What makes trout fly fishing so special to me? It is the dynamic nature of weather, stream conditions and trout behavior. Almost nothing stays the same. As a result, the approach that worked today will not always work tomorrow. As anglers, we must adapt to these changes in order to be successful, even if it means using some of your least favorite tactics from time to time.
If given the choice between Euro-nymph and suspension nymph, my preference is for the simplicity and effectiveness of the Euro. But low water conditions can make it difficult to catch fish with euro tactics. Currently, the lack of rain means that my local waters are spitting out only a trickle of water, creating difficult conditions for even experienced anglers.
Distance and stealth is usually a fly fisherman’s best friend when it comes to shallow water and skittish trout. Unless you’re willing to crawl on your hands and knees to get into a close throwing position, your next best option is to add distance between you and your target.
Euronymphing tactics can be the most effective fly fishing tactic, which is why it makes up over 80% of my nymphing, but using this approach requires being 2-3 rod lengths away from your target. When I start spooking too many trout, despite a stealthy but close approach, it’s time to switch gears and adopt suspension nymph tactics so I can distance myself from my target.
The key to finding success when suspension nymphing during low flows is using the right tactics. I stay away from hard plastic or cork style bobbers during low flows, even if they are white or clear. In general, you should stay away from any indicator that falls hard into the water. These indicators can create an impact that will spook any fish within casting range.
I also avoid bright colors like chartreuse, yellow and orange as they seem to put some fish during low flows. During these conditions I prefer to use high floating dry flies as an indicator. I don’t have quantitative numbers to share, but in my experience switching to a natural looking dry fly as my indicator produces much higher success rates, even compared to using Nova’s white wool Zealand or white pinch style indicators.
ASSEC PREFERRED INDICATOR
The Chubby Chernobyl is a favorite dry dropper pattern for anglers across the country. I also like to use the chubby, but only when I’m fishing out west, casting heavier flies and fishing waters where trout are more likely to eat the dry fly. Also, low water conditions demand not only a stealthy approach, but also a long leader to help make delicate presentations.
My preference for shallow water nymphing is to fish a longer, lighter leader (15′ or thinner at 6X) in combination with smaller/lighter nymphs (#16-20 with a 2.0mm tungsten bead or lighter). Trying to cast a wind-resistant chubby with a long leader is a challenge, even for the most skilled fly reelers. The long, light leader, often needed for shallow water fishing, lacks the power to flip these dry flies, resulting in constant tangles and twisted tips.
So I use more natural looking dry flies for my low water dry dropper setups where the dry fly not only acts as an indicator but has a good chance of catching a fish.
My two favorite dry dropper indicator flies are the original stimulator and X-caddis. The key to both patterns is to use enough loose hair to increase the buoyancy of the patterns. Good hair is hard to come by and is why I buy all my stimulator and X-caddis hair wing gear from Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, West Yellowstone, MT.
I have been using this shop as my main hair supplier for the past 10 years and find their hair to be easy to tie while providing excellent float. Both Stimulator Patterns and X-Caddis (tied in a variety of sizes and colors) are buoyant enough to float any medium to light weight nymph rig, are easy to cast with a long leader, while providing a pattern of attractive surface worthy of animating a trout. feed on the surface.
For X-caddis or stimulators that I plan to use as an indicator fly, I will increase the deer hair wings to provide a little extra float. I also prefer to use light to medium colored deer hairs, which allow me to easily locate the pattern in the water. If needed, a high visibility wing mast can be added to create an even easier to see pattern. Tie X-caddis in sizes 6 to 14 for indicator patterns.
I use larger #6 patterns to fish medium weighted nymphs while using the smaller #14 for light nymph patterns. Combine the size of the indicator pattern with the weight of the nymph, creating a tipping point. If the pattern is too big and floaty and paired with an ultralight nymph, a trout catch may not move the indicator fly enough to register a strike. Strikes are easier to see when the two are better matched, so tie these patterns in various sizes to best suit the weight of the nymph you fish.
And don’t be surprised if the fish of the day eats the dry fly instead of the nymph. Some of my best trout this fall have eaten the X-caddis or the stimulator dry fly. Additionally, this nymph approach has brought back several of my Penn State fly fishing program field trips during the semester, where beginners were tasked with tackling extreme low flows in ghostly trout waters brown But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.