Nymph fishing seems to be one of the hottest fly-fishing topics of the day.  I'm asked every now and then about it by individuals as well as having groups invite me to present on the topic.  Over the years I've developed and refined my approach to fishing nymphs so I guess we'd be accurate in saying I do it MY WAY.  Yup, I've developed the Dave Rothrock approach to nymph fishing.  It's not something that's set in stone since I'm always analyzing what I do to improve where I can;  however, there's one key thread that runs through everything I do.  I need to ensure that my system is versatile and allows me to adapt to changing conditions.  As with anything there's no "one size fits all" here.  And, yes, adapting to changing conditions includes, for me, being able to switch quickly and easily when trout begin feeding on the surface.  

With all of the printed material and videos on the subject I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and share my approach to nymph fishing.  To start it off I thought it appropriate to provide some background as to how it all began for me.  I'm calling this initial segment an introduction of sorts.  I believe it sets the tone for that which is to follow.  

My nymph fishing journey (a journey which I will never complete) began way back in 1972 when, having read a few articles on the subject in major outdoor magazines complete with photos of artificials, really hit me hard.  I had to give it a try.  After all, it made sense to me that this nymph fishing thing just might be the way to catch more trout.  

One Saturday morning in January I proceeded to head to the Catoctin mountains of Maryland.  I had tied a few flies to copy a nymph I had seen in one of the magazines thinking that, if it caught trout for the author it just might catch a trout or two for me.  At the time I thought the fur I was using was hare's ear;  however, later I was to discover it wasn't.  It was mink.  No big deal, it looked buggy and that's what I thought I wanted.  

When I arrived at Big Hunting Creek I put my 6 1/2' fiberglass Shakespeare Wonderod together, secured my reel in the reel seat, ran the line through the guides and tied one of my nymphs onto my tippet.  There's no question I had no idea what I was doing but I was determined to do it.  Let's face it.  If there wasn't much info on how to fish nymphs certainly there was little to no info on equipment and set-up.  I was left to my own devices:  truly the school of hard nocks.  

I knew that nymphs were to be fished along the stream bottom and, since my nymphs weren't weighted, I needed to attach a split shot to the leader about eight inches above the fly.  I had a lot of experience fishing bait on a spinning rod so I set everything up similar to what I would if I were drifting a salmon egg or a piece of corn.  Yes, you read it right:  corn.  It was a lot less expensive than salmon eggs and trout would take a kernel of corn just as well as they'd take a salmon egg.

Cast upstream, drift the nymph downstream.  Try to get a natural drift.  Repeat.  When the drift is interrupted set the hook.  It's either bottom or...  Sure enough, I caught not just one but a few hatchery rainbows my first time fishing nymphs.  Ready for the pun?  I was hooked! 

Today the hot technique - that is, the one which gets the most attention - is Euro nymphing.  Gads, it nearly pains me to call it that.  Why, you ask?  Well, even if you haven't asked I'll tell you.  

We're going to have to go back in time again, this time to the mid-1970's when I lived in the southeast part of Pennsylvania.  I was fortunate enough to be around some young fly-fishers who were way ahead of their time.  There were two or three who were really into fishing nymphs.  Back then nymphing wasn't something that was popular.  In fact, most anglers didn't seem to want to be bothered with it.  Fortunately, that wasn't the case with these young anglers.  And, it certainly wasn't the case with me. 

These young bucks were experimenting with tying nymphs to suggest the naturals as well as more effective ways to fish them..  My interest in tying more suggestive patterns wouldn't develop until later.  However, when it came to working on fishing nymphs - and, in partucular, detecting takes - this is where these anglers could only be described as incredibly innovative.  Can you imagine incorporating a sighter in the leader back in the mid-1970's?  They did it.  And it wasn't long until I was introduced to it and started fishing with long (for the times) leaders and with sighters, too!  

Way back when we had no knowledge of the term "sighter."  In fact, this would remain the case for years.  When I wrote an article which appeared in FLY FISHERMAN magazine titled "Tiny Nymph Tactics"in 2001 I introduced my leader and called it a vari-colored leader.  It truly was a vari-colored leader since it not only had a bright yellow sighter but also a butt section of fluorescent clear blue Stren mono.  

Years later I engaged in a conversation with a fellow angler who happened to be from Poland.  Imagine my surprise when he informed me this technique for nymphing was developed there sometime in the mid-1970's.  I've said numerous times that if there had been some promotion/publicity back then we could just as well have called it PA nymphing.  Unfortunately, I don't receive much positive feedback when I say that.  Oh, well... 

Some people seem to get a bit upset when I state I'm not sure how to define Euro nymphing.  After all, there's Czech, Polish, French, Spanish, and who knows whatever else nymphing.  Oh, and let's not forget Pennsylvania.   I've finally settled on anything that would fall within the Fips-mouche rules for competitive fly fishing.  What seems to bother some folks is that my definition eliminates the mono rig, placing flies closer than the minimum allowed by the competition rules and...you got it...adding weight to the leader.

So, now it should be as clear as an early spring limestone-influenced stream flow - not murky, just a bit milky - why I don't like to use the term "Euro nymphing."  I could call it high-sticking, tight-lining or contact nymphing;  however, I can relate all three of those to fishing with an indicator, as well.  Yeah, sometimes I'm just downright difficult.  So, here I get to introduce to the fly fishing fraternity a new term.  Drum roll, please!  Here goes!!  I like to call it SIGHTER NYMPHING!

Today, it seems to me that many anglers come to sighter nymphing from indicator nymphing.  Logical thinking on my part since nymphing with indicators was popular a fair bit before sighter nymphing gained exposure primarily from the competitive fly fishing scene.  Obviously, this wasn't the case with me.  No such thing as indicators back when I started drifting nymphs along the stream bottom.  In fact, for many years I scoffed at using indicators.  I came up with all sorts of reasons using an indicator was bad for drifting nymphs.  Unfortunately, I hear quite a few folks who use sighters say the same thing I said all the way into the mid-90's.  That was about the time that, for me, something changed. 

In the mid-90's I got the hair brained idea that, after more than 20 years of doing it, I wanted to write a book on nymphing.  I mentioned this to one of my peers while we were attending a fly fishing show in New Jersey.  He proceeded to tell me that a prominent publisher of fly fishing books was at the show and even pointed him out to me.  I walked up to the publisher, introduced myself, explained what I would Iike to do and when the conversation ended I walked away shaking my head.  Did I just get the green light to go with this project?  It was then that reality hit me across the side of my head with it's open hand.  I didn't know nearly as much about this thing called nymph fishing to write about it with confidence based on experience.  Besides, I'd never yet fished a nymph with an indicator!!  I realized I had much to learn before I could speak with authority.  And learn I did.  In fact, I'm still learning! 

As many of my fellow fly fishers do, I have come to a point where I have chosen my equipment preferences - rods, reels, lines, leaders and flies - for specific reasons.  My approach to the nymphing game may be quite different than that of other well seasoned anglers.  And when it comes to tactics I have settled on those which I believe provide me the best advantage on the water.  I've been at this game long enough to recognize that I am required to compromise frequently to achieve a desired effect.  It's important for me to be able to justify to others, and especially myself, why I use what I use and why I do what I do.  I also recognize that improvement requires a dynamic approach.  

As I stated earlier this is all about Dave Rothrock's approach to nymphing for trout.  With the introduction now out of the way there will be four more segments to complete the series:   1) My choices for rods and reels and why;  2) My choices for lines and leaders and why;  3) My choices for flies and accessories and why, and 4) Strategies and tactics.

Hopefully, those who follow this series will learn a little about nymphing but, more importantly, I want to stimulate thought about this most fascinating facet of fly fishing.  It's how we move to improve!




10 Comentarios

  1. Great read Dave, very much looking forward to the series! Thanks for sharing all your years of experience. Tight lines Sir!

  2. Great first chapter. Now, I look forward to reading the rest of the "book."

  3. Good start, Dave, thanks. Looking forward for those articles to come.

  4. Super, I am looking forward to the rest of the story; as Paul Harvey would say. I'm at a crossroads in nymphing and really don't like it very much at this point and I've been fly fishing 25 years.

  5. Loved part 1... but when do we get to start yelling at each other? lol Keep up the great work!

  6. Thanks for writing on this topic -- looking forward to learning from you!

  7. Thank you very much for this and the following articles.
    I'm anxious to learn what I can from someone who's willing to share their knowledge.

  8. I am looking forward to the rest of your nymphing series.

  9. Dave we all did it before all those eastern european names, that is why most of us here use the term contact nymphing.

  10. Great start, can't believe someone hasn't started poking. Starting part 2 tonight. Thanks my friend I'll be studying this subject real close. So much to learn in so little ⏲️