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Nymphing in WNC

Nymphing in WNC

Thursday, 01 June 2023 18:15

You stand waist-deep in the cold waters of a WNC delayed harvest designated river downstream of your son. You are both floating a dry fly along the current, hoping for the beautiful sight of a trout to emerge and take the fly.

You watch as your son catches several in a row on the dry while you continue to come up empty. Finally, you decide to switch back to what you know better in your limited level of experience, switch to nymphing, and immediately catch a nice rainbow.

So let’s look at nymphing a little more in-depth, which includes two techniques: Indicator Nymphing or Tightline, and Euro Nymphing. 

Nymphing in Western North Carolina

When you see a trout rise up to the surface and take the fly, you relish that iconic moment; however, you know that you need to utilize nymphing techniques to consistently catch trout in WNC. 

While more than 90% of your average trout’s diet is made up of aquatic insects,  they eat the bulk of these bugs not as adults floating on the surface of the river, but rather when they’re juveniles or “nymphs” crawling or swimming around in the current. If you want to catch trout consistently, you have to fish underwater using aquatic insect imitations that sink. 

No matter what types of insects hatch, be they mayflies, caddisflies, midges, or stoneflies, they all have the same basic life cycle. All of these insects are born beneath the water, hatching from eggs among the rocks of the river bottom, where they swim and crawl around for six months to over two years in their nymphal or larval forms. 

Nymphing is the act of targeting trout by drifting fly patterns that imitate nymphs with the current below the surface. 

The one thing vital to all nymphing techniques is a good drift. No matter the method you choose, being able to match your presentation to the river’s speed is the best way to catch fish.

Although you can learn these various techniques through trial and error, to kickstart your fly fishing experience and not create bad habits over time,  consider utilizing the professional services of a fly fishing guide by contacting Turning Stone's Fly Fishing today

Indicator Nymphing in WNC

Indicator nymphing is probably the simplest and most common method of the two techniques, but it can still be tricky to accomplish. The technique employs a bobber or “strike indicator” on your leader that suspends your flies at a certain depth.

The basic idea is that you drift your rig through every likely pool, run, or riffle where a trout can hide, setting the hook whenever the indicator ticks, hesitates, or vanishes underwater.

The first step is picking an indicator to fit your fishing situation. You should pick one large enough to float the fly you have and small enough not to spook any fish from above. Also, it helps to pick a color that you can easily see, depending on the water conditions, sunlight, etc.

The depth you set for your nymph and the leader distance between your indicator and flies is critical for success with this method. Too shallow, and you aren’t reaching down into the pockets where fish hide. Too deep, and you’ll be sacrificing lots of expensive flies to the bottom. 

To get the right depth, it is best to first estimate the water depth and float the fly close to where you will fish to actually see the fly interact with the bottom. You want the fly to hover just above the bottom for the best results. 

From shore or wading, you cast an indicator nymph rig upstream and allow it to float down and past you at the speed of the current. Make sure to recover, then play out the slack line so you are almost tight to the indicator the whole time. When you see the indicator hesitate, jump or disappear, set the hook.

Tightline or Euro Nymphing in WNC

Tightline or Euro Nymphing emerged in the 1980s and proved to be incredibly effective. Tightline nymph fishing is short to medium-distance angling, with the line practically directly under the tip, out to 35 feet or so, which you hold in your outstretched arm.

You hover the nymph near the bottom in a very similar way as you would in indicator nymphing; however, the line is passing directly under the end of your fly rod alot of the time. You feel the fly hovering in the current and will actually see the sighter twitch, or feel the fish grab at the fly, at which time you need to set the hook.

The simple goal when tight line nymphing is to be able to control the depth and tempo of your fly or flies. That alone is truly what makes the technique so very deadly. Simple adjustments with your arm moving up and down for depth control or faster left to right for tempo can make all the difference.

The equipment you need for Euro nymphing includes:

1. Rod

Your rod should be at least 10-11-foot in length and be lightweight at a 1-3 weight.

2. Reel

Pair your lengthy rod with a large arbor reel that has smooth sensitive drag. Also make sure the reel balances out your rod so it keeps it light in the hand while fishing.

3. Leader

A very good leader would be twice the length of the rod you are fishing with a level line or slightly tapered down to a very thin diameter sighter. Leaders can be made out of fluorocarbon or monofilament. 

4. Weight

In the competitive fly fishing world, all of your weight has to be tied within the fly itself in the form of a tungsten bead or a lead wire weight underneath. 

Nymphing in WNC can be very challenging; however, in most cases, the two nymphing techniques discussed can yield constant, positive results. As with anything you wish to do, there is a learning curve. Trout fishing in the mountains of North Carolina offers many opportunities as well as challenges, which is what makes the sport so addictive.

If you need more information about nymphing in WNC or wish to book a guided fly fishing trip, reach out to the team at Turning Stone’s Fly Fishing today. Gordon, and his team are very high level nymph fisherman.

Written by:

Gordon began fly fishing as a teenager in southwestern Pennsylvania, where he was raised. He has snagged great catches from as far away as Nevada, California, and Belize. However, he and his wife decided to settle in western North Carolina, where they started Turning Stones. Gordon is a Certified Casting Instructor for the Federation of Fly Fishers and the  Southeastern Coach of the USA Youth Fly Fishing Team.