Nymph Fishing

Nymph Fishing

Why you should fish nymphs more than dry flies!


The answer is very simple.  You will catch more fish.

Several studies have shown that 80 to 95% of a trout’s diet is sub-surface.

A trout is a predator.  Predators hunt.  Trout must get more energy from the food they consume than the energy it takes to obtain the food.  Or they will die.  It is a simple equation.  Energy in must be > Energy out or Death occurs.

So which is easier to catch.  Hundreds or thousands of sub-surface insects or something flying around mating and dipping down to deposit eggs.  Pretty simple — nymphs are easier.


Basic Stream Entomology — the short course

A trout’s 6 basic food groups (This is primarily in Colorado but applies to much of the surrounding states too)

  1. Mayflies
    Consists of clingers and swimmers
    First hatch of season (BWOs can be in March to May and last of season in Sep and early Oct)  Exist in hundreds of thousands in some areas of steams.  Fly pattern olive body with white antron yarn wing RS2 sizes 18 through 22.
    Other mayflies during warmer months of May through July 
  2. Stone Flies
    Clingers or crawlers mostly — You can find them by turning over rocks.  Colorado doesn’t have the salmon fly hatches of Montana but where there are hatches of large stoneflies, you can see some hot action.Hatch usually by crawling out onto stream bank for large types like salmon flies.  Once on the South Platte River below Waterton Canyon, I saw a hatch of large stone flies.  The beach was alive with them crawling out of the water.  One I let sit on my hand had a body about 4″ long.

    Yellow Sallies and small black stones are also a choice food group. I like the gold ribbed beadhead prince nymph in sizes 12 through 18 as a general pattern for black stones.  Fish straight upstream or quartering upstream, drifting down and then swing in toward the downstream bank before pickup.


  3. Caddis
    Cased, crawlers and net builders are the main types.  Caddis are perhaps the most important food group for trout next to the midges. There are over 2,200 different species of caddis.Cased may be attached to twigs or small rocks and have a wood casing.  Some caddis form cases of small rocks with their saliva and attach themselves to rocks until time to hatch.

    Crawlers — are free type worms that look like a meal worm or grub.  Generally represented by the buckskin nymph in sizes 16 and 18.  These can be found by turning over rocks or sticks.

    Net Builders — can be found in shallow riffles of areated water where they build silken webs to catch their food brought by the current. Sometimes they can also be found with a web between twigs on a sunken branch.

    Caddis can be represented by gold ribbed flashback bead head hare’s ear. or the plain head gold ribbed hare’s ear sizes 14, 16, 18.  Elk hair caddis for the mature adult if you are fishing dry flies.  Fish the nymph dead drift the use the Leisenring lift at the end of the drift to simulate the rapid rise to the surface of the emerging caddis. During a Hatch fish a Caddis dry trailed by an emerger.

    All caddis in Colorado have 6 legs total.  3 on each side of their head.  A black head.  Body may be tan, whitish or green.


  4. Midges
    Are the year round food group in Colorado Fly Fishing.  There are millions of these insects in the streams.  They are small with sizes often running 20 to 24.  But the trout easily pick them out and eagerly consume them. Gray, olive or tan RS2 can be used to imitate them. 
  5. Terrestrials
    Ants, beetles, grasshoppers or other terrestrials that fall into the stream may be eagerly sought out by trout.  Trout seem to favor the acid taste of ants in particular.  (Large ones of course) 
  6. Other sub-surface food groups such as crawfish, sculpins, minnows, eggs during mating season of other trout species, other young of their own and other trout species.A nuclear egg pattern representing a fish egg surrounded by milt can be deadly fished on the bottom.  Bill Louthan of Alpine Angler in Aurora, CO caught an 8 lb rainbow on an egg pattern in Troublesome Creek last year (2004)

    Sculpin and streamers would represent small fish that trout prey on.

Continue reading “Nymph Fishing”

Basic Fly Fishing Casts

 Basic Fly Fishing Casts

Basic 2 fly fishing casts you should master
to be a successful fly fisherman in
Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico


Remember on the How to Choose Fly Rods page, fly fishing great and fly rod builder Tom Morgan, "During the last 40 years, most trout have been taken from 20 to 40 feet and I expect the next 50 years will be the same." 

What this means is that you don’t need to learn how to lay out 60 and 70 feet of line plus 10 feet or 12 feet of leader to catch fish.  This is particularly true in Colorado where the average stream is some 60 feet or less wide.  If you are trying to shoot those long casts, you are missing fish at your feet.

A professional guide I know teaches teaches her students to fish at 10 to 12 feet and has said in class that many fish are caught within seven feet of you.  (I personally have caught fish within 4 feet of where I was standing.)

So the only two casts you really need to master are the "Tension Cast" and the "Roll Cast" to reach out those some 20 to 30 feet for your fish.  If you are trying to punch casts longer than this, STOP.  Wade closer and wade quietly until you can get into a better casting position. The overhand cast is useful but not necessary to catching fish. The overhand cast will be covered separately.

Continue reading “Basic Fly Fishing Casts”