It’s Saturday 20 February 2016 – I hover over the computer keyboard with the welcome sound of steady rain on the patio roof and the smell of damp earth wafting in on the cool air through the open window. It’s some relief from hot, humid days and the devastating 2015/16 drought. I smile to myself and take a sip of the good 12 year old – my thoughts drift to fishing one of my favourite streams for wild trout, dry flies and the occasional nymph.
I am a dry fly addict, but not cast in the mold of Frederic Halford who advocated the exclusion of all other forms of fly fishing. Dry fly fishing isn’t stuffy or pretentious and followed by a tweed and bamboo-secret-handshake-brotherhood. Practiced rather because of the visual heart thumping appeal and neurotransmitting adrenaline rush. And, for the artistry and creativity they offer in the tying. I am a dry fly junkie that fishes nymphs – just not half as much as dries.
There is no point in arguing the fact that the bulk of the trout’s food, small aquatic insects crawl, creep and swim at the bottom of the stream. It is the place where the trout are most comfortable, which explains why nymphing is the most effective way of pursing trout.
I have had a few fishing buddies, masters at nymphing (nympho’s) – and, they’re good at it. Much of the credit for what I know about nymphing goes to them, MK from earlier days and a youngster PT who I hold in high regard, aka “Seun”. – being in their company, listening, watching and absorbing I have acquired a modicum (not their fault) of understanding of the techniques and with it some successes have come.
Standing thigh deep in the run, slightly crouched, expressionless and focused – like a heron hovering motionless over its prey, ready to strike. Graceful, with a flick of the rod he lobs the nymph upstream, his arm extended straight and parallel with the surface, he follows the drift and casts again, flip, drift, swing, occasionally he raises the rod tip and tightens the line. Every third or fourth drift the rod bucks, a fish – masters at the game.
The mechanics of nymphing maybe not too complicated or difficult, but determining a strike is another matter, considering in most cases it’s an unseen fish and unseen fly. The skill of intuition and being able to see things that aren’t immediately evident are key. As is fish sense or the ability to see what’s right there without having to sort through a whole pile of thoughts and theories. Simply put, enlightenment without complication. The strike is signaled by a hesitation, dip, jerk, bump or something like that of the indicator or as I prefer on small streams, the end of my floating line. It could even be signaled by movement, shadow or flash on the bottom. It was G. E. M. Skues who said, “that cunning brown wink underwater.” This is where it gets difficult because to separate these signals from all the inevitable refractions, winks, bumps, wiggles and dips caused by currents, surface turbulence and ticks as the fly nicks the bottom structure. I have to some extent managed to get the hang of it, there are no secrets, it just takes a while and learning to set the hook on an invisible strike, an instinctive quality, with hardly thinking. There is a moment of tightness in the dance of the leader in the current a signal that a trout has mouthed the fly.
I’m able approach the river with a nymph on the business end now feeling a little more comfortable and confident but, always in the knowledge that the streams and their trout will in their patient way, put me down when I get too cocky and PT will cock an eyebrow when I change back to a dry fly.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2016. All rights reserved