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Nymphing Without an Indicator – 8 Tips

Posted on February 19 2015

Nymphing for Trout
Look Ma, no indicator.. Photo: Ben West.

Last month we ran a post on the advantages of nymphing without an indicator. Judging by the number of comments we received, we’re happy to report that nymphing without an indicator is a popular topic! Therefore, today we’re coming at you with a follow up post on how to increase your success when fishing without the indicator.

It’s important to note that when we talk about ‘nymphing,’ we’re generally referring to fishing larger flesh flies or egg patterns. Why? Because in our neck of the woods, big trout love big flies!  However, aside from general rigging techniques, most of the tips below can be adapted to fit your home waters as well.

8 Tips for Nymphing Without an Indicator

  1. Lead Your Fly Line. After you have made your cast and mend to provide a drag free drift, position your rod so the rod tip slightly leads the fly line throughout the drift. Doing so results in minimal slack in the fly line and allows for the take to be quickly detected by the rod tip.
  2. Stay Connected. Similar to leading the fly line, proper line management is important when nymphing without an indicator to ensure as little slack as possible. The more slack in the fly line, the more delayed (if at all) the strike will be felt, and the longer it will take to set the hook. Concentrating on staying ‘connected’ to your fly is the key to nymphing without an indicator.
  3. Fish as Short a Line as Possible. Staying connected to your fly is a lot easier said than done. However, as a general rule, fishing as short a line as possible without affecting the drift of your fly will allow you to stay in touch with your fly at all times.
  4. Keep as Much Fly Line off the Surface As Possible. When fishing in close, ‘high sticking’ your fly line off of the surface of the water can be an extremely effective technique. Doing so lifts excess fly line off the water that could otherwise hinder a drag-free drift. However, not all fish are caught within ‘high sticking’ range. Nonetheless, keeping your rod tip elevated throughout the drift can still help to remove slack, provide less line on the water to adversely affect the drift of the fly, and help detect strikes quicker.
  5. Watch For Ques. If there was ever a disadvantage to using an indicator, it would be that the angler often experiences tunnel vision, focusing only on the movement of the indicator. There are many other ques that can indicate a fish has taken the fly. A slight curl of the fly line, a flash in the water, or even a visual take of the fish eating the fly are all ques that can indicate an eat. Concentrate on watching your fly as long as possible before looking for other ques. After all, what’s a better strike indicator than the fly itself!?
  6. Use a Highly Visible Fly Line. Using a highly visible fly line can be a great advantage, particularly in changing light conditions. The tip of the fly line can act similar to a conventional strike indicator, but only if you can see it. Some fly line companies have created specific ‘nymphing’ fly lines with a fluorescent colored tip for exactly this purpose. Some anglers even color the tip of the fly line and/or butt section of the leader with a bright paint or marker to aid in strike detection as well.
  7. Set on Anything. As always when nymphing, setting the hook on anything suspicious will inevitably lead to more fish. This is even more true when fishing without an indicator as there are more ques to look for to indicate a strike. Set the hook on any flash, subtle movement on the fly line, twitch of the rod tip, or any other sixth sense that just felt fishy. After all, hook sets are free, right!?
  8. Keep Your Fly in the Water. Although removing slack for better strike detection is extremely important, don’t be afraid to feed slack out in order to continue a drag free drift, particularly when fishing from a boat. Although you may be ‘out of touch’ from your fly for a brief period, you are far more likely to catch fish by keeping your fly in the water than re-casting. From our experience more fish are caught in the water than the air.

More on Nymphing

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