If we’re going to catch any trout in the next 12 weeks or so, chances are, we’re going to catch them with nymphs.
Trout aren’t inclined to chase baitfish imitations when the water temperature’s in the 30s, and there are few, if any, flies hatching at the surface for them to rise to, so nymphs it is, fished down deep.
I’ve always found nymphing kind of daunting. It takes place out of sight; you don’t know where the fish are and only have a vague idea where your fly is. For me, fishing at or near the surface to rising trout is much easier, since you can plainly see where the fish are.
But January anglers don’t have the option of waiting for a rise — and neither do competition anglers. Even during the warmer months, when fly-fishing tournaments are held, there’s no guarantee that anything will be happening at the surface, and yet fish must be caught.
So nymphs it is then, too. If anyone knows how to catch fish on nymphs, it’s a competition angler.
Now, one of them has written one of the best fly-fishing how-to books in a long time. “Dynamic Nymphing: Tactics, Techniques and Flies from Around the World” by George Daniel is a thorough and beautifully illustrated guide to the nymph fishing techniques that win world championships.
Daniel competed alongside the best competition trout anglers in the world in five tournaments between 2006 and 2010. He’s also coached the U.S. youth team at two world championships and participated in numerous stateside competitions.
Daniel expertly describes tight-line nymphing, which employs no strike indicator and is mostly what the Czech, Polish and French competition anglers use, and suspension nymphing, where the fly dangles below a strike indicator or buoyant dry fly. And he makes clear the importance of switching between methods when necessary.
“The most effective nymph fly fishers I know are prepared to use a wide range of tactics depending on stream conditions,” Daniel writes, recalling how at a championship in New Zealand, Czech and French anglers “abandoned their tight-line techniques in favor of the dry-and-dropper technique popularized here in the states,” because that’s what was working.
Some of Daniel’s advice isn’t obvious, but makes perfect sense.
For example: When fishing in high-water conditions, my first instinct would be to use my heaviest flies in hopes of sinking quickly through all that water. Daniel, however, recommends “use lightly weighted nymphs, as the fish will be holding tight to the bank, where there’s little current and the water is relatively shallow. The biggest mistake anglers make while fishing such conditions is using too much weight. You’re not fishing the high water yourself; you’re fishing the shallow water near the bank.”
“Dynamic Nymphing” includes an interesting and useful explanation of the curly Q, a short length of coiled, colored monofilament that serves as a sensitive and unobtrusive strike indicator. This tackle is not common in the United States and is a good example of the kind of thing Daniel picked up in tournaments overseas.
Daniel values simplicity in fly selection, which is music to my tenkara-fishing ears.
“Fishing simple patterns that take little time to tie is common among some of the best competitive fly anglers,” he writes.
The writing is clean and engaging, the photos are sharp and colorful, and as you would expect in a good how-to book, there’s a great selection of flies, including some from overseas that would be unfamiliar to most American anglers.
One of my favorite parts of the book is a series of full-page photos of Daniel’s own nymph boxes — organized, by the way, not as mayflies, caddis flies, etc., but rather light, medium and heavy.
“Dynamic Nymphing” is the kind of book you’ll find yourself referring to for years to come. It will help anglers catch more trout in all seasons, but will be especially helpful in January, February and March, when nymphing is the only game in town.