It was a strange time for me, but a happy one.
It was a bright October day on the Westfield River. I had just landed my 37th good-sized trout and had hooked over 50. I was elated.
However, things also seemed a bit strange: you see, no one else was landing fish. I could see anglers above and below me all day, and no one had a hook-up. It made me feel pretty self-conscious, so much so that I stopped fishing early
I credit my rig, honestly. I use it to Euro-nymph up stream, swing wets and streamers downstream, and also, fish dries
Most of the practical things I’ve learned about fly fishing have been from others. My rig is the byproduct of all this, and so, I in turn want to be an open book about what I do.
With my go-to rig, I’ve caught bigger and more savvy fish. The rig helped me catch recently a 19″ wild brown on a tough day. For the street-smart, big rainbows in the Swift C&R area, I’ve made some adjustments, which I share below. But, it has worked on them, too (some pics here).
For starters, know that there is much information out there about Euro-nymph style fishing. It’s easy to learn. There’s a really good post on it here for starters. And, if you’d like a thorough “how to” manual, read George Daniel’s Dynamic Nymphing.
Here’s what I like about Euro-nymphing:
- Avoids vertical drag. Water at the bottom moves very slowly, due to friction with rocks and dirt. Water at the top moves faster. So, very quickly, an indicator will create drag, pulling the nymph at the bottom at an unnatural pace. Anything that doesn’t float naturally will give trout the willies, particularly in the C&R area of the Swift.
- More hook-ups. A bobber actually breaks up the tension in the line and will lower hook-ups. I don’t remember the video study, but somebody had under-water cameras and showed how many strikes fly fishing guides missed when fishing with a bobber.
- Saves time–no floating indicators. There are no bobbers to adjust, take on/off, and there’s no ensuing crimp on the leader. No adjusting for depth with New Zealand wool indicators. So, I fish more.
- Saves more time–no split shot. I don’t mess around with weights. I hated how shots weaken tippets with crimping, and the time spent adjusting the split shot. The weights also often tangled with my net or the fish. Ugh.
After some trial and error, here is my rig:
Here are my set-ups:
- If the water is shallow, I attach a lightly-weighted nymph as the anchor fly in a tandem. To its hook, I add some tippet and attach a smaller nymph 8″ to 12″ back. I’ve found that in the quieter and shallow parts of the Swift, it’s all about stealth. I don’t use flies with much weight, as a “splash” puts trout on high alert.
- If the water is deep, like at the Y-Pool or my favorite parts of the Millers and the Westfield, I attach a heavy tungsten bead nymph to the end point as an anchor fly. 22″ above, I add a 6″ to 8″ tag via a triple surgeon’s knot, to which I add a smaller nymph. It’s usually a 5x or 6x tag, but I will use lighter tippet when needed at the Swift. This set-up lets me fish two levels in the water column.
Here are my flies:
- Anchor flies. I tie some derivations of Pheasant Tails and Hare’s Ears. Both patterns mimic a lot of bugs, and so, they’re all-around solid flies. “Match the hatch” is over-hyped, IMO.
- Trailing flies. If there’s a hatch brewing, my 2nd fly can be a wet fly or emerger–and, I’ll swing them at the end of the drift. If there’s no hatch, I’ll use: a nymph that should be in the water (e.g., it’s stonefly season right now), an unweighted and small streamer, an Antron egg, a scud, a soft hackle, or something weird. As I’ve written in the past, Swift ‘bows in the winter are vulnerable to small midges, sizes #28 to #32.
When I run into a situation for a dry fly, I just clip off the tag. I grease my leader and indicator and fish on the surface. I add some light tippet, if needed. It isn’t the most elegant way to fish dries, but it works
Then, when I’m ready to go sub-surface again, I just tie on another tag. And, I’m ready to roll, either with dead-drifting up stream and/or swinging flies downstream.
I hate changing leaders on the river, and I’ve found this rig works in just about every situation. I want to max out my time fishing and not fiddling with rigs.
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Good luck, and see you at the Swift!