Nymphing The Honey Pot Spots
Two time rivers National Champion and England International Terry Phillips reveals his nymphing tactics which he has developed over the last decade on rivers across the UK.
I’d taken the day off work to go for a 9am job interview. I was pretty relaxed about it as I’d just joined a fishing club and the plan was to spend the rest of the day exploring the club’s water so I was full of expectation regardless of the outcome of the initial formalities. By 9.45am the suit, tie and freshly-polished shoes were slung in the boot of the car and replaced by Camo and Khaki and I was on my way. I don’t remember much about the motorway journey down to the club’s water, but I can still recall the feeling I had stepping onto the river bank that day. The sun was shining, the river was a nice height, the water sparkled, bird song could be heard and I had the place to myself.
First Time Czech Nymphing
I’m not sure why the memory is so vivid. Hobbies such as fly fishing do this to us from time to time. Sometimes all it takes is a brief moment in time where other times it’s a memorable day or trip away which can be recalled with great fondness for years to come. On this occasion I think it was due to the anticipation of trying Czech Nymphing for the first time. I’d read about it, in fact I’d consumed a couple of books and as much online information as Google’s servers could find. I was now a theoretical expert. I set up my 9ft 5-wt Sage XP with a floating line to which I tied a six-inch section of orange fly line backing and to that a 7ft leader with two tungsten bead flies; a Red Tag and a Flashback PTN. Both flies were tied on size 10 Kamasan B175 hooks with the barbs crushed down. The river was ten metres away from the car park and the first pool I got to was a photo-fit of those I’d been reading so much about. It had fast, broken water at the head pushing into a three-foot deep pool with a gravely bottom and what I’d identified as the magical “crease” where I was promised the fish would be queued up (if the authors of the books were to be trusted!).
I plopped the flies as close to the crease as I could and tracked them downstream, just as the flies past below my position the rod tip jerked and somehow I’d hooked a fish…
A Decade Of Nymphing
I plopped the flies as close to the crease as I could and tracked them downstream. Just as the flies passed below my position the rod tip jerked and somehow I’d hooked a fish, not just any fish but a specimen grayling measuring just over 50cm which was quickly returned back to the tea-stained depths. Some 30 minutes later and the same thing happened in an adjacent pool and yet again I found myself cradling a 50cm-plus grayling. “This is easy, is it always like this?” I thought. I have since discovered it isn’t, but that 30-minute spell started a decade-plus-long love affair with nymph fishing that has cost me a fortune! We’ve been through good times and bad, sometimes I wonder whether it is all worth it or if I’ll ever fully understand it, but like most things in life you get out of it what you put in.
Some 12 years on from that day and the rods, reels and lines have been updated, techniques moved on, knowledge increased, and fly boxes quadrupled in population, but the feeling of hooking a fish on a nymph hasn’t changed. For many anglers the sight of a fish taking a dry fly is the ultimate satisfaction, for me it’s the nymph that rules supreme.
As nice a rod as that Sage XP was it had its limitations. Modern nymph anglers will likely be using rods between 10 and 11½ ft in length designed for 2- to 4-wt lines although many of them never see a fly line through their rings due to the adoption of long monofilament or braid leaders which are now common place. On several occasions I’ve experienced the difference that using light leaders can make when targeting pressured fish and for that reason I tend to use 10ft 2-wt rods manufactured by Maxia or JMC. These rods are light with soft tips, ideal for protecting light tippets. A lightweight reel with a good drag such as the Speedster 1.5 from Waterworks Lamson balances the outfit nicely when filled with enough backing line to backfill a Soldarini 0.55mm Nymph Line, to which I attach a 12ft Camou Leader, 1ft indicator section made from Rio Two Tone and a 7½ft leader with one or two droppers fixed 50cm apart. The tippet material is generally varied depending on water conditions, fish size and angling pressure. I tend to use the finest leader and hooks that I can get away with so quality products are essential; tippet material from Stroft, Trouthunter, or Fulling Mill are a good starting point, and hooks from Castor, Demmon, Hanak, Tiemco, and Fasna are good choices for those of you that tie. It’s important to have your favourite flies tied in a variety of weights to suit different water heights. My fly boxes range from unweighted Pheasant Tails to two-gram Caddis patterns with everything in between. A simple change in weight of fly can often bring instant results. This said, there are two factors, which I feel, are more important than any tackle; fish location and fly presentation. To demonstrate this I was joined by the editor on the River Dee at Llangollen.