First Timer Nymphing for Trout
Often unforeseen challenges provide unexpected opportunities for adventure. Rusty and I have fished the Deschutes for a dozen years in late August for steelhead. This year his trip was scheduled for August 31 through September 4, but this year the runs were so poor that the managers had shut the river down for steelhead fishing September 1-30. In a phone call I asked Rusty what he wanted to do, telling him that the river was still open for trout and for Fall Chinooks. He said that the crew had changed and he was bringing his son Rob, and that Rob hadn’t done much fly fishing. He thought that trout would be the better of the two options. Rusty has done a lot of trout fishing all over North America.
Patty, Tony and I were on the water by daylight and by noon we had camp all set up the day before Rusty & Rob arrived. We had planned on getting in an evening and a morning before the clients arrived and the closure began. The wind blew hard all that day and the next day the wind was still blowing as I dropped Tony off and picked up Rusty and Rob at Mack’s Canyon.
The next morning, we got rigged with long Euro Nymph rods and our luck changed. The weather turned mellow, and the trout went on the bite. Euro style nymphing has been around for at least forty years but has recently been made popular by competition fly anglers primarily in Europe where anglers use long lightweight fly rods and multi fly setups on long fine leaders to fish their flies deep and at the same speed as the current. Fly fishing has long been defined as the only fishing sport that uses the weight of the line to propel the flies (lures) instead of the other way around. Since it is the weight of the flies and not the weight of the line that is used to load the rod for each cast, it could be argued that Euro Nymphing is not fly fishing. However, Euro Nymphing techniques are accepted in International fly fishing competitions. In Oregon few waters are regulated against Euro Nymph Fishing (better check your regulation Just to be sure). Euro Nymph Fishing is legal in all waters that are designated “Flies and Lures Only”.
Any two to five weight fly rod can be used for nymph fishing, but rods that are rated as Euro Nymph Rods or Modern Nymph Rods are specialized and so are the lines, leaders and flies that are used with them. No matter where you fish in rivers and streams for resident trout, "Euro Nymph" is probably the most predatory method you can use.
The Illustration below shows the basic layout of the flies:
My favorite line is the RIO Technical Euro Nymph Line. My favorite leader for a three fly fly cast fishes best in water that is two to four feet deep. It is made entirely from 4X RIO FluoroFlex Strong fluorocarbon leader material. This part of the leader is a total of four feet long with all the knots tied. We are not building a piano. If the sections vary some it probably won't matter. I use two-turn surgeon's knots for the connections of the two droppers. I like the droppers to be four inches long after the flies are tied on. This leader is attached directly to the bright fluorescent pink sighter line which is the core of the core of the RIO Technical Euro Nymph Line. At this junction I often insert a one inch piece of bright orange backing through knot before tightening it up. This forms a tiny strike indicator.
The heaviest fly is tied to the end of the tippet, the next heaviest fly is in the middle of the leader and the lightest weight fly is attached to the top dropper. I like to pretend that the surface of the water has an architects grid with one foot squares imposed upon it. The flies are fished through all the squares that can be reached starting with the closest ones. Then move up or down stream after all the you can reach from one station have been covered. My favorite rod is a ten foot eight inch Beulah G2 Platinum three weight. Echo makes a full line of great competition nymph rods as well. You can find them all HERE.
The picture below shows a typical box of modern nymphs used to catch trout.
All the nymphs that caught trout thirty years ago still do. However, the most modern nymphs are sparsely tied on barbless jig hook and are weighted with slotted tungsten beads. Theses beads come in a wide variety of colors. My own fly boxes vary with the time of year and what trout are liable to be feeding on at the time. I still believe in matching the hatch, but also believe the fly that is dead center in the middle of a trout's feeding lane has the best chance of getting ate. Making the fly look like it is drifting down stream naturally in the current is also a top priority. Those are all reasons why Euro Nymph Fishing is so productive. You can fish your flies so precisely.
The second morning Rob, Rusty and I crossed the river with our jet boat. Knowing that Rusty needed little instruction, I sent him to the top of the run and stayed with Rob to offer assistance. He was rigged with two flies. It only took him a half dozen tries before he got it right. Sure enough he hooked a dandy that put a big bend in the rod. He clamped the line to the cork handle.
I yelled, Let 'im run, let 'im run, let 'im run! It was too late. The flies were gone.
After tying up a new setup and some instruction on playing fish, how to set the drag on the reel, and various other things, Rob landed half a doze nice trout for his first morning. The next session he landed nine. And so it went. Rusty caught fish too. I got to hang out with some great guys, eat some great food, and they brought enough beer to share. Very often being a fishing guide is a great life.