Building Your Euro Nymph Box

There’s no doubt that Euro nymphing, or high sticking to the old timers, is the most productive way to take trout consistently with a fly. Euro nymph techniques provide pinpoint fly control on a tight line, utilizing flies designed for rapid sink rates to quickly enter the zone where most fish live. Whether you call it Czech nymphing, high sticking or Euro nymphing, these techniques have won multiple world fly fishing championships and is effective on the hardest fished waters. Euro nymphing quickly gets your fly where fish are feeding, which is 90% of the battle.

That’s not to say building a box and buying a long rod will instantly answer all your prayers. Like any other fly fishing technique, Euronymphing takes some practice. A slight dip in the rod can result in a quick two-fly loss, while minimizing fly loss lessens your effectiveness. The best Euronymphers walk a fine line between hauling in fish and decorating the bottom. It takes time on the water to find that fine line.

With the bottom in mind, it’s no accident that most Euro nymphers have embraced the jig nymph style fly, for two reasons. First, and possibly most important, the hook rides point up, so it’s less apt to snag in it’s underwater journey. Two, in order to turn the hook over, the bead must be made of tungsten or an equally heavy material. This means jig flies, by their design, sink faster than a fly with a brass bead, thus dropping your fly where it needs to be faster.

Speed in attaining depth is critical with Euro nymphing. Euro nymphing often utilizes a very short cast, giving the fly little time to sink. A well designed Euro nymph gets deep at a much faster rate than a standard nymph. Considering the sink rate of your fly is the most critical aspect of creating an effective Euro nymph fly selection.

Sink rate is governed by two factors- weight and resistance to sinking. This blog writer used to tie the prettiest Hare’s Ear Nymphs, with a nice, active body and super buggy thorax. The only problem was, they wouldn’t sink. Just like a dry fly’s hackle, all those spiky tendrils were trapping air and spreading out in the water, seriously hindering my flies rapid descent in the water. Pretty in the vise ain’t pretty in the water! Too much fuzz on your fly, too much spread, and it won’t sink fast enough.

Which is why the Perdigon style fly, or SR Bullet, is the backbone of any Euro nymphers box. This hard bodied fly is unprepossessing at first, seeming to flout all the widely held beliefs that a fly must be active in the water to look alive and attract fish. Because Euro nymphing is designed to put your fly in a place where the trout doesn’t question its presence, action is less important. If it’s close to looking like food, and skimming across the bottom like the naturals, it’s going to get eaten.

Choosing your first Perdigons is easy. Light, dark, big and small. What could be simpler to get started! The Orvis Co., at one point, had a brilliant idea. They offered a basic mayfly nymph in light, medium and dark. It didn’t sell, as evidenced by its almost instantaneous removal from the catalog. But the concept is smart and useful. You don’t need a lot of accuracy when  putting your fly directly on the trout’s nose. The fish are feeding, taking in as much food as they can, and when your fly is in the trout’s comfort/feeding zone, it’s going to get eaten if it’s anywhere close. Light, dark, big and small.

When fishing in Missoula on the Blackfoot River, Rock Creek, Clark Fork River or Bitterroot River, bigger is often better. In Europe there are very few stoneflies, with many caddis and mayflies. Their fly selections tend to run to the small side, as do many east coast fishermen’s. This makes a lot of sense- match the naturals for more success. In Missoula, we have nymphs that are 50mm long! The small, big, light, dark theory works when fish aren’t focused in their feeding. When trout are on a subsurface “hatch”, having a fly that closely matches the natural is always better. Again, examine the fly for sink rate. The Pat’s Rubber Legs is not our best-selling fly for no reason. It’s the right size, sinks quickly and has good action in the water. A Peacock Double Bead Stonefly is also excellent for imitating the big stoneflies found in Montana. These two flies sink very rapidly and imitate a variety of stoneflies, especially the Pats in its various colors.

Another strong style of Euro nymphs is the Hot Spot. These are jigs with a drab body and a very bright spot of dubbing at the thorax. Some say it represents an egg load in the insect- others just say the contrast attracts the fish attention. We do know flies with a hot spot can be extremely effective, with hot pink and yellow being two favorite colors around Missoula. Again, big, small, light, dark with the added variable of a hot spot.

A third Euro nymph style features a collar of CDC wrapped at the back of the bead, like the Duracell or a Howell’s Shuck-It. CDC is chosen for two reasons. First, it’s easy to work with, can be torn to length and still look natural, and is a light weight fiber with lots of action in the water. CDC also has a property no other feather has. It comes from the preen gland of a duck, and is designed not to mat when it gets wet. The CDC feather holds air bubbles in its fibers that look incredibly lifelike to the fish. But this only works if the feather is dry! Once the CDC is soaked through, it loses it’s ability to trap air, but is still active.

Serious Euro nymphers will carry Frog’s Fanny dessicant with them to refresh the CDC when it’s completely soaked. The Frog’s Fanny pulls the water from the CDC, allowing it to again trap air and bring that natural light refraction to the fly. Dressing your fly after every 4th or 5th cast can be a pain, but there are times when the CDC is a strong trigger, and it’s worth trying if the fishing is slower than you think it should be.

No Euro nymph box is complete without the Annelid. We prefer a basic Red SJW, though Hot Pink is also very effective. A fly that’s often overlooked in Euro nymphing is the Wire Worm. While not a strong producer in Missoula (No idea why not- it SLAYS on the Missouri) it is the fastest sinking fly we sell. What’s not to like- it’s wire wrapped around a hook, and sinks like a brick.

It doesn’t matter what type of bead you use on a size 14 or 16 Perdigon, comparatively it doesn’t sink as fast as a size 4 hook wrapped with wire. The Wire Worm is a great point fly in fast water. It takes your little bug down quickly, and then the long rod controls the depth of both flies. You might pick up a fish or two on the Wire Worm, but your smaller bug sinks deep quickly and doing a lot of business. We all know the addition of lead to your leader adds a hinge point, fouls up casting and is generally annoying to use. The Wire Worm works like a sinker, and has the added bonus of catching fish.

If you’re local to Missoula and are building a Euro nymph box, don’t miss the Missoulian Angler’s Dollar Fly Box on the counter. I know it sounds weird, recommending flies on sale! The Dollar Box is filled with flies that didn’t perform as well as we hoped they would. They were all bought with high hopes- they just weren’t what we hoped they would be. The Dollar Box is incredibly useful as you learn to control your fly’s depth with the long rod and skinny leader. It’s better to lose $2 worth of flies on a cast than $6! So grab a handful of Dollar jigs for when you’re just starting, to save some wear and tear on your wallet.

Because at it’s best, Euro nymphing is about working the bottom of the river, where the fish live. With practice, your fly will follow the contours of the bottom, just as the naturals do. Present your fly naturally, where the food is, and your success rate is going to go through the roof. Too deep, and your flies are gone. Too high in the column, and the fish don’t move as readily to your fly. Depth is critical, and using flies designed to get deep and stay there is a critical aspect of Euro nymphing. Armed with this knowledge, you can build a Euro box that will take trout throughout Missoula, all over Montana and across the country.

Insect Biomass

Let’s start out with a few definitions. Insect biomass, for our purposes, is defined as the weight of all insects in a river at any specific time. Carrying capacity is defined as the maximum amount of life that can be sustained in a river system during the harshest conditions. Carrying capacity is always the nadir of population, as the harsh environment removes those less able to adapt to the conditions. That’s enough to be getting on with- more will be forthcoming.

If you look at the graph, there are two pieces of information being tracked. One is the fluctuating aquatic insect population over the course of a year in a river. Overlaid on that is a record of the fluctuating insect biomass over the course of a year in a river. These two pieces of information are critical to understanding the feeding habits of trout in a river.

Let’s follow the line created by the insect biomass in a river. You’ll notice it’s rising in January, and continuing through mid-March, when the insect biomass in the river is at it’s highest. Following the insect population line, you’ll see the insect population in the river is at it’s lowest. Reasoned out, the biomass has peaked because insects have been growing since they hatched, providing more biomass to the river. The insect population is correspondingly low. Few insects are added to the population over the winter, and natural selection and predation has brought the insect population to its lowest point.

And then the first hatches of spring occur. BWO’s, March Browns and Skwalas. As the insects leave the water to reproduce, biomass is depleted. Correspondingly, as the eggs from the spring insects hatch, the insect population begins to rise. However, these new insects are so small, they add little to the biomass of the river, only the population.

As you follow the two informational lines, they diverge until insect populations are at their highest in mid July. Which makes sense, as the bulk of the insects have emerged, and the corresponding eggs have hatched, pushing the population to its zenith. But these newly hatched insects are microscopic, with minimal biomass. By the end of July, the insect biomass in a river is at its lowest point.

These are some of the ramifications of this information. Ever wonder why winter nymphing is so good? With maximum biomass, the trout have access to the most food they will see all year. Jump to July, and the low biomass means food is at its minimum. Combine minimum biomass with the warmer water temps, and you’ve now established the carrying capacity for a river. These are the harshest conditions a river fish faces, and not all fish will survive these critical conditions.

The slash of a fish to a hopper, big fish rising to tiny tricos, the effectiveness of ants and beetles. Behaviors explained by this graph. With such a paucity of food in the river in July and August, fish are willing to be a bit less selective in their eating habits, and range a little farther from feeding lanes to take available food. When a sparkly purple and black thing floats over their heads, there’s a better chance the trout will eat it, because they’re hungrier now than they were in June.

As the natural cycle of insect growth moves on, the biomass of the river begins to recover in late August. Water temperatures drop in September, and the harshest period of the year has passed. The carrying capacity has been established for another year. The insect population will continue to fall, while the biomass rises until we hit March again, and the cycle starts again.

Few anglers use a nymph in a size 18 or 20. Yet this graph clearly shows there are smaller nymphs available throughout the year. As anglers, we get so focused on hatches that we sometimes forget to mimic the most abundant food form, which is small nymphs. The larger trout may not be exactly where you think they should be to take the “prevalent” insect. They may be in a prime location for size 20 nymphs, hoovering up the most abundant food source in the river. Another thought- because many stoneflies are on a two or three year life cycle, stonefly nymphs are always available to the trout. The rubberlegs we all fish so heavily in late spring is still just as effective in the summer and fall, because of the 365 presence of stonefly nymphs.

An understanding of the cycles of food sources in a river can help us understand some fish feeding behavior, and help explain why you can catch huge trout on tiny nymphs. It also may explain the Royal Wulff and Hippie Stomper’s success. Not a truly natural color or shape, but when the fish are hungry, those flies look enough like food to get eaten. Armed with a little knowledge, you may find your catch rate going up in all seasons as you match your tactics to the food source.

Mahogany Nymph

Low Water Nymphing

In the low, clear water of summer, many anglers really focus on the surface action. Less water means less current, making a rise much more energy efficient. The fish are in clearly defined areas, and easy to prospect for. Clear water makes the dry fly appealing, and many anglers ply the surface all day, hoping for the slash to a hopper, spying the subtle sip of an ant or the plop of a beetle. Waning PMD’s, Tan Caddis and PED’s can keep your focus on top, but you’re missing out on where feeding fish are most of the time! Trout don’t like the sun- it hurts their eyes and makes them easy targets for predators. They want the bottom when the water is clear.

You see a single rise, and the adrenaline rushes. Rising fish! You stare at the rings, and wait for another rise, but it’s not happening. Missoula’s best fly fishing guides call this one and done. Whatever that fish came to the surface for, it seems to be a one off. No reason to stay and wait for another rise- it’s going to take a while to bring that fish back to the surface.

But you’ve learned something. There’s a hungry trout in that spot. An old phrase comes to mind, fish where the fish are! That fish has alerted you to its presence, and willingness to feed. Set yourself up with a nymph, and go after that hungry fish. The hard part is done. You know where it is, and know it’s feeding. Take advantage of what the trout tells you.

Low water nymphing can be as easy as rigging up a dry/dropper rig. Pick a high floating fly and tie it on the end of your leader. Check the depth of the holding water for your chosen fish, and use 1.5 times the depth as your dropper length. If you think the water is 2 feet deep, make sure your dropper is attached to three feet of leader. We strongly recommend fluorocarbon tippet for multiple reasons. It’s much denser than standard tippet, so it sinks faster. It’s as close to invisible underwater as you can get, and it’s extremely abrasion resistant. That’s important because banging the bottom with light tippet weakens its strength. We also recommend going with the lightest indicator you’re comfortable with. Additionally, if you’ve been fishing dries on a 12 foot leader, cut your leader back a bit to control your rig. Accuracy is critical, and if you’ve built a 16 foot leader with two flies on it, it can get pretty unwieldy.

There’s a huge difference in dry/dropper fishing, depending if you’re in a boat or wading. When floating, you’re less worried about landing the fly in the water, and more worried about the floatation of the dry. With good mending, you may get a 100 yard drift from a boat, and your dry fly needs to have sufficient buoyancy to handle repeated mends. The Morrish Hopper, Plan B or Chubby Chernobyl provide exceptional floatation, recovering from the mend and resurfacing to maintain your drift.

There are two distinct ways to low water nymph for the wade fisherman. The first is to go dry/dropper, or run an indicator and two nymphs. Using a high floating fly/indicator, the angler casts to likely water, mending as needed. The indicator returns to the surface when mended, keeping the nymph at the depth set by the angler. Fish the likely spots, just as if you were in a boat, with vigorous mends, using the floatation in your fly or indicator to bring it back to the surface after mending.

This may not be the approach to use when targeting a specific fish, like our friend that went one and done 4 paragraphs ago. Often, the larger dry or indicator will create quite a disturbance when it lands on the water, alerting the fish to your presence. For targeted nymphing, use a very light indicator, like New Zealand Wool or Palsa indicators, or a fly like the Royal Wulff. The reasoning goes this way. A wading angler is lucky to get a 3 second drift. Try it sometime. Cast your dry out and count how long it floats before dragging. You’re going to find that 3 seconds is long! Aerial mends, like the reach cast or steeple cast, are critical for the wading angler’s arsenal, extending your drift to the 3 second mark!  

You’re using the Wulff as an indicator, not really as a fly. The water is low and clear. The targeted nymph fisherman may tie a size 14 Tungsten Bead Head Jig to a size 12 dry. No, it’s not going to float your nymph very well! But that’s not the point. Your fly is an indicator, and in clear water, it’s visible even if it sinks. React to any movement in your point fly, whether floating or drowned, just as if it was on the surface. The light touch won’t spook your fish, and as long as you can see your “dry” in the water column, it’s still your indicator. Stealth is the name of the game in low water. A light indicator fly might not control depth like an Airlock, but still tells you when your nymph has been eaten.

Back in the dawn of fly fishing, like pre 1970’s!, nymph fishermen fished without indicators. I know!!! It seems crazy in this day and age, but nymph fishers didn’t use an indicator. They watched for subtle movements in their leader or line tip to alert them to the “quick brown wink underwater.” Believe me, they would have used them if they could have, but they weren’t available. The first indicators were made of fluorescent orange fly line peeled from the core, and they revolutionized nymphing. They were a pain in the tuckus to use, but they made all the difference.

Yesterdays nympher would quickly recognize Euronymphing today. The old timers “high stick”, now we euro nymph. Using a long rod often extended way above shoulder height, euro nymphers keep as much line off the water as possible, controlling depth and drift with the tip of the rod. They work the best water, and after a few careful drifts, can have the fly dancing along the bottom, adjusting for structure, current speed and depth. It’s amazing to watch a good euro nympher at work- they will take fish all day long, because they’re where the fish are at all times. Euro nymphers use a variation of the lightweight indicator, and will use it on the surface or submerged if necessary to get the proper drift.

Which brings us to THE MOST DIFFICULT Missoula trout fishing you can find- sight nymphing. Lets start at the beginning. You need to be on your game enough to spot a feeding fish underwater. No gimmes here, like concentric rings of a rise. You need to spot the fish before you spook it. Then ascertain how deep the fish is, and find the best position for your presentation. You need to know exactly how fast your nymph sinks, how fast the current is moving, and then gage your cast to get the nymph to the proper depth, at the proper time in the correct feeding lane. With no drag. After that, it’s a piece of cake . . . unless the trout is focused on a specific nymph, and then you have to figure that out as well. Many sight nymphers wil pre-scout an area for feeding fish, just as a hatch matcher will find where the fish are rising. It takes some of the guesswork out of the process.

Sight nymphing makes dry fly fishing look like spinfishing. It’s a 3-D presentation to fish in clear water, with all that entails. On the Henry’s Fork, anglers often work in pairs, one on a bluff watching the trout while the other is in the water casting. The spotter relays if the drift was good, if the fish moved and any other pertinent data. We’ve not seen that done in Missoula, but there are places on the Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River and the lower Bitterroot River where that approach would work. If you’re hanging around the shop, and someone says they’ve taken some fish while sight nymphing, it will pay to eavesdrop on their conversation. You’re probably going to learn something! Do it with stealth though, just like nymph fishing in the low, clear water of summer and fall!

Trico Nymph

Small Nymphs For Trout

There’s a small but dedicated cadre of nymph fishermen who go small all the time. It seems contra-indicated in Missoula, where you’re surrounded by Salmon Fly, Golden Stone and Skwala nymphs, but we’ve seen the proof, and tiny nymphs work in Missoula. We’re talking about size 18 and smaller, mostly used on a standard nymph rig. They can be used on a euronymph rig, but you’ll need to take extra steps in rigging to get the smaller flies deep enough quickly enough.

We understand the conundrum. You’re standing on the bank of a river that’s 80’ wide. It takes some mental gymnastics to convince yourself that any trout would be looking for food that small. It’s also easy to fall into the mindset of even if the trout are eating them, how are they going to find something 5mm long in such a huge area. But it makes sense to go tiny more often then most of us do, and this is why.

Midges are one of the most prolific insects in any body of water. In Missoula rivers, we tend to focus on them in Winter, when they continue to hatch, and are eaten by the trout on the surface. But the next time you’re on the water in Spring, Fall or Summer, look for midges flying. You’ll find them. The fish don’t care (see Skwala, Salmon and Golden!) but the insects are out and moving. This means the Midge larva are available to trout 365 days a year. Consistent food will find consistent feeders.

There is also a constant supply of tiny mayfly nymphs year round as well. When a mayfly lays its eggs, it lays anywhere from 100-500. When they hatch, they are close to microscopic, and of little value to the fish. But there are a lot of them. With some growth, they hit a size 22 and the fish begin to take notice. This is an extremely plentiful food source, and as mayflies hatch from Spring to Fall, this underwater cycle goes on for 9 months as well. Add caddis larva and stoneflies to that same cycle as well, and the trout has a myriad food supply if they can find the correct lie.

The last factor comes into play when you’re fishing hard fished water. When a stream is seeing a lot of anglers, and the fish are getting hooked frequently, they rapidly learn larger food forms are dangerous to their health! Think about the Yellow Breeches in PA, the Farmington in CT and the San Juan or Green River out west. These rivers see 100’s of anglers every day. These highly educated fish have seen it all, and a larger fly simply doesn’t look natural to these fish any longer. But a tiny fly, by definition, has less going on. They’re easier to imitate, and they look more realistic to the trout. When you’re struggling to find a place to access the water due to pressure, you might use your down time to rig tiny for more success.

Tiny nymphs take the same care in rigging as tiny dries. You have to go to light tippet, 5X and thinner. The thinner tippet allows the fly to behave in a more natural way, as well as allowing these lighter flies to sink faster. This is also the place where your microshot comes into play. This type of fishing is way too subtle for a B or BB size lead weight- you need to get your tiny weight out, and rig accordingly. The large lead is simply too dramatic with a smaller fly, dragging the nymph in an unrealistic way along the bottom. Because the rig is so lightweight, scale your indicator down as well. You don’t need a ¾” inch Thing-A-Ma-Bobber to hold these flies up, and on hard fished waters a smaller, lighter indicator is so much less intrusive.

Depth control is crucial with tiny nymphs. While a trout may roam 2-3 feet to take a Salmon Fly nymph, they’re not going to move far to take a 5mm insect. You need to put these flies directly in front of the trout, or they’re not going to eat them. The energy expenditure is too great for the calories taken in. “Foam is Home” is never so important as when fishing tiny. The foam you see on the surface tells you where the currents are coming together in the river, which in turn tells you where the majority of food will be. Get your indicator in the foam line and let it ride.

Classic depth of your nymph is 1.5 times the depth of the water. But when going tiny, use a bit more length from your indicator. Tiny flies don’t sink all that rapidly, even with microshot, so they don’t stretch out tippet as well as a larger fly does. The extra length allows the fly to reach the depth needed to take fish. The only time this might not apply is if you’re using a small perdigon in your rig. Perdigons, with their tungsten bead and coated bodies, sink very rapidly. With a perdigon, you may be able to run less length from your indicator because the sink rate is so much greater. As a rule, tiny flies will require tiny adjustments to your leader to be effective.

Some may be asking why you don’t take a fast sinking fly like a wire worm or Pat’s Rubberlegs and attach it above the smaller fly to get it to sink more rapidly. This technique certainly works in less pressured water, where fish are less apt to shy from a larger bug. But in those high pressure situations, a larger bug may serve to drive the fish away. Also, at least in Montana, the maximum legal number of flies that can be used is two. We prefer to have two effective bugs if we can, so the larger bug is less useful in those situations. Go with two effective bugs, not a single fly and what’s essentially weight.

When you’ve found a likely spot, don’t be in a hurry to move. This is delicate nymphing, and not easy to control because of the light weight. Drag, any drag at all, will keep these flies from sinking. So you might want to make more than a few passes where you think the fish are. Not every presentation is perfect. Allow some wiggle room to make sure your fly is getting to the fish in a natural way, It won’t happen every cast, so make sure you make enough casts that it does actually happen! Drag is the enemy at all times, but its affects are magnified with lighter flies and longer leaders.

It’s so easy to fall into the thought pattern of big flies taking big fish. Which is true in so many times and in so many places. But while it’s a good thought, it’s not the only way to think about what will take trout. Trout are always on the lookout for a consistent food source, and tiny nymphs are there all the time. A constant stream of small food is as good as minimal stream of large food, from a caloric standpoint. If you can broaden your nymph selection to cover the tiny flies that are so abundant in the river, you’re going to find yourself getting into more trout. Plus, think how much fun you’ll have learning that when on a big river, the tiny flies are as effective, if not more so than those size 4 Double Bead Stones!

Best Jig Nymphs For Trout

At the Missoulian Angler, the jig nymph has positively changed fly fishing success rates to such a point they outsell standard nymphs a pace of 3:1. They are considered to be some of the best trout nymphs by many. Unless a very specific hatch matcher is needed, it’s rare for anyone in the fly shop to recommend a standard nymph. Why has the jig nymph so quickly and completely changed the way we fish? For all the same reasons the jig nymph will change the way you fish whenever you decide to catch some fish and go deep!

It starts with a slotted tungsten bead. The fishhook is a product of 1000’s of years of design, and it’s designed so it aligns itself in the water shank up, hook point down. By definition, a jig rides hook point up, shank down. It’s the tungsten bead, with its high density and excellent weight to size ratio that changes the hook from riding point down to point up. Of course, enough weight to offset the balance of the hook also means the jig fly sinks faster than a classic nymph tied with a standard bead.

We all want our trout nymphs close to the bottom, and the tungsten bead helps in that aspect. But as every angler knows, the bottom is also an excellent place to snag. This often starts the process of re-rigging, which often gives us a chance to closely examine the cost benefits of being close to the bottom. The jig style nymph shines in this aspect as well.

Riding hook point up, the jig nymph is significantly less prone to snagging on the bottom. You can do it, but with the hook point up, there’s less chance of snagging to a point you can’t get your fly back. When you see the jig nymph is less prone to snags, you’ll regain the confidence that every fourth cast won’t be so costly. You’ll start to work closer to the bottom, where the fish are looking for food. The tungsten jig s get you closer to the bottom, and snag less. You fish longer, rig less, and stop worrying about cost benefits!

Many jig nymphs are the flies you’re already using, tied on an inverted hook. The Pat’s Rubberlegs, Pheasant Tail Nymph and Hare’s Ear Nymph immediately come to mind. These flies produce everywhere a line gets wet. Now they’re available as jig nymphs, and these top producers just got more effective. If you’re looking to ease your way into jig nymphing, going with a classic fly, inverted as a jig, to jumpstart your entrance into this fly style.

The jig style has also spawned its own style of fly. Loosely known as the Perdigon, this jig nymph is sparse and has a coated body. It’s designed to sink rapidly, getting where the fish are faster than any other nymph we sell. Make sure to vary your sizes, to match your local insects. Be ready to be closer to the bottom, and then be ready to start taking more and bigger fish! It’s what the jig nymph is all about!

Here is a list of some of the best nymph patterns tied with the Jig style hook that work across the country.

Top 9 Tungsten Jig Nymphs

PT Hot Spot Jig Orange Fly

PT Hot Spot – Orange

SR Bullet Olive Fly

Bullet Quill

TH Duracell Jig

TH Duracell

Hare's Ear Jig

Hare’s Ear Jig

Yellow Spot Jig Fly

Yellowspot Jig

Pheasant Tail Jig

Pheasant Tail Jig

TJ Hooker Black/Brown

TJ Hooker

Natural Jig Zirdle

Zirdle Jig

Pink Jig Squirmie Wormie

Squirmie Wormy Jig

Click here to view a complete list of our top Jig nymphs

The New World Of Strike Indicators

As Euro Nymphing becomes more and more popular, the strike indicator is going through another major change. No longer is it the bobber we’ve come to know and trust- the indicator is becoming a more subtle and delicate apparatus. And that may be a very good thing.

We all remember the first time we saw a Thing-A-Ma-Bobber. For many nymph fisherman, it immediately became the go-to rig. They never sink, float better than corks and are easy to see. But about 3 years ago, we started to hear rumblings out of the Bighorn valley that trout were becoming wary of the Thing-A-Ma-Bobber and their progeny. Whether it was the heavy entrance into the water, or the actual presence of the indicator above the fly, Bighorn guides felt the indicator was negatively impacting their catch rate. Many Bighorn guides have gone back to balloons, the old Polypropylene indicator or the New Zealand Wool indicator.

One of the interesting aspects of the Thing-A-Ma-Bobber style indicator is its size, and the size most people choose to use. If you’ve ever gone swimming and played with a ball in the water, you know how much air wants to float! Even swimming a 6” ball to the bottom is a struggle. The standard 3/4” Thing-A-Ma-Bobber would float 4 Double Bead Stone Flies (if that was legal in Montana) with no problem.

The larger the indicator, the more it disturbs the water as it lands and affects the drift of the fly. The smallest Thing-A-Ma-Bobber floats almost any Montana nymph rig, and as it floats lower, it’s more sensitive. This applies to any high floating bobber style indicator. Smaller is better when it comes to stealth and sensitivity. Yes, it’s more difficult to see, but that might be a small price to pay, if the low floating indicator does a better job of transmitting strike information.

There’s a variety of multi-color tippets on the market. The Thing-A-Ma-Bobber comes in Red/White, the Thills Balsa indicator is Orange/Fl. Yellow, while the foam Palsa indicator comes in 4 colors. Bi-color indicators are so much better at indicating subtle strikes, as a multi-colored object makes movement detection much easier. It’s why classic spinning bobbers are red and white- easy to see, as the line created by the two colors detects motion much better than a solid color indicator.

The Thills Balsa Indicator is even more sensitive because of the long, tapered white peg that keeps the leader in place. When properly sized and rigged, the white peg is pulled vertically by the weight of the rig. The peg, as it stands tall, makes reading the movement so much easier. It works like a classic old school panfish bobber, that wiggles side to side to indicate a nibble. The white peg, with its additional length, exaggerates the movement of the indicator and makes strike detection much easier.

The Palsa indicators are also a favorite. These sticky back foam indicators land as softly as any indicator we sell. While the double dot shape is designed to have the adhesive back removed and then folded over the leader, the crafty angler has two different colors of Palsas in their kit. Instead of folding the single color indicator over, take two halves of different colors and paste them together. Instant Bi-color indicator. If you need more floatation or a larger size, use two different colors in their full size. There’s no doubt the glue from the  Palsa Indicators leave a residue on your leader, making depth adjustment annoying, especially when trying to go shallower. Again, the crafty Palsa user attaches a tippet ring about 4” away from where the Palsa is attached. The tippet ring allows you to change depth without having to remove the foam residue left by the Palsas. When changing to a new indicator, just put right over the old residue and keep fishing.

The classic Wool Indicators have proven themselves on spooky trout for years. This style indicator is the softest landing indicator we know of, and because it’s wool it’s size can be infinitely adjusted. Make sure you put floatant on the wool. We’re not in New Zealand, where they pull the wool off the barb wire fences, which is raw and flushed with lanolin. Treated wool needs floatant to extend its floatation. It’s very easy to create a bicolor indicator with wool, as well as control the size. It’s our most adjustable indicator, and can be as sparse or as sizable as needed.

The bicolor monofilament is proving to be very effective, and not just for euro Nymphing. Available in Fl. Green/Fl. Orange and Black/White, the colors alternate every foot. While the bicolor tippet can be used as is, many are tying blood knots with the bicolor indicator, and leaving about an inch of tag on each side of the knot. The little tag ends of leader provide two things. They add a little floatation to the rig, as well as providing a twitch when the fly is taken or hitting the bottom. If you’re nymphing, a tippet ring is very useful to keep the blood knotted indicator whole. We have also found that the bicolor indicator works very well when using emergers as well, as the take to your slightly sunken emerger is easily detected. As the bi-color tippet is used more, there are going to be a lot more uses that will appear, and we will keep you posted as we discover them.

There’s a wide world of indicators out there, so much more than the Thing-A-Ma-Bobber and other bobber shaped indicators. Which is not to say the Thing-A-Ma-Bobber is obsolete or useless. But there are other indicators available, and they will widen your nymphing options. You can add stealth to your game, as well as utilizing the multiple colors that help detect strikes. The next time your looking at indicators, widen your gaze. You might find that your catch rates go up when the fishing is tricky.