In the Fly Fisher’s Playbooks (both editions), I discuss depth and speed in depth when it comes to nymphing. Typically, you want the depth (distance from indicator to weight) to be around one and a half times the depth of water you’re fishing, and the speed to be half of the speed of the surface water. In other words, you want your indicator to be cruising at half of the speed of the surface to compensate for drag caused by the underwater sub-strait.
This time of year on the Eagle River presents different issues because of low warmer water. You’re going to find most of your feeding fish tucked up next to riffles taking advantage of the cool oxygenated water. This water is usually around eighteen to thirty inches in depth, and can be flowing fairly fast. It’s water you can stand in, but not comfortably. Feeding fish love this water this time of year.
A standard nymph rig will work, but if you tweak it a bit, you’re going to experience more results. That’s where the skinny rig comes in. It’s a long, light rig that is perfect for these summer Colorado conditions. This rig lends itself to casts placed high in the riffles above shelves holding fish. The high presentation casts allow the flies to get in perfect position with this rig as it comes off the riffle onto the shelf. Using the traditional nymph rig, you would try to slow the speed down by adding weight. If you add weight to this rig, you’ll never get your drift past the rocks in the riffle. It’s a fast, light game.
The fish in those slots don’t have time to inspect your flies. They are so used to sitting in those positions feeding unmolested, that when you stick one, runs and jumps are prolific. Getting flies that are the right profile and size is all that is needed. I’ll run one soft hackled Hare’s Ear, size 16, one soft hackled Pheasant Tail (size 18), and the “3rd bug” can be anything from an un-weighted beatis to a PMD, depending on what’s coming off.
I’m using my standard in line nymph rig, with a minimum of five feet between indicator and weight, and about six and a half feet between indicator and first dropper. I also run about ten inches between my droppers, and all dropper flies are tied eye-to-eye. If you’re running tungsten beads on your flies you don’t need to add any more weight. Typically, I’ll run one tungsten (usually on the first dropper), and one size 6 split shot above it (leader to tippet connection).
Fear No Water,
(If you want to learn more about this and many other tidbits, snag a copy of my book, The Fly Fisher’s Playbook, 2nd Edition, Stackpole)