5 Tips for Indicator Nymphing

Indicator nymphing is a very popular and effective fly fishing technique. Your rig consists of a nymph, small streamer, or wet fly fished under a floating indicator. The indicator can be plastic, foam, or yarn. Personally I like the round casting bubble style indicators. Indicator fishing excels at presenting flies in deep pools or at longer distances and is hands down the quickest and easiest way for a beginner to catch fish. Here are 5 tips to increase your catch rate.


5. Reduce Indicator DragTrout

The number one killer for beginning fly fishermen is drag, which is caused when your line, leader, or indicator are traveling at a different speed than the fly. This causes the fly to move unnaturally in the current and significantly reduces your odds of fooling a trout. When indicator nymphing the drag issue is two fold. First, is the indicator dragging the flies? Current is generally faster at the surface and slower near the bottom. Because of this the indicator will tend to move faster than the flies and can drag them down current. If your flies and indicator land in the same location on the cast, usually indicator drag is not a problem. But many times your flies will land upstream of the indicator, and you will likely experience drag on the flies. If this happens simply mend the line to slow the drift of the indicator momentarily, allowing the flies to catch up.


4. Reduce Line RainbowDrag

This brings us to the second drag issue facing anglers, line drag. The line between your rod tip and the indicator can cause drag, slowing or increasing the drift of your indicator. There are two solutions to this problem. The first is to mend your line so that it is not dragging the indicator. If your line is laying across slow current, but your indicator is in fast current, you will end up with an upstream “belly”, where your line is upstream of the indicator and slowing its drift. Simply mend the line downstream of the indicator, allowing it to now drift freely. The second solution is much easier, just don’t put any line on the water. If you keep your casts short you can hold your fly line up, off of the water. Using a longer 9′ or 10′ rod helps, as well. If there is no line on the water, there can be no drag from conflicting currents.


3. Proper Leader Length

There are two things to remember when determining the length of leader between the indicator and the fly. First, you want the flies to be drifting just above the bottom. Secondly, you need to be able to detect strikes. While leaving 8′ of leader in 2′ of water will guarantee that your flies reach the bottom, you probably will never know if your get a strike. On the flip side, if you have 2′ of leader in 8′ of water you will likely detect every strike, but your flies will never get down to the fish. The general rule is to set your indicator at about 1.5 to 2x the depth of the water. For example, in a fast riffle that is 4′ deep, set your indicator about 7-8′ above the flies. In a slow riffle that is 4′ deep, you probably want to set your indicator at 6′ above the flies. Remember that this is just a starting point. If you end up with your flies caught on the bottom ever cast adjust your indicator closer to the flies. If you never hit the bottom, adjust it farther away.

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2. Two flies

It doesn’t take a statistician to figure this one out: having two flies in the water increases your odds. Let me start by pointing out that two flies can also mean more knots, snags, and general headaches. But if you feel up to the challenge, fishing two flies allows you much more room for experimentation. You can fish one big fly, and one small fly. You can fish one bright fly, and one dark fly. You can fish one natural fly, and one junk food fly. I think you get the picture. This allows you to more quickly figure out what the fish are biting best, and occasionally you might hook up with two fish at once! Of course this require a good selection of flies to choose from, so make sure you sign up for our Monthly Subscription to get flies specifically selected for the waters you fish.



1. Weight

Jeff Durniak of the Georgia DNR asked me once, what is the difference between a good trout fisherman and a great trout fisherman? I honestly don’t remember my response. I probably threw out some overthought answer, or perhaps just shrugged. His simple answer has stuck with me though: two split shot. It really is that simple. Unless there is a significant hatch your flies need to be on or near the bottom. The easiest way to get them there is to add one or two BB sized split-shot. If you aren’t ticking the bottom ever 3 or 4 casts, you simply aren’t deep enough.


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