‘Naked Nymphing’ at the Swift River

When I started down the Fly Fishing Rabbit Hole in 2014, like many others, I cut my teeth at the Swift River, particularly the more obvious spots like the Y Pool and the Hatchery Pipe areas (our river guides on the Swift here, here, and here).

It was fun to learn indicator nymphing and dries.

As I got more accustomed (and, therefore, more bored), I started to play around with other approaches. One of them was “naked nymphing” (prior post and a video here). It let me target different water with a new technique that the fish normally don’t see. I then also could approach the fish with a new angle at some areas.

I did so because of this adage: at pressured waters, fish the spots that others bypass, throw flies that others don’t, and use techniques rarely deployed.

I’ve found naked nymphing to be extremely challenging but rewarding. The fish are very open to taking a small nymph sub-surface, as long as you keep your distance, and they won’t be that pattern-specific. So, this approach emphasizes technique as opposed to fly selection.

In the comments for a prior post, fellow blogger Ashu Rao and I mentioned what we do. I’ve copied and pasted our thoughts below, in case they would be helpful to you.

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From me:

Andrew, I’m not an expert, but here’s what I do for this technique at the Swift:

    • I target slow water at which I can spot the trout.
    • Set up: one fly, no bobber, no or minimal weight. I want no splashes.
    • Find an active fish. Slowly wade below it and slowly creep up towards it. When I’m in casting distance, I throw the fly above the fish and to the side. Often, it’s a bow-and-arrow cast.
    • I wait for the fish to slide over and take the fly. As Ed Engle told me: the best strike indicator is the fish itself. Once I think the fish has taken the fly, I strip-set.

I’ve done this technique both with my Helios 2 #4 and regular fly line, as well as with my #2 Syndicate Euronymphing rod and an all-mono rig (you grease the sighter to “float the sighter“). Definitely not an easy technique. You usually have only one shot at the fish. But, it’s fun to stalk and sight-cast to a trout!

From Ashu:

The stretch above Route 9 is fairly conducive to naked nymphing as there are long flat expanses with fairly even current. With a proper calm and collected approach, you can approach the fish pretty closely as they are used to people at the Swift. Bear in mind that they will get lock jaw or slide away if you aren’t careful. Present a fly as Jo said and wait for the take. The fish will slide over to take a fly and you will often see the white of the mouth before your sighter or leader registers anything. Happy hunting! There is nothing quite like it, I’ve found.


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2 thoughts on “‘Naked Nymphing’ at the Swift River

  1. Excellent hints. I’ve done similarly with soft hackles for quite a few years on the Swift to much success and satisfaction. Also, with little to no weight for #14-20s, especially for Partridge & Orange. You know, you’ve seen me do this. The big difference is that I usually approach a fish from upstream. When I spot a fish holding downstream, I make a gentle cast so the fly swings by the face of the trout, and wait to see the head turn or the mouth open, pause one heart-beat and set the hook. Fish on! But the technique does work from behind the holding fish. Caught many this way, too. Just depends. For example, one fall morning I stepped into the Swift on that path between the Y-Pool and the footbridge. I looked at the water to the right, then left and saw a pair of ready-to-spawn browns hugging the bank about 20 feet upstream. I cast the P&O so it landed 2 feet above the fish and to right. The male on the right turned its head to the right. I set the hook and fish on! It ran upstream then downstream, then into my net. After I released it, it swam downstream. I looked upstream and the female was still holding in the same spot. I cast again and fish on! I’m sure those two got back together and made their redd further up the Bubblier Brook….And congrats on the total views!

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