He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” –The Hollies
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
By default I am characterised as a dry fly purist, by some. I guess there is more than a modicum of truth in that, but not in the true sense of the definition of a ‘Halfordian purist’ – I’m rather wired to dry fly fishing.
I do prefer casting dry flies any day over chucking lead, but if the dries are not attracting attention, I can’t say I won’t tie on a nymph as long as I’m catching fish. If I’m not, it begins to wear thin quite quickly. Let me clarify something here – the kind of nymph fishing I’m on about is those tied with lots of weight to dredge the bottom of the stream. I learnt how to fish these bombs by paying attention to a couple of good friends that go to them as easily as I go to dries. I once had my ‘heavy’ nymph unapologetically called a ‘wimp’ and then had a fly dumped in my hand and told, ‘THIS is a nymph’ – big tungsten bead and body pregnant with lead that in flight and a tailing loop could make concussion a reality, ok that’s pushing it, but it was seriously heavy.
Before I’m hung, drawn and quartered, I do accept that nymphing with lots of weight is effective and will sometimes get you into fish and often bigger fish than a dry can at times. Contrary to what I used to think, nymphing does take a lot of skill – I once read, you need concentration, great eyes, the ability to visualise in three dimensions and mystical patience, but on the other hand, it can be easy enough that a beginner with a little coaching and a big strike indicator can sometimes get into fish right off the bat.
I still prefer to use weight sparingly, it’s effective and its known that the fish spend most of their time feeding on nymphs, larvae, pupae and all manner of drowned bugs in the water columns. So it’s not just the depth charges that work but lightly weighted nymphs fished a few inches below the surface as emergers. Even neutral density nymphs are good, lightly greased to float in the surface film or squeezed wet to get them below the surface – sometimes behind a dry fly indicator as long as it designed to also catch fish.
My nymphs are cheaper because no expensive exotic materials are needed and they’re quicker and easy to tie than the dry flies I use. The physiognomic differences between the nymphs in our streams are insignificant and have no real application in tying a more effective fly, except size. Size can be a trigger for a feeding response although a reasonable likeness with some familiar features doesn’t hurt. What I’m saying is that there is a likeness amongst the species of nymphs in our streams, other than their size. One imitation in a variety of sizes will do the job. There is a freedom about tying nymphs – as long as it is carrot or cigar shaped, brownish, olive or black, a tail, spiky thorax with a few sparse hackle legs or teased out guard hairs and resembles with a little imagination, one of the bugs that live in the stream, you are in business.
The size difference -#12 and #28
It’s personal so before anyone plans on sending me down the plank, I’m not a fan of the currently fashionable glossy UV resin coated nymphs despite how good and part of the empirical evolutionary advancement, I’m told they are. Others will have their own ideas, but I like to think about what I’m trying to imitate and use materials that move a little – some realism and movement giving it life. Of course there is no quick fix or serendipitous road to success with fly design, but I have been able get away with a traditional Zak as the foundation, unweighted and weighted, some with wing cases, others with a flashback, a few with beads in natural colours and occasionally a subtle touch of shine or a hot spot. You can do the same with the GRHE or PTN, and that great man Frank Sawyer couldn’t have been wrong.
One nymph with variations fits all
This just about covers all you need for the little bugs that creep, crawl, and swim below the surface of our streams – realism, not exact imitation, looks and behaves like a bug …… just saying.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2016. All rights reserved