This Fly Fishing Tip is brought to you by Jake Ricks of Utah Fly Guides.
There’s just something in all of us that wants to know what lies beneath. That’s a big part of the reason we fish. The deeper and darker the run or pool on a river the more we are inclined to think that a big old trout is hunkered down there with what looks to us like an ornery toothy frown on its face.
The good news: Our assumptions are correct a lot of the time. Every time I’ve seen or heard reports of electro-shock studies on rivers they pull some behemoth up from the bottom, even in streams with mostly small fish.
The bad news: Old big trout are tough to catch. You can find and fool them occasionally, but if I could get them every time, my guiding services would be in much greater demand.
Night is generally best. Morning and evening are good, as is runoff time. You won’t need to fish as deep when it’s dark. You may even get big fish to come up to hit mice and other big dries skated at night. Streamers are also very good in the low-light hours. Fish them slowly across the current or across and down with a short twitchy retrieve.
I generally employ some type of European nymphing techniques like Czech/Polish nymphing with 2 or 3 very heavy weighted nymphs (dead drifting heavy streamers also works). My nymphs for these situations are big, sometimes size 4, 6, or 8, and are generally tungsten beaded or double tungsten beaded.
Cast short casts upstream of the target zone, let the flies sink, and drag your flies slowly along the bottom of the deep dark runs and holes with a tight line. Feel for unusual bumps and tightening of the line, then set the hook.
Ken chiming here. If you are interested in learning more about the nymphing techniques Jake is discussing pick up a copy of Dynamic Nymphing by George Daniels.
You will lose flies. If you don’t lose some you need more weight. You can also fish these spots with traditional indicator rigs but remember you will need a long leader and big indicator.
Fluorocarbon sinks faster and stretches a little less than nylon monofilament. It will sink better and transmit the feel of strikes faster. I like to use flat (not tapered) 2X fluorocarbon leaders if I’m going after big fish in deep spots.
Ken again. I use Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon for all my euro nymphing leaders. Save some money and get a big spool.
Sounds basic but you’d be surprised at the resistance to doing this one: Lengthen your leader when it’s deep. Too many people fish with a 9 foot tapered leader all the time. That type of leader only really let’s you fish the top 4 feet of the water effectively.
Fish a flat leader (not tapered) if you are nymphing and lengthen the leader to at least 1 1/2 times the suspected depth of the run you are fishing + 1 foot or so.
If you guess it’s 6 feet deep then go 10 feet. If you think it’s 8 feet then a 13 foot leader is necessary. If you think it’s 12 feet deep then good luck casting the thing, but you’ll need 19 feet of leader or so to fish down to the bottom of the hole.
One river I fish a lot, the Green River, has a few huge fish that hang out down at 15 to 20 feet. I just wave as I drift by.
There really are big trout down there. Get out there. Lengthen those leaders and catch one!
Fly Fishing Professional, Guide, and Author
Photos by Jake Rick
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created DIY Fly Fishing and the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.
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