Three Tips for Improved Nymphing

Three Tips for Improved Nymphing

Spring is coming in the Rockies and with this change in seasons comes bigger, muddier, faster moving water in all of our rivers and streams. These huge volume spikes typically induce sudden, significant changes to trout, insects, and their habitat. Quicker moving water means that fish need to use more energy each day, which means they need to start eating more. Luckily for these hungry trout, insect activity usually increases with the rising flows.

Most fly fishing during the high water season is done with subsurface fly patterns. Streamers and big tandem nymph rigs are usually the name of the game for runoff fly fishing in Colorado. If you are not used to rigging, casting, and fishing with one of these heavier nymphing setups it can be frustrating at first. Here are a few tips to help you get to the deep fish more easily.

The Rig

There are a couple of different ways to go about creating a deep nymphing rig. Two of the most popular are the traditional setup and the Provo Bounce Rig. Both are great for getting your flies in front of fish that are feeding deep in the water column as long as a couple of basic principles are followed.

In both setups, the distance between your strike indicator and your flies determines the overall depth you will fish throughout your drift, and the amount of weight you use determines the speed at which your flies sink. When I am fishing into a shallow, fast moving seam, for example, I will use a large split shot but only set my indicator a few feet above my first fly. Too much distance here will result in a lot of lost flies. If I am presenting to fish that I know are holding deep in slow water, I will set my indicator as far from my flies as I can and use a smaller weight to keep my drift more natural.


One of the biggest challenges with fishing a deep nymph rig is in the cast. I see a lot of good fishermen trying to cast these rigs like they would a dry fly, picking line up laterally and trying to throw tight loops. This method hardly ever works not only because of the extra weight, but also because of the extra pivot points along the length of the rig. The best way to cast a heavy, sunken nymph rig is to use the water loading technique, which begins with your line tight and downstream, your rod tip up, and ends with one smooth motion forward to the target. Always start with a tight line and you will get the most out of each cast.

Reading Deep Water

When fishing deep water, it is not always easy to find feeding lanes and resting areas for trout. Many times the surface of the water gives us hints as to what lies beneath. Things like foam lines and boils on the surface can give away large rocks, shelves, and channels. Fish love to eat in all of these areas so make sure you do not overlook these obvious hints.

The only way to practice these tips is to fish a lot, and springtime on the Western Slope is a great time to do so. Do not let high water keep you inside. The fish and the insects are still there. Use these tips to get to them more easily.

Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer