Nymphing Rigs For Fly Fishing

The anticipation of the day’s fishing mounts. 

A few sporadic raindrops ping the windshield, but it’s hardly noticed by the pair of anglers anxiously waiting for the desired roadside pull off to come into view.  There it is, and the truck comes to a jolting stop as the duo can hardly contain their excitement. Waders are hastily pulled on, rods rigged, and a mere moments after parking it’s off to the stream.  A dull roar gets louder as the water comes into view and the anglers experience the heart-dropping realization that the stream is blown out. 

This has happened to all of us at one time or another.  Perhaps there was a heavy rainstorm the night before, or maybe even a surge in water released from a dam.  Regardless of the reason, you’re there on the water ready to fish! When high and dirty water conditions persist, plenty of fish can still be caught.  In fact, these can be some of the most productive outings in terms of fish in the net. 

Success or failure on days like these often start and end with our fly selections.  A certain percentage of our flies are rendered useless when water is blown out. Which flies obviously depends on just how blown out the water actually is, but assuming it’s extremely high with very limited visibility, here are a few proven high water rigs that will catch trout in even the most adverse of conditions. 

Nymphing Rig 1

Improved Squirmy Wormy

When the water is muddy and pushing the banks, squirmy worms will produce fish.  The movement of these flies will catch a trout’s attention and fish key on worms during periods of rain and soggy banks.  The first go-to high water rig features a pink squirmy worm trailed underneath a black stonefly

Double Tungsten Stonefly

Heavy is often the name of the game in times like this and few nymphs achieve that like the stonefly.  A black stonefly in size #8 or #10 with a size #12 or #14 pink squirmy worm will produce even when the water is at its worst. 

Nymphing Rig 2

Newbury’s Sculpin Jig

Nymphs will undoubtedly produce fish in times like these, but normally it’s at a cost:  a number of snags that result in snapped flies and digging back into the fly box. For those wanting to avoid this, a pair of streamers makes up our second high water trout rig.  A simple combo is a white wooly bugger dropped down to an olive sculpin or black wooly bugger

Beadhead Woolly Bugger

These flies are common among most fishing circles, but fishing two streamers together can be something new.  It’s the same thought process as fishing multiple nymphs: more hooks in the water can mean more fish in the net! 

Nymphing Rig 3

Pat’s Rubber Legs

Let’s say we have decided to stomach the lost flies and want to use what will surely catch us the most trout.  That means we are headed back to a nymph rig, this time using a #8 or #10 pats rubber leg down to a size #14 anato-may

Anato-May Nymph

Let’s say we have decided to stomach the lost flies and want to use what will surely catch us the most trout.  That means we are headed back to a nymph rig, this time using a #8 or #10 pats rubber leg down to a size #14 anato-may.  This setup might be a little more discreet than our squirmy rig, but no less effective.  High water means bugs are getting dislodged from their gravely homes so trout will be in ultra feed mode despite less-than-ideal water.  This pair imitating a stonefly and a generic mayfly attractor is one to have in your back pocket on days like these. 

Keep a few of these patterns in your own fly box and carry it with you on trout fishing excursions.  In a perfect world the streams are always flowing perfectly with just the right clarity, but the reality is much harsher to the fly fisher.  Don’t get discouraged when your day starts with the realization that your favorite stream is blown out, just use some of these tried and true high water trout rigs!