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Tactical nymphing is another term for tight-line and euro nymphing. Brought to the U.S. by competitive anglers, this style of nymphing is designed to catch as many fish as possible in the littlest amount of time. On the other hand, I’ve heard Joe Humphreys say that he was Czech Nymphing before it was a country.
Tactical nymphing is a fish vacuum of sorts and it is terribly fun to do. Even when the hatches are slow, tactical nymphing always seems to produce fish from nowhere.
Nymphing is all about control and your ability to be flexible. The legends themselves, Joe Humphreys and George Daniels, strongly believe in these two principles. It is the basis to everything they do. Let this be your foundation builder for nymphing.
Everything we do in tight-line and euro nymphing – elevating the rod, using an indicator, mending, our position, fishing specific flies, longer leaders – is focused on giving us control of the line. Having control allows us to detect incredibly soft takes and respond immediately.
Control is essential to be able to detect strikes within an instant and quickly react to them. It is quite simple. If you have less control over your line and fly, you’re never going to be able to tell when a fish took your fly. More than often, takes are too soft to notice.
Too much unmanageable slack is a bad thing. Slack is much like cholesterol, there is a good and a bad. Manageable slack is good – I’m sure a few doctors might agree, as well. Having too much unmanageable slack is another way of saying “you’re fishing blind.” There will be no indication of a fish take.
When you’re euro-nymphing or tight-line nymphing, the ideal amount of slack is a slight ‘bow’ in your line. If a fish takes, this slight bow will ‘tick’ and just ever so faintly tighten up. That is when you set the hook.
George Daniels likes to leave 1/2 inch tags, or “bunny ears”, of the sighting material to make it easier to see the line tighten up. Now, you don’t have to use fancy bi-colored sighting material. You can certainly use your normal leader or tippet as an indicator, but it truly does make a difference for visibility in difficult lighting.
Conditions are always changing. Depths vary from hole to hole and each has its own variety of micro currents. This requires adjustments to your leader and weights for proper depth. You may either have too long or too short of a leader, and too much weight or too little. Think about it, lets say the trout are 6ft down but your nymphs only make it 3ft. Or your nymphs make it all the way down but get hung up on every cast. Don’t expect to catch anything unless your change up your rig.
Be flexible and take the time to adjust your rigs with the changing conditions. Adjust to get your nymphs rolling down near the bottom and to achieve a natural drift.
It does take a bit more time to clip and retie a longer section of tippet or remove and add weights, but the difference shows. Joe Humphreys is always changing his leader and tippet. Every inch, every ounce makes a difference. He’ll even switch the rod he is using to get a few extra inches of reach. Learn from the best.
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