Aren’t days when the fish aren’t rising or chasing streamers just a blast? I know it’s fun catching just one fish all day on a dry fly. Just kidding, it's not. Whether you like to nymph or not it's the most consistent way to catch lots of fish. Take it from Hank Patterson (world renowned fly fishing expert and guide) “if the goal of your fishing trip is in fact to catch fish, then at some point you’re gonna have to nymph.”
Deep nymphing has recently become an extremely effective technique for me. It’s perfect for days when fish don’t seem to be anywhere. On hot days with little cloud cover you can count on lots of trout holding up in the deepest holes of the river. There are two viable, relatively easy, ways to reach these fish. The first option is to drag streamers through the deep pockets using some kind of sinking line or leader. The second is a super deep nymphing setup. That’s what this little article is all about, I’ll leave the streamer advice to Brian Wise or Kelly Gallup or somebody else more knowledgeable than myself.
On top of the usual flies there are a few other patterns I really like for deep nymphing specifically. One is the “Pat’s Rubber Legs” also known as the Turd or Cat Poop. Another great fly is the Fluffy Duffy or Big White Worm. Both of these flies are big, as far as trout flies go, and they get plenty of attention. They’re also heavy, which helps get everything down deep quickly. I typically combine either of these flies with a scud or some kind of nymph sixteen inches below it. Depending on current I’ll add weight to the rig with split shot ranging from size 7 to BB.
Deep nymphing is hard, not because you need special flies or complicated knots, but because the drift is extremely technical. If you’ve got six feet between your indicator and bottom fly you’ll have to move a ton of line to get a good hookset on a hungry fish. That’s part of the fun. A little trick to get a more sensitive drift when fishing this deep is to add a split shot just eight to ten inches below the indicator. This keeps the flies directly up and down which limits slack and adds to sensitivity. Big, aggressive, mends at the beginning of a drift are key as well. Mending like this gives you a big loop in the line that hinders hooksets but limits drag. Sometimes it helps to high-stick it and fish with almost all of your fly line off the water for the best drift possible. Whatever it takes to get that perfect drift through that perfect zone.
The fun really begins when you get a strike, obviously. Due to how much line you’ve got to move just to make contact with the fish results in some hooksets straight from the Bassmaster Elite series. Then with the rod high above your head you’ve got to strip frantic, three foot sections of line to keep tension on the fish. It’s truly chaotic for the first few seconds of the fight. There’s an aura of unknown excitement to deep nymphing too, because you never truly know what you’ve got until it’s brought out of the depths. Who said nymphing isn’t fun again?