Here is a great mini-article written by guide and signature fly tier, Bill Carnazzo. Bill guides on the following Northern California premier Trout fisheries:
- North Yuba near Downieville
- Upper Middle Fork American River Canyon, including the following streams in that canyon: Rubicon River (upper and lower); the Middle Fork American above French Meadows; Long Canyon Creek; Wallace Creek; the North Fork of the Middle Fork American; and Duncan Creek.
- Upper Sacramento River and McCloud River
Short Line (aka Tight Line) Nymph Fishing
General points. Short line nymphing is a highly effective method for fishing pocket water—but it requires “paying your dues” in order to master its many nuances. This means a lot of patience and practice over an extended time. There is no silver bullet and no substitute for putting in the time on the water. Once mastered, the short line technique will become intuitive. What follows is a brief description designed to keep it simple.
Casting technique. Begin with about 3 feet of fly line outside the top rod guide. This means that you have 3’ of line, about 9’ of leader/tippet, 9’ of rod, and 3’ of arm length (plus all the distance you can lean forward) to work with. That’s at least 24 feet, enabling you to cover the water by fishing close in or farther out. Toss the rig downstream so that you can use “water load” to assist you in making the cast, which is a simple roll cast directed at the point where you want the flies to land. Do not try to execute a regular back/forward cast as you will end up with messy tangles and lost fishing time. Once the line is downstream, raise the rod to the vertical position, take aim, and make the roll cast.
Angler position to target. Angle the cast 45 degrees upstream—in other words, your target position for where the flies land needs to be ¾ upstream. This, of course, will determine where you position yourself in the stream. Remember: the short line technique always begins with an upstream cast. Don’t worry about the flies splashing down and making noise; ambient noise in pocket water is always present, and fish don’t generally spook when flies are tossed into the pocket.
- As soon as the flies hit the water, begin moving the rod tip downstream.
- Keep the rod in a horizontal position; don’t raise the rod tip because that pulls the flies off the bottom. If you have a hard time with this, raise the reel instead of the rod tip.
- Keep the rod tip moving so as to lead the flies through the drift. Never let the flies “get ahead” by sliding under the rod. This introduces slack which nullifies the effectiveness of this technique, which depends on maintaining a tight connection between the flies/weight and the indicator.
- The line should remain in a 45 degree angle to the water during the entire drift; i.e., the angle formed by leading the rig should be 45 degrees. When the rig passes you, then you can let it swing through the remainder of the drift.
- If the leader is moving through the water at the same speed as the top water current, you are probably getting fly drag on the bottom—which is just as bad as drag during a dry fly drift. This is caused by the fact that, due to friction created by a rocky bottom, the water flows more slowly on the bottom than on top. Slow the rig down by adding weight. Yes, you will hang up and lose flies from time to time—but you need to be on the bottom where the fish live.
- Watch the in-line indicator* carefully. If you maintain your tight connection during the drift, the indicator will tell you what your flies are doing. If the indicator hesitates, or otherwise moves in an unusual manner, execute a strike motion. Don’t second guess—i.e., don’t rationalize that the hesitation was caused by a rock, stick or other debris. Just react.
- Don’t strike by raising the rod tip; this takes the flies out of the water and, potentially, into the overhanging vegetation. It will also cause tangles and lost fishing time. Proper strike technique is to flick your wrist downstream and at the water. This keeps the flies in the water and, to boot, moves the flies faster than an upward motion due to the parabolic action of the rod, and its need to fight gravity.
- The short line technique is entirely visual; if you are waiting for the “feel” of a strike, you are missing 80-90% of the strikes. If you keep a tight line with the proper angle back to the flies, your indicator will tell you the story and when to strike.
- If you are not ticking bottom and occasionally hanging up, you are not down deep enough. Add weight in small increments to deepen the drift, and/or slow it down.
Spring Creek Guide Service
(916) 295-9353 (C)