Nymph is the name given to the larval stage of various aquatic insects, such as mayflies and stoneflies, which are common inhabitants of most trout streams. Usually they’re present in large numbers and, judging from the way trout gorge on them, they’re fine food for these fish. And because it’s second nature for a trout to take it, trout fishing with an imitation of one of these aquatic larvae, made out of fur and feathers, is a productive way to catch brooks or browns.
And although it isn’t fool-proof, nymph trout fishing is successful enough to be called dependable. Mastering the technique of catching trout with a nymph is no more difficult than learning how to use any other type of fly or lure. But it’s a great deal more satisfying, at least that’s the prevailing view among trout fishermen who are habitual users of artificial lures.
Although there are a variety of ways to fish for trout with a nymph, by far the best for most Eastern trout streams involves the use of a fly rod, a floating line, and a downstream drift . The average angler can learn how to fish using this method in no more time than it takes for a trout to inhale one of the drifting artificials.
The floating fly line signals the strike. By casting the nymph upstream and allowing it to drift back, the current gives to the submerged artificial a life-like movement. The fly line, floating on the surface, drifts downstream, too, but ahead of the nymph to which it is connected by a nine to 12 foot leader. The leader is submerged and transparent so the link between the line and the nymph isn’t apparent to the trout.
The angler can follow its progress by using the position of the line tip as a guide. Slack that begins to pile up as the current carries the line downstream toward the fisherman has to be retrieved so that only a short lift of the rod tip is needed to set the hook if a trout takes it.
By watching the tip of the line, the fisherman can tell the moment a fish has intercepted the artificial lure. The line will hesitate if the strike is gentle, or it may dart upstream against the current if the strike is heavy. Contrary to what is often heard, there’s no sixth sense involved – most of the time the strike broadcast by the line tip comes over loud and clear.
Whether the artificial lure should float just above the bottom of the stream bed, just under the surface film or somewhere in between depends on where the trout are feeding. That’s simply a problem that can be solved by trial and error, using weighted or unweighted nymphs as conditions demand.
Catching trout with a nymph is easy once the strike is recognized. It takes a measure of good angling sense – knowing where a trout might be stationed or where the currents funnel food, but the first step in catching the fish is putting the hook to it. Having mouthed the artificial, a fish will recognize the phony for what it is and spit it out, unless the angler sets the hook before that happens. This is very important if you want to learn how to fish for trout with a nymph successfully.
The quickest way to make a believer of a novice fisherman is to let him see the strike and set the hook, and once usually is enough. From then on, all it takes is the chance to practice. If the trout cooperate, it doesn’t take long to learn.
If the tip of the line stops, even for an instant, raise the rod tip sharply. You may hang up on the bottom a lot of the time and the line will react as though it’s a strike, but that’s normal when it comes to fishing for trout with a nymph.
Don’t be too quick to give up nymph trout fishing. Drift your nymph through the same area several times – if a trout’s there, it may not see it the first time it drifts through the station.