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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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Nymph Fishing on the Goulburn

As the season draws to a close and the river level drops due to declining demands for irrigation, nymph patterns come into their own. The lower river levels and reduced water velocity enable anglers to easily access large areas of the river that are inaccessible during the summer months. Areas of mixed weed and gravel bottom in water from knee to waist deep are ideally suited to prospecting with a nymph.

At this time of year the terrestrials are but a memory and the remaining hatches are thin and sporadic. Sure there are some notable exceptions, and if you have the good fortune to be on the water when one of these occur switch to a dry fly and make hay whilst the duns drift.
But exceptions aside, surface activity at this time of year can be a bit hit and miss. The trout are still feeding of course, feeding on what makes up something like 80% of there diet, sub-aquatic invertebrates. Most of the time trout are feeding on bugs in the water rather than on bugs on the water so effectively fishing a nymph can make the difference between a pleasant day on the river with some casting practice, and a pleasant day on the river with a couple of fish caught and released.

The nymph is a very versatile pattern and on any given day I'd use any, or all, of the methods outline below depending on the sort of water I'm fishing. Of course if I happen across some rising fish I'll switch over to the dry quicker than you can say "influence of photoperiod on invertebrate drift densities", but I'm still more a pragmatist than purist. Like most I've constructed my own arbitrary, unreasonable and totally subjective conceptions of what constitutes "flyfishing", whilst trying to remain tolerant and open to the perspectives of others. I do draw the line at "glow-bugs" and any "nymph" referred to as a "bomb" that would in fact be more effectively and comfortably fished with threadline gear. These I hold to be satanic devices of pure malevolent evil and those who use them are surely going straight to hell. Yeah that's right, that place where massive trout rise to duns all day long just scant metres beyond casting range. I've experienced that often enough to not want to take any risks with eternity thank you very much.

Passive drift.

Bit of a misnomer really as it's only the nymph that's passive as the technique requires a fair bit of concentration from the angler. At its simplest a nymph is cast upstream and allowed to drift back with the current and the angler retrieves the slack line whilst watching the leader for any indication of a "take". It's a very effective method on gently gliding water or over short distances but it requires confidence, total focus, good eyesight and reflexes, which is why I usually use of an indicator fly. Yeah okay there's that whole Zen and the art of nymph fishing thing, but really I'd rather keep my flyfishing unsullied by the proverbs of Lao Tsu, in fact I'd kind of like to stay well clear of the entire morass of eastern philosophy altogether. Using an indicator makes it easier to fish rougher water and make longer casts whilst still being able to see what's going on. It also means you can sidestep all that "one hand clapping" and "where is the Buddha" stuff. Cast upstream and watch the indicator fly like a hawk as you retrieve the slack line to stay in contact with the nymph that drifts back somewhere beneath. Staying in contact with the fly and developing a reflex "lift" the instant that indicator does "anything" suspicious are the keys to success.

Upstream active.

This technique requires the angler to cast the fly upstream and retrieve it a bit faster than the current. Now that's a lot easier said than done in fast moving water but the extra bit of movement imparted to the fly can be very effective. It's particularly useful for searching out likely looking pockets of water or structures likely to hold fish by angling a cast up and across the current and twitching the fly back past that "if I were a fish I'd live there" kind of spot. You can also fish two nymphs this way, generally a larger or heavier point fly with a smaller nymph on the dropper. This is especially useful when fishing faster or deeper water where you need the fly to get down in the water column a bit before it gets into "the zone". When tying on the tippet leave a long enough tag on the heavier end (one nearest the flyline) to allow you to tie the smaller nymph but don't get carried away as two flies will always tangle better than one. It should be noted that there are those who claim that the two nymph rig is a satanic device wrought of malevolent evil and that all that use it will surely go straight to hell. Bloody hide bound stick in the mud traditionalists, what would they know?

Across and down.

Now in terms of traditional this is where it all got started when some radical freethinking eccentric stumbled upon the notion that fish might like to eat feathers. He or she was in all probability stoned, crucified or burnt at the stake to expiate their passage straight to hell for producing such satanic devices. No doubt there are many friends and partners of obsessive fly flickers who fervently wish that action had been taken sooner to silence this deranged radical freethinker, if only to save them from hearing about the intricacies of tying and fishing the myopic flannel dun yet again. Okay enough drivel back to the nymphs. Make a cast across the current and stay in contact with the fly as it drifts down. As it angles downstream the nymph will start to lift due to the drag on the line, this movement toward the surface perhaps mimics the naturals swim up to hatch as the fish often hit the fly on this upward swing. If this doesn't occur use a short twitching retrieve, move down a couple of steps and repeat the process. Pay particular attention to current seams and areas where shallow stretches of gravel drop off into deeper water. Of course for those brave or foolhardy enough to mess with eternal damnation a two nymph combination is very effective especially in faster broken water.

At a later date I'll include a piece on the tying and fishing of the myopic flannel dun. I just need to have a quite word with my lawyer on some of the finer details of that restraining order.

~Mick Mc Brien

 

 

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