Nymph Fishing for Light Biters
I know this is something of a repeat of some info in past tips but this technique has been on my mind, probably since it has been working well for me lately and I so rarely see others using it out on the water.
Strike indicators are one of the bigger innovations in fly fishing in the last 30 years. However, I'm convinced that most anglers miss more strikes than they hook, often without even knowing there was a strike, when nymph fishing with an indicator. If you watch fish eat nymphs, especially in moderate to fast current, they often slide backwards with the current for a short distance as they eat the bug. In this situation, a fish eating your nymph won't even budge the indicator, or will barely do so. The best way to hook more of these fish is to remove the indicator and use a short line technique, like Polish nymphing to feel the strike. Here are a few tips to learning and perfecting this technique.
Polish or Czech nymphing, which is basically the same thing, has been around for a long time in one form or another but has gained notoriety in the last 25 years or so because of its effectiveness in European tournament fishing. It sounds exotic but it's really simple and this is probably the very best technique for catching light biting trout, grayling, and whitefish in moderate to fast currents with depths between 1 and 6 feet or so.
This technique starts with a rig with 2 or 3 weighted nymphs, usually the heaviest on the end of the leader and the other(s) tied off of dropper lines at intervals around 20 inches or so going up the leader. I really like to use size 8, 10, and 12 Jumbo Johns and size 10 and 12 Wired Prince Nymphs as my heavy fly on the end and then any of several smaller lighter nymphs off the dropper(s). Any heavy tungsten beaded nymph with some extra weight on the body can work for the heavy fly and pick nymphs that more closely match the bugs in the stream you're fishing for the other nymphs.
The tricks to effective Polish nymphing are to use the right weight flies for the current you are fishing and to learn to move the flies exactly with or just slightly faster than the current. I like to use a long and light fly rod, like a 9 or 10 foot 4 weight, for greater reach and to guide the flies through moderate to fast runs with a sweeping motion keeping the rod a few feet above the water's surface. This takes some practice but when you get it down the strikes are usually very noticeable. Set the hook by more quickly and forcefully continuing the sweep of the rod downstream and up. This usually sets the hook back into the fish rather than pulling it from the open mouth of the fish.
Practice this technique the next time you have good water for it and suspect that you might be missing strikes on your nymphs.