You can do everything almost perfect on a nymph rig, but one minor error in the setup can really decrease efficiency and productivity.
While fly placement, or rather incorrect placement, can negatively impact our goals, it’s often the split shot that creates the most issues. Adding this extra weight comes with the territory when you’re trying to use flies that should be at or near the bottom, so it’s an important aspect to understand as a fly angler. Some of this knowledge comes from trial and error, but there are also things to know beforehand that can help better arm your rig and put more fish in the net during your next nymphing session!
Above the Flies
Adding split shot above the flies is typically the most common weight placement on a nymph rig. To simply explain the setup, the leader is tied onto the fly line, an indicator is added somewhere on the leader, a tippet ring is tied onto the end of the leader, tippet and flies extend below the tippet ring, and weight is attached above the tippet ring. This is a great spot for the weight because the tippet ring will prevent it from sliding down closer to your flies and altering the drop rate and drift unnaturally. If you could look under the water as the rig is drifting, the weights would drop down at or near the bottom, and the flies will trail behind in a similar position in the water column. Since you’re trying to mimic natural bugs on the bottom, weight added above the flies is the perfect spot to get your flies down!
In Between the Flies
This can certainly be a trickier spot to attach weights onto a nymph rig for the simple fact that there isn’t an easy anchor point to prevent their sliding. However, sometimes it’s important to have some extra weight here to keep the trailing flies down near the bottom. An example of this is a nymph rig that might have a heavy stonefly as the point, with an unweighted squirmy worm or egg pattern trailing behind. Those smaller, lighter flies are a long way from the weight above the tippet ring, so they can have a tendency to float higher in the water column and go above the desired fishing depth. It’s usually easy to see this happening for those who are observant as you’ll watch the flies bouncing closer to the surface, and this is the tell-tale sign that you need to add weight lower on the rig. When you do have to attach weight in between flies, really take the time to clamp it down because that’s your best defense to prevent it sliding down towards the trailing fly.
The success of a nymph rig is predicated on how well your flies can mimic the natural bugs in their nymph stage of life. Doing this usually requires adding extra weight, but placing it incorrectly can be counterproductive and threaten to create a very unnatural offering. The placement of that weight can vary depending on what specific rig you’re fishing, the specific water depth and speed, and by watching what your flies are doing during the drift. Understanding how to best set the weight will greatly increase the odds of a good drift and create more fish opportunities during your next outing on the water!