One BIG reason you’re not catching fish nymphing

by | Nov 11, 2015 | Tips | 0 comments

You are standing in a trout filled pool, you’ve established that trout are not rising therefore nymphing is probably your best bet. You put together your standard nymph leader with a couple of nymph patterns suggested by the local fly shop, clamp on a split shot and attach the ever popular Thingamabobber to let you know when a trout has taken one of your offerings; pretty straight forward. You step in to the water with hope and anticipation and proceed to casting upstream mending as necessary and watching your bobber like a hawk, ready to set hook at the slightest of twitches. You catch a couple of nice trout, but notice the guy in the run above you is hooking a trout on every other cast or better at times!

You frantically change flies trying to figure out what the angler in the pool above you is using. You add more weight only to hang your flies on most presentations. You change to lighter tippet, you go longer, shorter…the guy above you keeps hooking fish. By this point you are frustrated to find the answer. The problem, even though your standard in- line weighted nymphing leader is catching a few fish, is that you are not fishing the flies at the preferred feeding depth throughout the drift, often drifting over the fishes feeding depth. If you are not reaching the feeding zone, the standard old school nymphing technique is inefficient.

Fly Fishing Tips: How to tie a “Drop Shot”

Here’s how to tie a “Drop Shot” or “Pogo” nymphing leader that will catch more fish than you ever thought possible:

  • Use fluorocarbon material, it’s virtually invisible, stronger, and it sinks better than mono. Gauge the overall length of your leader as one and a half times the depth of the water.
  • You can tie segments of tippet together using double or triple surgeon’s knots or double blood knots. Tie the fly to the downward hanging tag end of the knot, keeping the tag 3 inches or less so as not to spin around the main leader. I use a slightly heavier main leader with lighter tag end dropper loops at the fore mentioned depths.
  • This technique allows you to maintain the leader and not have to re tie the whole thing when you need to change flies or if one does get hung up, it will only break the short tag end.
  • Attach your indicator 10-12” or so from the tip of the fly line, so that when you mend you don’t bump the indicator as much.
  • Attach the weight at the very bottom of the leader. Start with an extra 50 percent of weight that you normally use. Tie a couple of over hand knot’s right at the end of the leader to stop the   weight from sliding off. Add weight until you see the indicator twitching a little as it drifts.
  • Tie your nymphs off on short (2-3 inch) tag end dropper’s at 15” and 20” above the weight using tippet.
  • This technique allows you to maintain the leader and not have to re tie the whole thing when you need to change flies or if one does get hung up, it will only break the short tag.
  • Use no-slip mono loops as the terminal knot; it allows more movement and is stronger than an improved clinch knot.

Drop Shot Nymphing Leader Diagram

See a bigger diagram here.

Blood Knot Dropper Loop - Fly Fishing Tips

This leader also works better than an in-line rig on grassy and snaggy river bottoms too as it picks the flies up off the bottom keeping them from getting hung up. So expect to spend less on flies. More for beer!

Fly Fishing Tips: How to fish it

Avoid over-head casting if at all possible. The weight will eventually hit you or your rod possibly breaking it or both! Instead use water loaded casts, rolling your leader downstream to straighten it out before presenting up stream again if there is slack between the rod tip and the end of the leader.

  • Start the cast stroke by picking the weight up off the bottom (from down-stream) and get the indicator up off the water. Finish the cast as the water tension let go of the weight with an open loop lob up-stream.
  • Don’t mend too soon. Allow the indicator to take up the slack and start pulling the weight along the bottom. When you do mend just mend to the end of the line, flopping the indicator over during mending will only cause the hang ups and cause you to miss strikes.
  • Once the indicator has started leading the drift it, will twitch and wobble as the weight tickles the bottom, don’t set! The leader is doing its job by fixing the depth of the fly to the bottom of the river!
  • When you get a strike, the bobber will just start swimming away or you will notice a fish jumping near you… and it’s most likely got your fly in its maw!


A Big Beaverhead Brown Trout.

Steve shows off a thug of a brown caught using a “drop shot” nymphing leader.

A Beautiful Beaverhead River Rainbow Caught On Adrop Shot Nymphing Leader

Ok, now you know our favorite technique for nymphing, here’s a link to our Top 12 Nymph Flies for Catching Trout which you might enjoy.  If you’re interested in learning more or trying this technique for yourself, we have great success with this technique on the Madison River,  you can learn more about our Madison trips here.



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