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nymphing and other lessons

A place to discuss techniques and rigging options for use in "non-mountain stream" areas such as lakes and warm-water areas, as well as non-traditional tenkara techniques such as nymphing.

nymphing and other lessons

Postby mikeywill » Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:59 pm

the past sunday, a few members of the tenkara anglers of northern california and nevada were fortunate enough to be joined by expert fly tier, nymphing specialist, and all around good guy, jeff smith, for a day of fishing at a norcal creek renowned for its technical fishing and a big, wary fish. it took some time, but by the end of the day, everyone had multiple hook-ups as well as at least one c&r. that is only part of the story, though.

being mainly a lowland tenkara junky, the first thing i learned was that nymphing with a tenkara rod, in this case, an amago and a yamame, requires a much shorter main line than i am use to using. 10' to 11' of line, 4' of tippet, and a few small splitshot 10" above the fly ruled the day. jeff was quick to point out that one needs to be ready to change as often as needed to be sure to keep pace with these fickle fish. as for the flies, jeff had a number of 18-22s that i was at first hesitant to try. in my mind i could not see a big fish wanting anything so tiny.

on his second cast, jeff hooked into a fish (see pic). after an epic struggle, he netted the beast. he then took out a small, turkey baster-looking device and called us around to witness as he pulled a bit of lunch from the fish’s stomach. upon squirting the contents into his hand, he began to note the size and color of what this 18"+ cutbow had been dining on. to say the least, i was amazed. i immediately sized down. i wish i could say that did it for me, but there was much more to the art of nymphing I had to learn.

jeffs piggy web.jpg


i worked hard at setting on the pause for the next few hours. i know that I missed a number of fish. at first i was setting too hard and getting caught in the trees above me. then, I began setting too lightly. after a while, and a good bit of instruction from mr. smith, i hooked into my first fish – which I proceeded to lose. at that point i quit…

not really, i was way too stoked to think about anything but getting another fish on my line. a mishap with a buddy’s rod had me switch to my yamame. probably 10 casts later, i found the drift and the set and landed a nice 12” rainbow.

i have been a spin fisherman for most of my life, and i have caught many fish of many kinds. since taking up tenkara just over a year ago, i have landed large and smallmouth bass, black crappie, bluegill and redears, shiners, and even a catfish on my yamame. i realize what some will say re: whether or not using a tenkara rod for nymphing is tenkara. to me, it is an argument that is about two sides of the same coin, and an argument for another post. the final thing i learned was simply this: few things surpass landing a trout with one of these rods.
DSCF0600 web.jpg
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Re: nymphing and other lessons

Postby TJ @ Tenkara USA » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:49 pm

Excellent post and enjoyed your pictures Mike.

Nymphing is sure effective at catching fish that are not rising to the surface. The guys from Utah loaned me a couple beaded flies and I was happy to just try them out. And yes they work at getting a fly down quickly and I started catching more fish when I used them.

Of course I am stubborn and resorted back to my non weighted flies and did catch more fish but at my slower pace but at this stage of the game using no indicators and non weighted flies most the time, I catch less fish which I am OK with.

Maybe one day when I get better at sinking non weighted flies before where the trout are, I will do better but for now it is all about me learning by touch and feel and every now and then may try a weighted fly is that spark is desired.

I may tie me a few weighted flies one day just to have some on the ready but till then, will keep trying to learn the basic techniques as best I can and enjoy my outings learning something new every day.

Sure is easier dead drifting a weight nymph fly than non weighted though. More control of the drift for sure, for me at least when I tried them. I can see why they are so tantalizing.... like a drug. hehe. :twisted: :twisted:

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Re: nymphing and other lessons

Postby mikeywill » Thu Mar 20, 2014 9:54 am

thanks tj. according to mr. smith, in the 20+ years he's been fishing that water, he could count on his fingers the number of fish he's caught in the top 1/3 of the water column. the problem at putah is the runs have been gouged out by the heavy summertime flows(fall/winter in the 100s, while summer/spring in the 800s). the water gets deep very fast, so you have to get the fly deep very fast. that turns into a tall order for a unweighted 2-5mm offering to get down.

i do here what you are saying. from my limited understanding, i gleen that putah isn't really a "tenkara" stream. some might assert that keiyru techniques would be ideal. i certainly enjoyed watching the fight an amago put up against the big rainbows jeff and trevor landed.
trevor bent web.jpg

all this is not to say an unweighted, smaller takayama sk can't catch a fish at putah. with its proximity to my house, its zero limit, and its big fish, i'm hoping to have plenty of opportunities to try when i'm there.
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Re: nymphing and other lessons

Postby TJ @ Tenkara USA » Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:19 am

I'm gonna tie me a weighted Siberian Sakasa Kebari one day.... maybe medium copper and then wrap it in thread, keeping it a reverse hackle fly, but disguised wire. I truly see how these flies are of benefit. The water in Utah was kind of like that, big deep channel and they were all staying low. I did catch some on non weighted flies but it took quite a bit of work and practice getting the fly down. I did it but need more years of working hard at it to get better. Hence me going back to non weight flies, being stubborn, working it until I get the fly down easier and faster each time, to catch those bottom dwellers. In the end it means I catch less fish today because I have a lot to learn and more practice to improve the technique. If I go too quick to weighted flies, I lose out on this important time trying to get better with non weighted flies. So I am stubborn like that and forcing myself to stick with it even though friends are catching more, sometimes.

Once I switched to weighted nymph the catching became quicker and easier. Lots of fun for sure and I have nothing against it and bottom line, it catches lotsa fish. ;)

Rock on that weighted fly. I may make one for my flybox one day. I am not really one fly... but one style really, reverse hackle. So adding a tad of weight fits my little world of fly fishing fine. I have too many pets to be one fly anyway as I grab all their hair and make flies. hehe

Now.... one thing I will never use.... clasp-on indicators or attached weights to the line, or more than one fly. That is where I drew my line. LOL.

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Re: nymphing and other lessons

Postby jd_smith » Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:26 pm

Thanks Mike! Nice report. I hope we can all get out again real soon. I know we're planning the east slope but maybe another trip in between?
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