In this Tip we’re going to talk a little more about rigging up, and I’ll be sharing some of my biases about what flies to use around here. The waters available to us are indeed wonderful. Some times of the year are better than others for nymphs, versus streamers, versus dries. But on a given day we are likely to have action on any type of fly. Or the fish may seem to avoid a given type of fly! Stupid fish! One day they will be taking weighted nymphs well, and the next day in the same spot they will avoid them entirely. Watching the water will often give you a clue, and other times it’s by guess and by golly. Harken back to
Harley’s Rule of 5 and be prepared to make some changes. Joe and I have sort of an unwritten rule that we start out with whatever fly or flies we have on and however we’re rigged up. We stubbornly fish the original set up for at least a couple dozen casts, sometimes I’m sure putting down fish that are frightened by our initial presentations. We joke about this “rule”, though, because each of us has 2-3 rods rigged differently in the vehicles. On days when it’s as cold as it has been recently, it is nice not to have to start out tying a bunch of knots.
It’s a general rule of tailwater fishing that the same flies will often work year round. For nymph rigs especially, that can mean that rigging up about the same any time isn’t a bad way to start. A good typical 3-fly nymph rig is a crayfish, followed by a rock worm, followed by a dark midge. This is for the river. If fishing nymphs in flat water [of which there isn’t much around today], a hare’s ear followed by a prince nymph is a pretty good starting point. Typically 3X tippet to the top fly, and 4X below that is a good beginning. If you are breaking off a lot of fish on 4X you need to rethink how you play your fish. If you want to fish streamers, start with a dark color [something like olive] and gradually work to something lighter if needed. You can fish your sinking line any time of year; it’s my preference for streamers both in the river and in flat water. Stay alert for rising fish any time of the year. It’s pretty simple to have another rod available that is rigged with a small dry: elk hair caddis or something similar. Rigging two dries isn’t a bad idea: a half back above the caddis is a good beginning. Use 4X on your dry flies, or even something lighter. It is sometimes wise to use the “dry and a dropper” approach: size 16 caddis above an 18 or 20 midge [RS2’s are probably my favorite]. If you get frustrated by the fish not wanting your nymph or streamer rigs, it doesn’t hurt to throw dries at em. I have no idea why, but sometimes they will come up even when they aren’t feeding on the surface.
Now is probably a good time to reiterate the obvious: You are going to
catch fish on what you fish with most. If you have confidence in one fly or in one manner of fishing, that’s what is going to work for you. When I first met the aforementioned Harley Reno, he gave me a nice supply of his Streamliners [unavailable for purchase]. These streamer type flies, tied in various weights, worked for me so well that they were about all I fished with for a couple of years. I still always have several sizes in my bag, but I’ve gone back to including a variety of other flies as well. It continues to be a challenge for me to load my bag with the right flies for a particular trip. I have a couple of big bags in the barn from which I select the 5-10 boxes I carry in my chest pack on a given day. The big bags stay home. Among the places we regularly fish, I have flies that I think work better than others. But there are a few boxes that rarely stay home. Prince nymphs, rock worms, RS2’s, hot headed and regular leeches, elk hair caddis, Strreamliners, soft hackles, and half backs pretty much always go where we fish.
It looks like it’s going to be a cold one for the Polar Bear Outing this year. Looking back over the last decade or so the coldest I can recall it being when we’ve fished is minus 8. We’re over that now; when the line not only freezes in the guides, but the reels freeze solid, it’s time to head to the Sunset! Hope to see you there.