As my three-fly setup drifted across stream, I mended the line, freeing my flies from the pull of the current, and I watched the end of my leader approach the big, underwater boulder, behind which, I was sure there was a monster trout waiting. I thought back…to my introduction to nymph fishing…to the day I met an old man who was fishing nymphs, and catching fish after fish…that was forty years ago, at least…and I was trying to catch trout on a dry fly, on a cold November morning…
An old man taught me to nymph fish. I remember that the leader setup that he used, though new to me then, was traditional, borrowed from a time decades before that day. The old timer fished a “cast” of three flies at once, and all three were size 8. This “two dropper setup” was old school, even back then, but since the river we were fishing was a stone fly river, the size 8s were good stone fly imitations. He would cast across and slightly upstream, quickly and skillfully mending his line, and watching for what he described as a “twitch” that would indicate a bite, or “take”, as his flies moved down stream, drifting with the current.
The old man hooked up frequently. When I tried this technique, I could neither see nor feel the twitch. I became frustrated as he continued to catch trout, and I continued, to stumble along, fishless. I slowed down, and tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. We stopped, for lunch, and I voiced my frustrations. “Patience is a virtue”, I was told, “Rome, was not built in a day”, I was told.
As we sat down with our lunch, at the edge of the stream, our waders on, feet in the water, the old man reached over and grabbed a hand full of watercress, shook the stream water off, and put it on his ham sandwich. How cool was that! I now know that he was risking giardia, by not rinsing off his greenery in fresh water, but, at that time, I thought it was great that he could add to his lunch in such a manner!
After lunch we parted, and I secretly followed him upstream, stopping as he stopped, watching each of his casts, concentrating each time his line drifted downstream, watching him hook up and land several fish. Suddenly it dawned on me that he may not have seen each take. He might have been keying on spots where the fish should be, and just lifting his rod when his flies drifted over each fishy-looking spot. If a fish had eaten one of the flies, he set the hook. Could it be that simple?
I stepped out from behind a tree near the bank. “Aha!” I said to the startled old timer. I explained to him what I thought he was doing. “Guilty as charged,” he responded. Trout have traditional holding lies that match up with the features of each segment of a stream. Each part of a stream offers different feeding and resting areas, and an angler who knows where these areas are, can follow the old man’s example, and hook up with trout all day long!
This technique works very well, and it makes the angler using it look like an expert. Now, there must be an understanding of where the trout are, and the rigging must be correct, but if all is right, this is a very efficient way to catch trout in a stream. I’ve adopted this method, and it is a delightful way to fish a stream!
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