nymphing 101

What is the Strike Zone and why is it important?

lt is estimated that 80-90% of a fish’s diet is underwater. Yup, you read that right!

Picture your favorite river. Now imagine throwing on some snorkel gear and dive in. The world of a trout is much more complicated than it appears. From the surface it is often difficult to determine the currents, depth, and structures lurking beneath. ⁣

The strike zone is the area of the river where fish hang out. Trout prefer to find spots where they can obtain an easy meal without costing them a lot of energy.

Nymphing, is the term used to describe the techniques used to fly fish under the surface. You're goal is to get your flies into the strike zone, right in front of the hungry fish. If you want to be able to consistently catch them, then you’re going to need to learn to become competent at nymphing.

Nymph rigs

To review some common nymphing rigs - Click Here


Check out the helpful videos below for a brief "Big Picture" overview of nymph fishing.

key points to understand

Observe Your Surroundings: This goes for any method of fly fishing, but before you get to the water, take a moment and observe your surroundings. Look at water levels, flows, and fish/bug activity.

Nymphing is usually a “go-to” strategy if you are not seeing any surface activity. Using nymphs will consistently give you the best results. Try looking for bugs on the water’s surface, stream beds, rocks, moss, trees, and other vegetation to give you a good idea of what patterns to use.

Indicators: Put your indicator 1.5x the depth of the water you are fishing. While fishing, and moving to a new hole, you’ll need to constantly adjust your indicator to 1.5x the depth of the water. This will allow you to get your nymphs to the proper depth of the run where the fish are.

Line Control, Mending, & High-sticking: We’ve covered mending and highsticking in greater detail within the mending section, but just in case you skipped around, we’ll make this SUPER IMPORTANT POINT again (Go read the mending section!).

One huge separator between skilled fly fisherman, the ones that catch tons of fish and those who only catch a few, is mending. Because a river has many different currents, pulling at different speeds and in different directions, you’ll need to adjust your fly line (green line) above your nymphs during each drift. This will allow your nymphs to sink down to the target zone, where the fish are. It will be free flowing, natural, and enticing to hungry trout. When the fly line pulls on the nymph, it pushes it towards the water's surface in an abnormal way. Fish pick up on this immediately and are deterred. Learning how to manage your line and mend is an absolutely critical skill to learn.

Detecting Strikes: How do you distinguish between dragging bottom or getting a strike? Here are a few helpful tips...

- Are you fishing in the right strike zone? Fish are not always feeding at the bottom so make sure you are weighted to the proper depth.

- Recognize that trout tend to be less aggressive in their takes on nymphs than dry flies and streamers. They will spit them out quickly making the hook set vital.

- Watch for irregular movement by the indicator such as movement from side to side, stalling, or a forceful downward movement. With practice you’ll begin to be able to tell the subtle difference between a strike and river bottom. This tends to be more of an art than a science.

- When in doubt, set the hook! Sure you might ruin the presentation for the rest of the cast, but more times than not it will end up being a fish. Hook sets are free.