Nymphs: the cool flies
Fallís here, and winterís on way; go deep
Some popular fall nymphs include (l-r): Hareís Ear, Prince, Zug Bug, rubber-legged Girdlebug and Woolly Booger.
If you want to catch trout when hatches are few or nonexistent, use a nymph.
Nymphs are imitations of immature forms of aquatic insects, including mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies and midges. They are always present in the water and available to trout year‑round — in high water or low water. † ††
Despite the prevalence of immature insect forms, many trout fishers won’t use nymphs because strikes are difficult to detect. You can see a trout rise to a dry fly, but you have to learn to “feel’’ a trout take a nymph. Sometimes a strike is so subtle, it feels like a bump.†
Veteran angler Roy Alexander of Buncombe County ties on two nymphs when he fishes, using the smaller nymph as a dropper and changing sizes as water conditions change: big nymphs for high water and smaller nymphs for low water. † †
To get nymphs down into deep pools where bigger fish tend to congregate, Alexander uses split shot, but not the standard way. Using knotted leader, he attaches a short section of tippet at a knot between the main nymph and the dropper nymph and pinches on a couple of split shot so that the weighted portion of the line hangs free of the leader. † †
“If the split shot gets hung, you can pull the line free without losing your fly,’’ he said.†
Nymph fishing, Alexander said, also allows you to fish upstream or downstream. If the stream is large, Alexander starts at the head of the pool and works each side of the current. If the stream is small, he fishes the head of a pool. † ††
Alexander lets his nymph bump along the bottom, keeping the tip of his rod high with only the end of the floating fly line in the water. If the line suddenly stops drifting, or if he feels the slightest resistance, he jerks the line. †
“Nymph fishing,” he said, “requires a lot of jerking.” † ††
Because of the added weight, Alexander said you have to use a roll cast almost exclusively or learn to “lob” the weighted leader to the desired spot.†
When he casts to a pool, Alexander gives his wrist a little “doorknob twist” so that the line falls to the side of the pool and only the leader and tippet fall into the pool. † †
According to Alexander, fishing nymphs, is the way to catch fish — most of the time. “Soon as you see trout rising on a stream,” he said, “switch to a dry fly.”
Roger Lowe, a guide for Brookings in Cashiers, suggests watching for temperature peaks, which usually occur around mid‑day and early afternoon.
The secret to successful nymph fishing, he said, is to get enough split shot on the line to get the nymph down and let it bump along the bottom. For smaller nymphs, he said, a couple of split shots (B or BB) will work well. With a Woolly Booger or other large nymphs, Lowe uses five or six split shot, especially if the stream has a heavy current.†
Lowe said trout tend to congregate in bigger pools in cold weather, usually toward the middle, where they wait for food to come to them. During very cold weather, Lowe suggests fishing larger streams, especially valley streams, including the Oconaluftee, Tuckasegee, Nantahala and Watauga rivers, where water tends to be warmer. Smaller streams with shaded banks are less productive because the water doesn’t warm up as quickly.†
Persistence is important for late fall and winter fishing. You may have to cast six or eight times in the same spot before you get a strike. Sometimes, trout won’t move more than a foot out of their regular feeding path.
One good angling tool to carry is a thermometer to check changes in water temperature. Trout are more active when the water temperature is 40 degrees or above.
Some of the more effective nymph patterns for late fall and winter are: olive, brown and black Woolly Booger, Hare’s Ear, Zug Bug, Prince and rubber-legged Girdlebug. Size depends on water conditions. † ††
One disadvantage of fishing in late fall and winter is a shorter period of daylight. Prime winter fishing hours are between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. If you’re on a stream after 4:30 p.m., you’ll more than likely have to walk to your vehicle in the dark.
Delayed-harvest streams offer exceptional fishing during the winter. Streams were generously stocked in early October, and another stocking is scheduled the first week in November.†
Even when the weather is cold and wet, trout fishing is always a fine escape. †
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