Egads, I can't believe there's been this much time passed since my last piece.  So much for getting out on the water and actually fishing - and some serious procrastination - getting in the way of my writing!  And, yes, I've had some really good days on the stream when the water was cool!

Now that I've covered most of what goes into my nymphing game in the previous segments it's time to apply it to real world fishing.  And, just maybe, it starts where you may not expect it.

First things first and that has me make sure that before I leave the house I have everything I may need to meet the conditions I'll encounter.  Yeah, I usually pack a few rods and I always take both reels.  It's not unusual for me to put whichever reel I won't be using to start in a vest pocket.  If conditions change while I'm on the water I can always switch if I so choose.  Versatility, remember!  

When I arrive at the stream the first order is deciding what rig or system I'll fish.  What factors play in the decision making process?  The most important is wind.  I can get by with a sighter system if there's only a light breeze.  It doesn't take much wind to push on my exposed leader to the point where it can move my fly/flies right out of the drift lane.  Too, wind  can inhibit my ability to detect any abnormality in drift which includes a trout's take. This is especially true if I'm going to be fishing fairly shallow water and using little weight.  

Another factor I consider is whether I can cover most of the water with short casts and reposition with minimal difficulty as I move upstream.  We all know that presenting flies with a sighter system is a short line game.  There's this "thing" I call my personal mobility factor.  I'm old and I'm also a very conservative wader.  Actually, I've always been a very conservative wader.  You could even say I've been a wuss for wading for years.  I'm not afraid to admit it.  If I get into the water and can't move around easily - and safely - the short game won't serve me well.

So, what are some of the benefits of fishing a sighter system?  First, there are only 2 anchor control points:  rod tip and weight.  You may notice I didn't say flies.  I'll get to this shortly.  Too, I can control angle of drift in the water column which allows me to vary slightly the level at which my upper fly is moving.  Combine this with varying the distance between my bottom and top flies and I've got even more with which to work. ,Also with the exception of a New Zealand strike indicator I don't have the splash of an indicator landing on the stream surface.  Some anglers are overly concerned with an indicator spooking trout and this just isn't always the case;  however, using a sighter can give some of us a little more peace of mind.  Finally, there may be a little more sensitivity associated with a sighter system.  After all, a sighter is only an indicator.  This all adds up to having a bit more control when presenting and drifting nymphs using a sighter system.  As much as I don't like to admit it this is my preferred nymphing system.


So, what about indicators?  Well, first off, with an indicator system we have 3 anchor control points:  rod tip, indicator and weight.  Some fly fishers feel there is loss of control with the indicator - and, to a limited degree, it's true.  However, I believe I can control (to a point) from rod tip to indicator and I can plan for acceptable drift from indicator to weight.  The only thing I can't control is the angle of drift from indicator to weight and I can live with that.  

An indicator riding on the stream surface is gripped by the surface film.  There have been times when I've used a thingamabobber and when I've lifted the indicator off the surface there was resistance - actually, a lot of resistance.  The surface film didn't want to give it up.  Now think about that pesky wind trying to push on line or leader.  The surface film's grip on the indicator will hold it in place and I can get the drift I need.  As for the thingamabobber...well, sometimes I felt it was "stuck" in the surface film to the point that it impeded my ability to set the hook quickly.  Good enough reason for me not to use them.

What about fly selection?  For me it's something I don't do until I'm at the water.  I'm not one to choose my flies and tie them to my tippet before I make my way to the stream.  Since I'm going to use flies to suggest the naturals prevalent at the time I don't want to be surprised to see something going on I didn't expect.  Also, Picking up some stream rocks and examining the critters clinging to them can give me a handle on what the trout may be feeding on in real time.  Besides, I'm intrugued by bugs!

Once I've determined what I'm going to use fly-wise it's time to take a minute to check out the water to determine my strategy from presentation through the drift.    Always cover the water nearest to you and that means don't put yourself in the water you should fish first.  There needs to be a method to our casting madness.  I'm always looking for pockets, depressions, deeper cuts in the channel's flow.  Some of the indicators are obvious, others are more subtle.  It can be a matter of seeing the substrate clearly in more shallow areas.  In other areas it's a matter of recognizing the change in the color of the flow indicating increased depth. 

Identifying changes in current speed is a key factor in determining where to drift my nymphs.  Some current seams are obvious and others are subtle.  Substrate and stream bank are two of the major players in contributing direction of flow as well as speed.  Keep in mind, too, that it's not only surface flow that changes it's also subsurface.  And we'd be absolutely, majorly (is this a legitimate word?) surprised to see how crazy different subsurface currents can be in contrast to what we see on the surface.

Current speed and depth are the critical factors in determining how much weight to use.  Since I use unweighted flies most of the time I have a pretty good idea of how much weight I need to get my flies down where I want them.  It's quick and easy for me to change weight as depth and flow rates vary - and vary they do!

When we consider the water to be fished we need to recognize we fish from the rod tip.  For me that means I can plan on effectively fishing at about 12 feet (roughly the length of my rod and outstreached arm) beyond - that's directly across the stream - from where I'm standing before I find myself casting across multiple currents.  And this is something I do my best to avoid.  Why?  Because I do not want my leader crossing multiple subsurface currents.  Let's keep in mind fishing a fly along the stream bottom is a three dimensional thing unlike drifting a surface fly which is two dimensional.  It's a matter of avoiding drag.  When I present my flies I cast upcurrent to ensure that everything lands in the same current through which I want my flies to drift.  This is my targeted area of drift and, just like when I shoot a firearm, I always choose my target before I execute my cast.  All of this pertains to whether I'm fishing a sighter or indicator system.  

My desire is that with every presentation my fly and leader is aligned in the same current.  O.K., so I admit I'm not perfect and it doesn't happen every time ... but I'm working on it!  My experience has revealed that when we present a nymph with weight either in the fly or on the tippet in a manner that has tippet angled cross current through the water column the flies will drag through the varying currents and the odds of achieving a drag-free drift are at best greatly diminished. Aligning flies and tippet to land in the same current usually eliminates this problem. 


A bit of experience fishing a sighter system reveals the fact that there's a fine line between keeping tight to weight without impacting drift and pulling or lifting flies out of the drift.  Here's where it's possible to effectively fish an indicator system at distances greater than a sighter system.  I mentioned earlier that an indicator acts as a form of an anchor to hold in place in the surface film.  This provides a benefit with regard to inhibiting the effects of keeping a high rod tip position and subsequently  allowing the angler to keep a good amount of leader and line off the water.  This holds true for both more direct upstream presentations and across current presentations.  The benefit in upstream presentations is fairly obvious;  however, the effectiveness of across current presentations needs some more explaining.  

I'd bet the majority of anglers envision all presentation as straight line casts from rod tip to end of tippet.  If this be true then we'd be casting and presenting across - and through -  varying currents from indicator to flies.  We do this and the benefit of keeping everything off the water from indicator to rod tip is out the window.  So, the question is:  how do we execute a cross current cast and have the indicator, tippet and flies land in the same current?  It can be done!!  And, surprisingly, it's not that difficult.  Hey, if I can do it...you know where I'm going with this.

Casting weight is a lot different than casting only an unweighted fly.  Interestingly, this actually works to an angler's benefit when casting an indicator system.  When executing an overpowered side arm cast with the rod parallel to or angled slightly upward to the stream surface and checking the cast abruptly the angler can force the tippet and weight (that's from indicator to weight) to create a sharp angle with the indicator being the point of intersection thus allowing the indicator, tippet and weight to settle on/in the same current.  By having presented the flies this way the only part of the system that has actually crossed any of the currents from rod tip to indicator is the leader and possibly some fly line.  By keeping the rod tip high as well as reaching out as far as possible you may be surprised to see how much line can be held off the surface currents that might otherwise impact our drift.  A bit of experimentation will reveal how far across the stream you can present without having anything from rod tip to indicator on the water.

For larger streams or stream sections which don't allow ease of mobility longer casts still allow for presenting flies at distance.  It helps to take a good hard look at surface currents to determine best line placement for the initial presentation.  Once flies are in the water we have to rely on the indicator to provide feedback and mend periodically to achieve the longest effective drift.  The best mend is one that doesn't impact the indicator's drift;  however, if the impact is minimal don't be afraid to allow the drift to continue.  One way of looking at this is to envision how we might mend to prolong the drift of a dry fly.  Sometimes we mend and see no impact on the fly's drift.  If mending causes the surface fly to move but it doesn't result in the fly sinking it's customary to let the fly continue to drift until drag pulls it under.  

Here's another fact regarding drifting nymphs with an indicator system.  Depending on conditions it is possible to achieve significantly longer drifts if an angler learns how to introduce controlled slack for the greatest advantage.  I won't give you any examples to support this statement because I'm sure there are those who wouldn't believe me.  Enough said.

Obviously, the vast majority of time I want to have my bottom fly drifting right along the stream substrate.  So, how much weight do I use?  Well I'm not one to say I use a particular size bead.  In fact, when I ask another angler how much weight they're using and they respond with bead size I'm as uninformed as before they uttered their first sound.  To me, weight is not size and size is not weight!!


The vast majority of my nymphing is with a drop-shot system.     When drop-shotting and those infrequent times I put a shot on my tippet a few inches above my fly I'm using split shot.  As I stated in earlier in this series I know how much each shot weighs.  O.k., that's fine and dandy but how do I determine how much weight to use for the first cast?  Well, that depends on current speed and depth.  Obviously, faster and/or deeper requires more weight than shallower and/or slower.  That's a no-brainer.  Over the years I've come to the point that I can be pretty much right on right away;  however, if I'm not quite sure I always start out on the light side.  It only takes a couple/few drifts to know if I'm good or if I have to add more weight.

All of the above brings us to actually fishing.  I knew we'd get here at some point in time.  Ain't it great??  I related earlier what I look for to determine where to drift my flies.  Really, it comes down to imagining where trout might be holding.  From there I plot my presentation to have my flies drift through the area I've targeted.  It's a matter of determining where my flies should enter the water column and at what angle to ensure their quick descent. 

While weight gets flies down we can't ignore the effects of the leader tippet on fly descent.  With leader landing on the water parallel to the surface descent is inhibited.  The longer it takes the flies to get down to depth the shorter the effective drift length.  There is good reason for saying the flies should always land first.  This has the tippet coming down to the water at an angle which allows for the flies to descend quicker.  One of the best casts to achieve this is the tuck cast.  The steeper the tuck the less impact on the descent through the water column.  Once you get the tuck cast down you find that you can back off a bit on the amount of weight needed to get the flies to depth.

Well, there we have it.  Now it's time to take all of this, put it together and go fishing.  The more we do the better we become.  We become better at determining where trout hold.  We become better at presenting our flies more accurately and we become better at recognizing takes.  And all of this means we get to admire more trout as they're brought to hand! 





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