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Bigfly

Reading water......heavy nymphing.

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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Truckee, CA.

Reading the water

Since the water I fish most of the time, sounds like what you were trying, I'll share this again.
I'm sure in the time I've been here, I mentioned how I figured it out.
I call it the count-down method. This method works with almost weightless rigs up to heavy....

1. How fast is the water?
Take 2-3 long strides on the bank. Throw a stick on the water and count the length of time it takes to cover the ground. The faster the water, the more weight you will need. Don't throw it in shore current and then fish the middle currents speed....
This you will learn in time, but will require study.....I can now look at water and tell....1AB, 2AB, etc....
There are those here who don't fish heavy water much, and so don't use enough weight. And mostly don't catch a fish bigger than 14-18"..
For me, that is entry level on this water.......generally, the deeper I fish, and more weight added, the bigger the fish.
(Unless the big guy is sipping dries in an eddy....)

2. How deep is it?
Measure two feet up your leg...it's two feet to my knee.
Step into water up to that depth, and drop your split shot and flies onto the water, and count down. It often takes about 3.5 seconds to sink that depth with two AB Tin shot. If you watch closely, you will see shot hit first, then weighted big fly...if using a dropper, you may see it flag-up. If it flags too much, it may be out of play. consider adding some tungsten paste to the dropper leader. It's more effective if weight and flies drift at the same depth.

Now guess the depth you will want to fish.....if you can't see the bottom. As a photo guy, I use a learned light reflectance off the bottom..light blue to dark blue to black.....fish use the deeper water as shade....so this is good at high noon....
Using the formula, one and one-half times the depth of the water, I set my Indy at six feet. (To fish in four ft.) (About the maximum depth you can fish in moving water with a 9' leader is 6'....so I often build a custom 12-14ft leader for the deeper sections.

If you think it's four feet deep, then it will take aprox. seven seconds to get to the bottom....
When my junk lands on the water, I start counting.....the Indy will move at surface speed...At seven to nine seconds I should see my Indy slow a bit...if not, It was deeper than I thought, or.... faster. (On my water, at this point I will add weight first...3-4 ABs is not unusual, and during the flood, I could use 5-6 ABs or AAAs....hence a big stick and line, and the term big water, or "industrial nymphing".)
I don't do more drifts, I immediately make a small adjustment.
Repeat.......When my fly gets very close to the bottom, my Indy will slow even more. The laminar flow "grabs the flies" as it were, and slows things down.
The bubbles on the surface will start passing the Indy more quickly as you get into the laminar flow near the bottom.....now we are fishin'.
Keep up that process till you hang up......and lose everything.....HA!
The more you practice, the less stuff you lose, and the more fish you will catch.
If I hang up on my first drift, I walk up-stream and pull loose my flies. Then lower my Indy a bit. And fish the same drift again....

I will cast further up-stream the faster the water is. My goal is to put my flies in the zone, when it reaches the mid-point of the drift, and directly in front of me as it goes by. Which is close to a 7 second up-stream drift....) I have people study this part with me, and call it out.....
I call it "spotting the "drift engage"....when people can see it as well as I can, they are ready to go fish. Learn this in slightly slower water, as it's easier to see the slow-down. I can fish standing waves now and see the slowdown.
If you don't see a slow-down by the half-way point, either you are not deep enough or, not heavy enough.
Adjust...try again......
I only adjust one or the other....only add weight, or raise your bobber, but never both. It takes 15 seconds to adjust my Indy, 30 sec. for a shot.
If you move both and change your fly, and then catch a fish, you will not know what did the trick. And you will be back to using luck.

Try using some inductive/deductive reasoning for a change, instead of guessing or counting on luck. I have stopped believing in luck after enough research into this technique..

When I see my drift slow way down, then speed up for a ways, and then slow down again.....I have found a hole or depression....mid-drift.
Next, target and adjust for that water.....the fish will often find these spots and hang out. As we say, 20% of the water hold 80% of the fish.....
Guys that I see that don't catch fish, often don't adjust much....sometimes only at the car while rigging. This is what I call the lazy fisherman....set it once and go.....these guys are the ones that depend on luck, and will put down the water as not fishy, or maybe blame the weather......some will try to cover more water, to offset their poor stats. Which is less lazy, but not efficient...

I will alternate back and forth between adding weight, and adding depth, in small increments (Say 3-4" in depth, or 1 shot.).
Once I know I'm nearing the bottom, I start rotating flies. If I use large adjustments (like when I started..) I can have a $5.00 mistake and lose everything......

The true secret of this style, is being able to cast accurately into the same seam again and again.....You can't cast long, then short, then long....and hope to get results....if you fish near-shore set at two feet, and then fish the center current without an adjustment, you can't hope for consistency in hook-ups.
This is why I single hand, with the line trapped under my finger.
The fly has to go to the same seam if the line is a fixed length and I cast to the same spot.

(As you get better, you can almost "see" the stream-bottom makeup, the way a blind person "sees" the world with their cane.)

Here, I should add a warning....when you mend, if you move your Indy at all, your flies will move too, and spoil the presentation.
This is why I try for a no mend/ no-drag drift. The hardest thing to learn of all, and where the longer stick shines.

Be ready on each new drift after adjustments.....
They will often strike on the first drift. This is the source of my high stats with one drift. I understand the speed/depth ratio intimately,
and can guesstimate my settings... Then, all I need to know, is which bug/fly will it be today....

I should say, this has taken even longer to learn well, than fishing a dry.
Because, like streamer fishing, you can't see the offering....you have to "know" what's going on...
But because I do...I am often the only guy getting after it, when Spring flows are muddy and big, fish have to eat....

I have shared this with many happy fishers......I hope it works for you.

Jim
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