By Brown Hobson
What size split shot do you typically use when you are nymphing for trout? A #1, or may be when the current is ripping do you go for the BB shot you never use? I found myself using four AB weights on trip the other day. I know that is crazy, 2.4 grams of weight if you are using the ORVIS assortment weights
from Anchor Tackle. It was absolutely like casting a medieval flail, but it produced fish. We were nymphing an egg with a small mayfly nymph and using a thingamabobber indicator. We were fishing a pool about 8 feet deep with a very swirly current, and I was adding weight until we started to get strikes. The luxury of fishing an egg in semi clear water is that I can tell where my fly is floating in the rivers current. As soon as added the fourth weight the egg started rolling across the rocks and bam, the first fish ate. We caught eight fish out of that hole using the massive weights, and didn’t have a bite until we got our flies down deep enough.
I know that is an extreme example. Deep pool and a giant fly that would rather float than sink, but I often find my clients on wade trips remarking on how much weight we are using. The bottom line is, when fish are glued to the bottom, like they are in the winter, if the fly is now down there they won’t even look at it. When the fishing is good as it will be this May fish will be suspended and moving all over the water column to chase flies. Their metabolisms will be running full speed and they will be as well. More fly fisherman fish during the spring when fishing is the best than during the winter and therefore when they decide to try winter fishing they often expect fish to be feeding in the middle of the column because that is where their experience tells them trout will be. When I am fishing a pool with an indicator set up I continually add weight until I either start getting bites or my flies start to hang up on the bottom of the river. If before I hit the bottom I get a few strikes and then they stop I assume I am almost into the pod of fish and start adding weight again. Think of this approach as gridding your water vertically. If you start with little weight and add more every few casts you will have covered all layers of the river’s water column. While getting down when fish are on the bottom is critical conversely if they are suspended and you get below them you are still missing out. Trout prefer food at their level, but will come up to take flies. I almost never see them move down to feed. Be sure not to go straight to the bottom.
I have included a photo of two different size weight assortment packs from ORVIS Asheville. The small pack doesn’t have big enough weights to fish the deepest pools, or even shallow pools on a heavy flow day. If you have not been using the AB or AAA weights go buy a large size shot assortment and fish every pool by adding weight until you find the bottom. I have even found myself using the weights “you never use” size SSG and SA in extreme situations. Keep this article and mind and try bigger shot if you aren’t getting strikes. I even recommend tying on a brite pink egg just so you can see where your flies are going.
Brown Hobson is the owner and one of the guides at Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC. Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC is based in Asheville, NC and is ORVIS Endorsed. To ask questions about this article or to book a day of fishing with Brown call or E-mail.