Home » Blog Posts » Jason Randall

Tag: Jason Randall

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.

Why the Length of Our Nymph Fishing Rod Matters

“Fly Fishing is a unique avocation,” wrote Vince Marinaro in his 1976 classic book, In the Ring of the Rise. “It is intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying. Its many thousands of devotees have the choice of occupying various levels of dedication or indulgence and remaining there, or they can climb new heights according to the depth and width of their personal involvement.” Vince’s description certainly applies to me; I barely seem to meet one challenge in fly fishing before the next one presents itself. But I think I love that aspect of our sport the best. It keeps me engaged and passionate, even decades after I first picked up a fly rod.

One of the reasons our sport continually challenges us lies in its rapidly evolving nature. Not only does our gear and equipment change, but methods and techniques change a lot, too. And no area of our sport has changed more in recent years than nymph fishing. When I first started fly fishing, nymphing meant attaching a floatation style strike indicator to my leader, using a few weighted flies or adding split shot and heaving a water loaded cast from a drift boat. I also used the same technique while wade fishing. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized just how many fish I didn’t catch.

The Changing Face of Nymph Fishing

Someone once told me that I was probably missing more trout than I caught while nymphing below my strike indicator. Skeptical at first, I donned on scuba gear and took a camera took to the depths of the river. The underwater filming proved him right. Because of inefficient strike detection, we miss more fish than we catch. This same realization led others to develop better nymph fishing methods in the 1980s and ‘90s, ones that improve the odds of catching. I dedicated myself to learning these methods and the results amazed me — I caught more fish — a lot more fish!

New tightline techniques evolved because they achieve the two main goals in nymph fishing, namely keeping the flies in the strike zone, which is near the bottom, and improving strike detection by a more direct connection with the flies. Sometimes referred to by the various countries where they originated, Polish nymphing appeared first, soon followed by Czech nymphing. Not to be outdone, the French nymphing method evolved for the use of longer leaders and lighter flies than their euro-nymping cousins. These designations seem confusing at first, but all of these methods bear more similarities than differences and the name ‘tightline’ or ‘contact’ techniques more accurately describe them.

By eliminating floating indicators, properly weighted flies sink to the bottom and resist the pull of the current that wants to lift them from the strike zone. Drifting downstream, the leader must cut through the faster current to allow the flies to drift in the slower water near the bottom. In order to cut through the current, you need to lift the line and leader from the water with a high rod position, so that the leader penetrates the water at a single point rather than lying on the surface. You should feel bottom now and then, which means your flies are in the strike zone. You’ll also feel strikes and catch fish.

Cast upstream or up-and-across, using a tuck cast to let the flies sink rapidly. A tuck cast includes an overpowered forward stroke with an accentuated stop that allows a vertical drop for the flies and an unrestricted decent to the streambed. Keep your casts short- say, around 20 to 30 feet or so, under most circumstances. Beyond that, you won’t be able to lift the line and leader from the water. After the cast, lift the rod slightly to maintain contact with the flies during their decent and then gently lead them downstream. Don’t lead too quickly or you’ll spoil the drift. Use rod position and slack management (with your line hand) to keep the leader and line from the water’s surface. Allow the drift to continue below your position to allow the flies to swing and rise in the current. The rise and lift of the flies at the end of the dead drift mimics natural prey behavior when an insect releases from the bottom in the process of emergence, drifts downstream before turning headfirst into the current to rise to the surface.

Note the high rod position, which is essential to getting a drag-free drift. (Illustration from my book, Nymph Masters: Fly-Fishing Secrets From Expert Anglers, courtesy of Stackpole books.)

I like to feel bottom occasionally to let me know my flies are in the strike zone. If I snag on every drift, though, I’ll switch to a lighter fly. If the drift zips along too fast, I’ll add a bit more weight to slow it down and reconnect with the streambed. I raise and lower my rod tip during the drift to follow the contour of the bottom. For instance, I raise my rod as the drift approaches a submerged rock, and then lower the tip approaching a drop off or depression. This ensures that my flies present to every likely feeding lie.

Work your way upstream when strikes occur during the dead drift phase, but you can also work your way downstream if you get more takes on the swing. Make multiple drifts to ensure that your flies hit every feeding lie in every feeding lane. A firm lift serves as a hookset, but you may have to delay or slow the hookset slightly when the flies are downstream of you at the end of the drift or during the swing. A slight delay lets the trout turn back to its lie and avoids pulling the fly out of the its mouth.

Adding a short segment of highly visible monofilament into your leader makes it more visible and aids strike detection. I often use a combination of yellow or red colors for my ‘sighter’ — the name given to this visual aid —because I can see at least one color under most lighting conditions and against most backgrounds. You’ll feel the more obvious strikes, but subtle strikes often cause only a change in the leader’s angle of penetration or soft tightening of the leader, best seen in the sighter segment.

As you can imagine, you can only hold line and leader above the water to a certain distance away from your position. Beyond that, the line and leader will sag and contact the surface. For this reason, longer leaders developed, since it’s easier to elevate a lighter leader than a heavier fly line. Longer rods also help increase the range of these techniques. With them, you can extend your reach to hit targets not only from farther away, but also reach over the river to target feeding lanes otherwise inaccessible.  The longer rod means extended reach to let you catch fish that might otherwise go uncaught-trout in shallow, clear or slow water often spook if you get too close.

 The Future of Nymph Fishing

Names like Czech nymphing, Polish nymphing and French nymphing will always be linked to these methods, but more descriptive names like contact nymphing or tightline techniques will become more common. As more anglers realize the effectiveness of these techniques, their use will become widespread. Ten years ago, I rarely saw anyone using tightline methods. Now I see it all the time, and it’s usually the angler who’s catching fish! We’ll also see new techniques as time goes on and also new variations of existing techniques. New products will keep pace with these changes, to serve our changing sport.

Already, several new products meet the needs of today’s nymph angler. For example, thin fly lines such as Cortland’s .022 inch level line or Rio’s Euro Nymph line make it easier to lift and hold the line above the water. Weight forward fly lines with heavy tapered heads tend to sag, making it harder to keep them from lying on the water. Longer, lighter leaders also help, such as Rio’s Euro Nymph Leader. Made from thin diameter fluorocarbon, these leaders effectively cut through the current. And, of course, flies will continue to change; fly designs now include anchor flies- heavily weighted flies with fast sink rates to keep contact with the strike zone. Slim, dense flies now populate my fly box.

The last 10 to 15 years have seen more innovations in nymph rod design than any other time. Long rods offer tremendous advantages to the angler, but holding a long, heavy rod will wear you out and lead to arm and shoulder fatigue. So, it’s more than just length. In fact, three critical factors govern nymph rod design; length, weight and balance. Get the longest rod possible with the lightest overall weight, but maintain a balance point near the handle of the rod. If the balance point is too far beyond the cork, not only will you have to elevate the rod, but you’ll also have to prevent the tip from dropping. You’ll have some achy muscles by the end of the day.

At shows and presentations, I’m often asked what is the ideal nymphing rod. An adjustable rod would be great, especially between the lengths of 9 and 11 feet to offer flexibility and adaptability. Many times I need an 11-foot rod for larger rivers to stretch out over the flow, but prefer a shorter nymphing rod when fishing skinny water, especially those closely guarded with brush, trees or other vegetation. I also like a rod that I can use for dry flies, should a sudden hatch arise. An adjustable rod would need to convert quickly and easily from one length to another to satisfy my needs. I wouldn’t want to re-rig the rod every time I switched lengths. So a long, light, well-balanced and adjustable rod —- is that too much to ask? Add a sensitive tip section to the rod so you can tell bottom ticks from strikes and you’d have a pretty nice rod.

Temple Fork Outfitters brought these very same features to their new nymphing rod. Prior to the introduction of their rod, I’ve purchased nymphing rods from Europe. I’ve been happy with them, but they’re expensive. TFO now offers an affordable solution for the anglers who want to broaden their nymphing game — the new Drift Rod. It has what I need in a nymphing rod.

Drift Fly Rod
The Temple Fork Drift rod is designed specifically for nymph fishing and easily converts to a 9′, 10′, 11’6″ or 12′ length.

Embrace change. It’s inevitable. It pushes us to grow and learn. Sometimes it pushes us outside our comfort zone. But that’s makes life so interesting. And every technique we learn makes us a better angler. Vince’s words still ring true today, nearly 40 years later: The next challenge awaits those who thirst for more.

Jason Randall, a TFO national advisory staffer, is a frequent contributor to American Angler Magazine and the author of the ‘Fly Fisher’s Guide’ Trilogy. His latest book, ‘Nymph Masters; Fly Fishing Secrets from Expert Anglers,’ was released by Stackpole/Headwaters Books in 2017.

Drift Rod Press Release

TFO Proudly Introduces the Drift — the Definitive Nymph Fly Rod

Fly anglers have evolved nymph fishing to a level requiring a rod uniquely able to meet the competitive demands of tight-line tactics such as Czech, Polish and French styles. In response, TFO Advisor Jason Randall designed the Drift – engineered to be the definitive nymph fly rod by combining a perfectly balanced light-to-the-hand feel with ultra-sensitivity and brilliant situational versatility.

Through the combination of TFO technology and angler-driven design, the Drift is light in overall weight, fast dampening and well balanced. The Drift matches extremely high-modulus carbon fiber blank construction with a down-locking reel seat and a removable weighted and tunable fighting butt. The tip is ultra-sensitive allowing anglers to distinguish between a subtle take and a bottom tick with a soft tipped action that protects the very light tippets needed to sustain a competitive drift while remaining invisible. Presentation is key to successful tight-line nymph fishing and rod length can be critical to keeping multiple flies in the strike zone. For this reason, the Drift can be fished as a traditional 9’ 4-piece 3-weight, or effortlessly converts to 10’, 11’ 3” or, amazingly, 12’ 3”. And patented stripping guides allow the Drift to be lengthened by one or more additional sections without ever unstringing line, leader or flies. Rod length can be changed on the water in a matter of seconds and the rod perfectly presents leader-only tuck casts with accuracy and ease – at any rod length. The Drift also accommodates a 3” lower cork grip that replaces the weighted fighting butt – perfect for the new micro spey lines and techniques.

Designed as the definitive nymph fly fishing rod, the Drift (TFO 390-6D) remains true to TFO’s commitment of delivering superior performance at an attractive price. The rod, including a full set of rod and butt section options, comes packaged in an aluminum rectangular rod case and retails for $399.95.

https://tforods.com/drift-fly-rods/

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO):

TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork.

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

facebook.com/templeforkoutfitters
instagram.com/templeforkoutfitters
twitter.com/tforods

Download a PDF version of this press release here.

Jason Randall

Jason Randall Joins the TFO National Advisory Staff

Temple Fork Outfitters is excited to announce Jason Randall has joined fly fishing luminaries Lefty Kreh, Ed Jaworowski, Bob Clouser, Flip Pallot, Blane Chocklett, Jake Jordan, Nick Curcione, Wanda Taylor and Bob Popovics as a TFO National Advisor.

Rick Pope, Founder and Chairman said, “Jason epitomizes a life-long commitment to sharing his vast knowledge welcoming new anglers to this great sport, while captivating us with his deep insights into trout behavior.”

Jason has been an outdoor writer for the last twelve years with feature articles appearing regularly in American Angler, as well as Fly Fisherman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Northwest Fly Fishing and many other outdoor magazines. His trout fishing trilogy: ‘Moving Water: A Fly Fisher’s Guide to Currents’; ‘Feeding Time: A Fly Fisher’s Guide to What, Where and When Trout Eat’; and ‘Trout Sense: A Fly Fisher’s Guide to What Trout See, Hear and Smell’ reveal the depth of his passion and knowledge of the subject. Most recently he shared his secrets in Nymph Masters: Fly Fishing Secrets from Expert Anglers. Jason is also a sought-after fly fishing presenter and annually appears through North America sharing his passion and experience. He is a veterinarian certified in fish health and medicine; and a member of the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association and the Society for Freshwater Science. A native Midwesterner, Jason and Jo, his wife, live on a small farm in Northern Illinois.

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO):

TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork.

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

facebook.com/templeforkoutfitters
instagram.com/templeforkoutfitters
twitter.com/tforods

Download a PDF version of this press release here.