‘Sight Nymphing’

I really like Noel’s recent post about being open-minded and taking on new challenges.

One thing I’d encourage people to try is this: “sight nymph.” Fish one small fly with no split shot, putty, indicator or dry fly. It’s an approach that emphasizes many skills and focuses one’s attention on the best indicator on earth: the fish itself.

Noted tailwater guide and angler Ed Engle writes about all this in Fishing Small Flies. I think he is sight nymphing in the photo up top.

I’ve read all of his books, attended his tutorial at the last Fly Fishing Show, and am incredibly impressed with his knowledge and calm personality. He’s a guy who can talk about his expertise without appearing like a show-off, a rarity I think among the fly fishing elite.

Here’s what you do.

You sneak up on the fish. Toss a lightly-weighted non-dry fly (e.g., a Thread Midge with a glass bead) that is heavy enough to go below the surface film and does not “splash down” and spook the fish. If you see the fish turn its head or open its mouth, set the hook. You’ll only have one shot or two if the water is slow and/or clear.

This technique requires you to:

  • Spot a trout
  • Know if the fish is looking to feed or not
  • Wade with stealth
  • Make your own flies to better adjust for weight
  • Tie a strong knot
  • Cast accurately
  • Cast without spooking the fish
  • Time your hook sets
  • This technique is a low-percentage game. You’ll fail very often. But, it is supremely rewarding when it produces a fish in the net.

    It will take me decades to get good at it.


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    4 thoughts on “‘Sight Nymphing’

    1. Decades? I think you're selling yourself short! Sight nymphing is very similar to fishing small dries, if you are good at that it should only take about a year to learn sight nymphing.

    2. It helps immensely to have a buddy along who can spot fish and help call the hook set. That might not be in the spirit of what you are trying to achieve by learning this technique but I sort of like the teamwork aspect when conditions warrant.

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