag” in how long it takes for your strike indicator to register a strike depending on factors such as how much weight you have on the line and how long your leader is. Many times while using a strike indicator, there will be no visual that a strike has occurred, even if a fish grabs your fly. Fishing with a strike indicator is a very practical way of fishing but you may want to consider learning new techniques that can possibly improve your catch rates and productivity out on the water.
|Short-lining on the Chattahoochee|
One such method goes by the technical name of “short-line” nymphing by many folks overseas or “high-sticking” here in the United States. When fishing this method you are taking the traditional strike indicator out of equation entirely. Instead, you are keeping in contact with your flies the entire time that you are fishing through a drift and leaving little to no slack in your fly line or leader down to your flies. While using this setup, it is best to keep a fairly short tippet from the end of your leader. Shorter leaders 7-10 foot in length terminating in a 4x-5x tippet are great for this setup. By now you may be wondering how you are going to get your flies down to the bottom. The easiest way to jump right into this setup is to keep using just enough split shot to be periodically ticking the bottom. You just keep a tight line down to your split shot and feel for larger than normal ticks or see and feel pauses in the drift, which are the usual indications that you should set the hook. However, fishing a tight line system with split shot still can create a problem through the hinge effect that introduces slack into the line. To counter this use flies with weight built into them in the form of weighted tungsten beads or lead wire under the dressed fly. Weighted flies are not the end all of slack in the system, but definitely can help you take some out of it out if you fish them correctly. Ultimately short line methods can be used with any fly rod/reel combination and are especially effective on our tighter and faster streams here in the mountains where you can usually fish very close to your quarry.
|Dukes Creek with a 30' Leader|
|Using a Bright Red "Sighter"|
For most situations and places here in the southeast, short line techniques are perfectly adequate. However there is one other technique which, if done well, can give you more types of water to effectively fish and can ultimately improve your success. The types of water that I’m talking about are those that most would consider least productive, slow glassy pools and long sections of shallow water where fish are often very skittish. In my and many others opinions, long line nymphing may be the most productive way to fish. When fishing on a long line, you may have little if any fly line out, which will require you to fish a very long leader of gradually tapered monofilament. I find it easiest to have a 20 foot section of 15-20 lb. test monofilament and taper the leader down in increments of one foot at a time with lighter test monofilament. Mess around with varying lengths of monofilament to figure out what works best with your rod setup and where you fish. Eventually, you must taper the leader down to your tippet, which may frequently be 6X or even 7X depending upon how spooky fish may be. A natural drag free drift is essential; however you want to keep just the slightest bit of slack in the line to help you detect strikes by watching and feeling for pauses, jumps, or other abnormal behavior in your leader. A brighter section of colored monofilament, or “sighter,” built into your leader definitely helps you in your strike detection and attention to the drift. Generally, you want the flies you fish to be size 14 or smaller, slender in profile, and just heavy enough to slowly sink to the bottom. Many who fish this way prefer flexible 10-11 ft., 2-4 weight rods like Grey’s Streamflex or Sage’s ESN.
No matter which way you fish, being more well-rounded definitely improves your chances of success on the water. Relying on one style of fishing consistently will eventually lead you to a day where it just isn’t happening and your productivity will show for it. Try these two techniques. Once mastered, they will really up your catch rate!
See you on the creek!