Everyone loves to fish dries, no doubt about it. For decades floating feathers on a hook has gone hand in hand with fly fishing. Bringing a trout out of their aquatic comfort zone has an appeal like no other. It’s riveting to anticipate an elevating trout as it makes a split second decision to eat, or let the offering pass by. The visual rewards are first class which motivates many fly anglers to first tie on a dry when arriving at the river.
I would like not to take away from that aspect of the sport that we all love. However, if I might introduce an additional thought that can build upon our experiences on the water, it would the concept of Visual Nymphing.
Think of it this way, what’s more cunning or deceiving than entering the world of a trout and fooling them in their own realm? Isn’t the objective of a fly angler to be cunning and deceptive? Admit it, that’s what we set out to do each time we hit the river! It’s one thing to bring a trout to the brink of our world, but going below enemy lines into their turf where they are most comfortable is a whole new ball game. Here’s where Visual Nymphing kicks in. When looking at the structure and currents of a river, visualize where the trout should be holding. Now envision what it is that they are doing under there. Before you even make a cast think of their positioning, their purpose for being there, and what it will take to get your nymphs in front of their face. Now make your cast as planned, watch for strike detection, and enjoy the visual sight of a buttery brown rolling off the river’s bottom when you set the hook.
Keep in mind, Visual Nymphing is different than sight fishing, but if you are able to first see the fish it becomes even more effective and fun.
Take this one step further, ditch the floating indicator and learn Euro Nymphing. By watching what is called a sighter (hi-vis mono tied into the leader pictured below) your eyes are not constrained to the floating bubble or clump of yarn drifting on the water’s surface. Instead your eyes can more easily look past your strike detection devise to see what’s happening near the end of your line. You will be amazed at how much more action from the fish you can see. Not to mention all the other benefits of Euro Nymphing such as increased strike detection, a more subtle approach, and an improved dead drift. These benefits plus the added visualization make this not only a highly effective technique, but a ton of fun as well.
There are times and places for many techniques in the sport of fly fishing. Indicator nymphing, streamers, dry flies, or Euro Nymphing all perform well in different situations. With an open mind and a desire to continue learning, we can enhance our visual experiences beyond the single method of dry fly fishing. Don’t limit yourself to whats on top, try Visual Nymphing and see what lies beneath the water’s surface.
Gilbert Rowley is a professional filmmaker that specializes in the fly fishing industry, and the owner of Capture Adventure Media. Gilbert works hand in hand with many fly fishing professionals and companies in the industry. Among his accomplishments in film production include two official selections into the International Fly Fishing Film Festival (2016 and 2017). Outside of filmmaking Gilbert also received a Bachelors degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Science from Utah State University, and spends his time as a fly fishing guide on Utah’s Provo river. He is also a fly designer for Rainy’s Flies, and most important a husband and father.