Good Nymph Fly Fisherman Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop- Edinburg, Virginia
I have a friend who is an especially good nymph fisherman. Whether we are fishing the Madison River for browns or the Blue Ridge Mountains for brook trout, he catches many nice trout. He does this by fishing nymphs upstream dead drift.
When watching him, I detect a common trait which is a landmark of many serious nymph anglers. That is, at some point in the last half of the drift he sets the hook on the majority of the casts. Does this mean he is getting this many strikes from trout? No, but when he is not getting a strike, he is bumping the streambottom with the nymph.
This tells me that we should all consider fishing out nymphs deeply with a natural drift.
Jeff and I have been using our Scott Switch Rods for bass fishing in the the rivers for many years. Here are a few of the great angling features the switch rods help us with. If I am wading a river where there is a solid line of trees behind me that would prevent a regular back cast with my regular, single hand, smallmouth bass rod, the switch rod easily lets me roll out long casts.
When I am fishing nymphs and streamers across fast currents the extra length of my switch rod easily helps me reach high in order to negate the fast currents before me that would rob me of depth. Also in similar situations I can use long controlled mends in order to swim my flies deeply.
Making long casts is easy with a switch rod so I can fish poppers along the far shaded banks when the river before me is too deep to wade.
Fishing Nymphs and Streamers Deeply- Murray’s Fly Shop
We have many excellent sinking head and sinking tip fly lines that are a great help in fishing our nymphs and streamers deeply along the streambottom. However, I find that in order to take full advantage of these fly lines it helps to use a Murray’s Fluorocarbon 6 foot Sinking Line Leaders. Longer leaders negate the forward sinking portions of these fly lines. They also prevent the flies from swimming as deeply as desired.
Murray’s Fly Shop
PO Box 156
121 South Main Street
Edinburg, Virginia 22824
Phone Number: 540-984-4212
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I used to make these out of lead core trolling line in many lengths from four inches to ten feet long. I whipped a loop on both ends. Today I have settled for a four foot model. By inserting these into a regular leader with a loop-to-loop connection, you can fish streamers and nymphs to extra depths. These do not work as well nor cast as well as the Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink Tip III Fly Lines but they are an inexpensive substitute.
For very small nymphs I often use natural furs right off the skin after removing the guard hairs. These furs produce flies with a very effective sheen which mimics the subdued luster of the natural nymphs. These are very easy to dub and are inexpensive.
For dry flies I like to use a very fine poly blend of dubbing material such as Fly Rite 34 on the left which I use on my Mr. Rapidan Dry Flies. This material is very fine, making it easy to dub flies as small as a size 24 with a smoothly tapered body. It is lighter than water and is does not adsorb water thus producing a high floating dry fly. This comes in many colors and is inexpensive.
For nymphs and pupa I like to dub blends of natural furs because these produce buggy looking insect bodies. Counter wrapping these bodies with gold, silver, copper or olive wire produces a neatly segmented tapered fly body. However, if you wind the same ribbing materials with a forward motion you can produce an insect body with translucent living appearance.
My Stream Thermometer is a very important part of my trout and smallmouth bass angling. For example, on mountain trout streams the first thing I do is take the stream temperature. In early March if it is much below 40 degrees I know I will catch more trout on nymphs than I will on drys. In August a mountain trout stream temperature of 68 degrees in the afternoon means the trout are not going to feed heavily. The next trip I should get there about dawn when the stream may be several degrees cooler.
A smallmouth bass trip early in the spring with a river temperature of 52 degrees tells me to fish my flies slowly along the streambottom.
These stream temperatures go on my calendar at home along with readings over the last twelve years. Checking these helps me plan future trips on where to go and what to use.
There are days when the smallmouth bass feed heavily on minnows and fishing streamers catches these fish. However, there are days when they feed mostly on natural nymphs and we catch these smallmouth bass on “artificial nymphs”. Realizing this, I decided to develop one fly to be fished as a Streamer to catch the minnow feeders as well as matching the natural nymphs which could be fished as a Nymph. I developed the Strymph drawing on Ron Kommer’s idea of using ostrich herl in the tail and Charlie Brooks concept of tying underwater flies “in the round”.
Thus the Strymph can be fished upstream dead drift and across the current in a swing nymphing method both of which match our natural nymphs.
The Strymph can easily be fished across stream with a deep swimming action which matches all of our minnows. Simply stated, there is no wrong way to fish the Murray’s Strymph, and it is equally effective for both smallmouth bass and trout.
If you are interested in learning how to tie the Murray’s Strymph, here is the tying kit or you can just purchase the tying instructions recipe sheet.
Several years ago I stopped in a fly shop in Montana which was owned by a good friend. One of his employees was an excellent fly tyer and the gentleman, who had never fished for smallmouth bass but knowing I fished for them often, pulled out several beautiful, well tied flies he called smallmouth streamers for me to see. I complimented him on the great appearance of his smallmouth streamers, some of which he had skillfully incorporated more than twenty different body parts. When we were outside in our car I turned to my son, Jeff, and said, “Those were some of the most beautiful smallmouth streamers I have ever seen, but I do not believe they will catch many fish because with all that material on them it will be next to impossible to sink them.”
Several years before this we had done extensive testing on new fly designs and found that in many cases the most sparsely tied nymphs and streamers caught the most bass and trout. I believe much of this success came from the facts that these flies sank well, were strongly suggestive of the natural nymphs and minnows I was striving to mimic and could easily be made to duplicate the swimming action of these naturals.
Some of our flies which fall into this classification are groups of flies in our Shenandoah Simple Streamer series for both bass and trout, the Mr. Rapidan Soft Hackle series for both bass and trout, many of flies (although they are drys) in my “Change of Pace” trout series, the Murray’s Marauders, the Murray’s Floating Minnows and the Murray’s Strymphs.
The outstanding book, Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle shows how to tie and fish fifty two flies for trout, bass and in saltwater. If you are considering tying some new flies for your personal use I believe using the simple approach I have used in many of my flies and those Morgan Lyle discusses in his great book will help you catch many fish.
Fly Tying Tip: Need dubbing material for fly tying? Blend your own custom colored dubbing to meet your fly tying needs.
I am a great believer in blending my dubbing materials for dry flies and nymphs. For example, when I first developed the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly, about thirty years ago, I wanted it to have a body color which matched that of the Epeorus pleuralis adult mayfly. There was no dubbing material, either synthetic or natural fur, which matched this insect so I had to blend my own dubbing to get the mottled tannish-yellowish-olive body of the real mayfly. After much blending with various colors I camp up with the perfect mixture.
You can easily blend natural furs and fine diameter synthetics in order to get the exact color you desire. I especially like Australian Opossum, Mink, Beaver, Muskrat, Hare’s Ear and very fine synthetics. If you are tying nymphs leave some of the guard hairs in the natural furs, if your fly tying calls for dry flies remove most of the guard hairs. If I am tying only a few flies I will often blend the materials with two fine tooth combs. If I am tying a large number of flies I use a food blender or coffee grinder to mix the furs after wiping it down well with a fabric softener sheet to lessen static buildup. Next week I cover dying fly tying materials.
When I teach my winter fly tying classes, the beginning fly tyers are amazed how quickly they learn to tie great deer hair bass bugs. I teach this with two simple rules, (1) Be sure to clean out all of the short hair and fuzz from each pinch of deer hair before you tie it on and (2) Keep a bare hook shank ahead of each pinch of deer hair you tie on.
This two hour class will teach you how to tie drys, nymphs, streamers and deer hair bass bugs. We do not supply the materials, you can purchase a fly tying kit from us or watch!
Here is how you can easily solve the dilemma of trout nymph fishing. On a day when you have caught several dozen trout on dry flies you know they are feeding well. Now, replace the dry fly with a nymph and continue fishing the same sections of the pools. If you do not continue catching as many trout as you did with dry’s the reason is very simple: You are getting strikes but not detecting them.
I find that the new Murray’s Trout Nymph leader with its special knotted taper and two Scientific Anglers Indicators spaced along it is a great help in discerning the strikes.
As the nymph drifts naturally along the stream bottom be sure to retrieve the line with long line hand strips. Short pulls mask the strike. When you see the strike set the hook quickly with both the line hand and the rod.