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The Art of How to Present the Nymph

Editor’s Note: Below is a submission from TFO advisor Jason Randall. Enjoy.

Since the dawn of time, at least angling-wise, anglers have embraced the need for drag-free dry-fly drifts. Only in more recent history, however, have anglers come to realize the importance of a natural drift while nymph fishing. Just as with dry flies, having the right fly helps, but presentation trumps fly selection; you’ll catch more trout with the wrong fly and the right presentation than you will with the right fly but a poor presentation.

Euro-nymphing and other forms of tightline or contact nymphing have surged in popularity not only because of improved strike detection, but also the control they offer over the presentation. By minimizing the effect of subsurface drag, these methods allow the flies to stay in the strike zone, which is the bottom 20 percent of the vertical water column, with a more natural drift.

You can think of the shorter drifts typical of most tightline techniques as having three distinct stages. The first, just after the cast, begins as the flies descend to the strike zone, and the current begins to pull them downstream. Ideally, get your flies quickly to the strike zone with a tuck cast or equivalent, which shortens this phase and lengthens the next. Many strikes occur during this stage, so it pays to keep contact with the flies while they sink.

TFO’s Drift Rod is an excellent choice for the serious nymph fisherman. Photo courtesy of Jason Randall.

The second stage begins when the flies reach the strike zone — often signaled by a slight tightening of the sighter, which is a short segment of brightly colored and thus highly visible monofilament spliced into the leader. No line or leader on the water makes a single entry point as the leader pierces the water, and the drift is tracked downstream towards the angler’s position and below. The drift usually moves slightly slower than the current speed seen from the surface since the strike zone layer near the stream bottom moves slower than the layers above. This speed mimics the drift speed of naturally drifting organisms. An occasional bottom snag confirms that our flies are in the strike zone. Strikes are often felt as a tug, but more commonly seen as change in the ‘sag’ or droop of the sighter.

The third stage can be varied according to angler preference, but starts with the end of the dead drift as the flies tighten to the leader. At this point, we often simply lift to the next cast, and sometimes justly so if fish are hitting during the previous stages. But when fishing is slow, try modifying this final stage- it can trigger strikes. For instance, once the flies tighten, allow them to rise slowly to the surface like a rising insect, even allowing them to swing across the current like a wet fly. If fish are in a chasing mood, this might seal the deal. This works even with rising trout during a hatch.

Choose current threads for your drift within one and one-half rod lengths or less from where you stand as measured by holding the rod horizontally and directly across stream. Cast less than twenty-five feet upstream in that thread. If you choose a thread too far across stream, you’ll get drag during the drift as the flies pull across currents. A longer rod helps reach that current thread that might otherwise be too far away. Longer rods also help lengthen the drift.

TFO’s adjustable length Drift rod lets you add or remove segments according to the situations you may face in the course of a day’s fishing. Adding length allows you to extend a drift or reach an otherwise unreachable feeding lane. The shorter length comes in handy when fishing in tight quarters or on streams closed in by vegetation. With the Drift rod, you only have to carry one rod to the river.

Any questions, comments about the Drift or nymphing techniques, feel free to reach out on one of our social media channels.

 

Jason Randall is an outdoor writer whose articles frequently appear in fly-fishing magazines. He is the author of four books published by Stackpole Books.

It’s Show Time: A Guide to the 2018 Fishing Shows

It’s winter, too cold to fish, but it’s not too cold to do the next best thing — and that’s talk about fishing.

And what better way to do that than at a fishing show. The 2018 winter show circuit has already started, and Temple Fork Outfitters is scheduled to be on hand at nearly two dozen events with an array of staff, advisors and ambassadors. You can check out the Drift Rod with Jason Randall, get casting tips from Wanda Taylor and Sandi Roberts, talk bass fishing with Cliff Pace, chat about the Axiom II with Blane Chocklett or rub elbows with Chris Thompson, the Virginia Fly Fisherman of the Year.

TFO promises to have something for just about everyone.

“Fly Fishing shows have always been core to TFO’s special connection with anglers,” TFO President Frank-Paul King said. “Whether one of our Ambassadors working with a new angler or Lefty teaching a group class, we all benefit from the relationships fostered at these wonderfully unique gatherings.”

Below is a list of shows that TFO is set to attend in 2018, from late January until July. Please stop by and say hello.

International Sportsman’s Expo, Sacramento, Jan. 18-21

The Fly Fishing Show, Marlborough Mass., Jan. 19-21

Heartland Fly Fishing Festival, Lebanon, Ind. Jan. 20-21

The Fly Fishing Show, Somerset/Edison, N.J., Jan. 26-28

Carolina Outdoor Expo, Greenville, N.C., Jan. 26-28

Kentuckiana Fly Fishing Show, Shepherdsville, Ky., Jan. 27

The Fly Fishing Show, Atlanta, Feb. 2-3

Greater Cincinnati Fly Fishing Show, Loveland, Ohio, Feb. 3

Troutfest/GRTU, New Braunfels, Texas, Feb. 16-18

Surf Day/Jersey Shore Surfcasters, Lincroft, N.J., Feb. 18

The Fly Fishing Show, Pleasanton, Calif., Feb. 23-25

The Fly Fishing Show, Lancaster, Pa., March 3-4

Fred Hall Show, Long Beach, Calif., March 7-11

Northwest Fly Tyer and Fly Fishing Expo, Albany, Oregon, March 9-10

New England Saltwater Fishing Show, Coventry, R.I., March 9-11

Midwest Fly Fishing Expo, Warren, Mich., March 10-11

Texas Fly Fishing and Brew Festival, Plano, Texas, March 10-11

Saltwater Fishing Expo, Somerset, N.J., March 17-18

Northwest Sportshow, Minneapolis, Minn., March 22-25

Spey O’Rama, San Francisco, April 19-21

TFO Day, Oakland (Calif.) Casting Club, June 1

Skeeter Boat Owner’s Tournament, Lake Fork, Texas, June 8

Spey Nation, Pulaski, N.Y., June 23-24

European Tackle Trade Association Show, Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 28-30

ICAST, Orlando, Fla., July 12-14

Maximize Your Drift: Good Nymphing Presentation Begins with a Good Cast

“Right in the wheelhouse!” Longtime friend and Michigan fishing guide Jamie Clous would exclaim for every ‘on-target’ cast and presentation. Back in my novice angler days, this meant that I’d done a good job — that I’d put my dry flies in front of the trout’s nose. It didn’t take me long to realize that keeping my flies in the wheelhouse led to more strikes and hook-ups. The same is true for the nymph angler; you’ll catch more fish if you keep your subsurface flies in the wheelhouse, which in this case, is the bottom layer of the water column where trout frequently feed.

The Presentation

Just like fishing dry flies, a good nymph presentation begins with a good cast. Not only is accuracy important, but a good nymph fishing cast gets the flies to the strike zone quickly. The weighted flies (or added weights like sinkers) commonly used for nymph fishing certainly sink in water, but a standard fly-fishing cast impedes their descent and delays their arrival in the strike zone. It looks great to cast a tight loop that stretches out horizontally, with line, leader and flies landing on the water at the same time. But if you cast this way while nymph fishing, the immediate downstream pull of the line on the surface resists the sink rate of the weighted flies — they don’t reach bottom until well downstream. To get the most out of every drift, you need a cast that allows the flies to hit the water and sink to the bottom before the line or leader on the surface begins to travel downstream.

The tuck cast has been around a long time, but it, or a modified variation of it, should be in every modern nymph angler’s arsenal. Think of it as the equivalent of the slack-line cast for dry flies; it allows the flies to reach the strike zone, often hitting bottom before the line hits the surface. The tuck cast allows you to maximize every drift by getting your flies to the strike zone faster.

My friend (and fellow TFO advisory staffer) Ed Jaworowski taught me the tuck cast several years ago, and I captured it on video. The cast begins with a sidearm back cast with the rod held at about a 45 degree angle. The normal stop and pause between the back and forward cast is replaced by an oval transition with constant tension on the line to avoid letting the weighted flies snap back and bounce as they would with a standard cast. During this transition, the rod angle is changed from 45 degrees to a nearly upright position by flexing the elbow rather than the wrist. The movement is similar to a forearm curl with a barbell. The forward cast begins at the end of this transition, gradually and smoothly accelerating to a slightly overpowered but abrupt stop. Direct the forward cast at an upward angle. In other words, aim at the tree tops rather than the tree trunks. This provides enough room for the flies to ‘tuck’ under the line.

The tuck comes about when the weighted flies bounce back after reaching the limit of line/leader at the end of the forward cast and, being weighted, turn downward towards the water’s surface while the line remains high above the water. With a well-executed tuck cast, the line remains horizontal and parallel to the water, the leader (or at least the part of it closest to the flies) is vertical, and the flies land well before the line. The slack created in the leader lets the flies sink to the bottom unimpeded by any downstream pull from the line that would otherwise occur.

You can adapt the tuck cast for the newer nymph fishing methods such as Czech, Polish or French nymphing, too. Even though these techniques use very little fly line for the cast or presentation, the goal is the same — get the flies to the bottom quickly. The ‘oval tuck cast’ accomplishes the vertical entry of the flies and leader to maximize the drift, and is very similar to the standard tuck cast.

The cast begins with the arm extended forward in the normal position for the presentation. At the end of the preceding drift, simply flex the elbow, keeping the wrist stiff. The elbow and shoulder remain at the same elevation throughout the cast. Don’t drop your elbow or the cast will fail to tuck properly. An oval, constant-tension transition replaces the stop and pause in the back cast and leads into the forward stroke. Just as before, the cast ends high with a tuck finish, turning the flies downward.

The TFO Drift Rod

Both casts are fairly easy to learn, even in your backyard. Assemble your TFO Drift rod as a 10-foot rod, using the four main sections and the 1-foot extension. For me, this is the ideal length for most nymph-fishing situations, but you can also replace the 1-foot extension with the 2-foot section, making the overall length 11 feet.

A BVK l reel balances this rig very nicely with 6 or 7-foot leader. Replace the weighted fly with one or two sinkers with a knot around them to keep them in place. Tie a tag of yarn to the leader where the sinkers attach so you can see it. Place a hula-hoop or any other roughly circular target a few feet in diameter about 20 or 30 feet away and cast towards it. You’ll know you’ve done it right when the sinker/yarn lands in the circle and the tip of the fly line/leader junction lands in the same zone a second or two later. When practicing the oval cast for tightline nymphing methods, use a longer leader with very little of the fly line beyond the rod tip and shorten the casting distance a bit, at least at first. In no time, you’ll be dropping tuck casts perfectly and accurately.

Whether you’re nymphing with a strike indicator or using the Czech, French or any other tight line method, the tuck cast lets you get the most out of your efforts. You’ll maximize your drift. And you’ll catch more fish by keeping your flies in the wheelhouse.