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> > What to fish on a limestone river?



Fly_TyierJanuary 10th, 2007, 3:06 pm
Iowa

Posts: 5
Hello everyone my name is Ryan. I have been going to a river called the Turkey River up in northern Iowa for the past 5 years. I know there are trout in the river but I havn't caught a fish there yet, I don't know if im using the right flys or if it is my presentation but im using a size 16 phesant tail nymph the most near the end of a set of rapids where I know that trout are. I would greatly appritiate it if any one can help me with this "fishy" delema.







Ryan L.
TaxonJanuary 10th, 2007, 4:10 pm
Site Editor
Plano, TX

Posts: 1311
Hi Ryan-

The Pheasant Tail Nymph is an extremely effective mayfly nymph imitation, so if you aren't getting any hits on it, you may not be getting it down deep enough, where the trout are. I'd recommend attaching a split shot 8-10" above the fly, and see if that helps.
Best regards,
Roger Rohrbeck
www.FlyfishingEntomology.com
TroutnutJanuary 10th, 2007, 4:14 pm
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2592
I would agree with Roger that a change in presentation is more likely to help. The nymph should be mere inches off the bottom when it drifts through the most likely trout holding spots.

Also, "near the end of a set of rapids" is a little bit vague, but unless you can actually see the trout you're fishing to, you might broaden your assumptions about where they will be.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
Fly_TyierJanuary 10th, 2007, 5:00 pm
Iowa

Posts: 5
Thank you on the replys for adding splitshots above the fly aways and for trying to see the trout before fishing for them. I will have to try it out next time im there.











Ryan L.
Upnorth2January 10th, 2007, 5:16 pm
Wisconsin

Posts: 62
Try a pink squirrel as well. Fish it about the same as the pheasant tail. Seems to be a favorite fly in that area.
MartinlfJanuary 10th, 2007, 5:23 pm
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3056
Roger and Jason are right on in that presentation is the one most important thing to consider. If you are certain that your presentation is good (and it might help to get an experienced nymph fisherman to work with you a bit on this) you could also try a different fly from time to time. But first things first: presentation. I've been fishing for over fifteen years, but as recently as three years ago I took a lesson from an expert nymph fisherman who works at a local shop. It wasn't free, but I considered it well worth the money as he was able to show me things that I had read about, but still didn't quite understand. If you have a friend you can learn from that's good too; mainly, if you can hook up with someone with a lot of experience and get some tips it can save a lot of wasted time. Folks at a good, friendly fly shop will also have ideas about where and how to fish and will probably be able to give you some useful tips when you drop in to buy some feathers and fur. Now, back to flies. My best producers on SPRING creeks (is your limestone river like a spring creek?)are pheasant tails, muskrat nymphs, (see the cress bug thread) and a fly they call a Walt's Worm in Central PA. It's basically a simple cigar shaped dubbed body of hare's ear fur. It may represent a cranefly larva, but whatever fish think it might be, many around here swear by this fly, novices and experienced anglers alike. See http://www.bobberstop.com/flypatternsnymphs.html (the tenth fly down) for an example. Best of luck.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Shawnny3January 13th, 2007, 7:47 am
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Good advice, guys. Ryan, while you're trying the splitshot (a great piece of advice), do a little experiment: Keep adding a little shot, one piece at a time, and making a typical cast to your tricky spot until you actually start getting hung up. Depending on how deep and fast the water is, you may be surprised at just how much weight is needed. Now, you don't always want to be rolling nymphs over the rocks at the bottom, but you should repeat this experiment often to get an idea as to how deep your flies are getting in different types of water. Managing weight while nymphing is absolutely critical. Also, in situations where the fish are concentrating their feeding at a certain water depth, changing weight in tiny increments is necessary to hone in on the action (size 8 or smaller splitshot). Every run is different, so the weight you need in one run will often be different from the weight you need in the next. If you don't get a strike after 5 casts in a good run, change weight. This may seem excessive, but the reason some fishermen catch fish every 5th cast is because they don't do the same thing over and over and over again. They're always honing in. A piece of related advice: Never make the same cast twice in the exact same way. It didn't work the first time, so what makes you think it will the second? A second consecutive unconvincing presentation to a feeding fish will do more harm than good. Change your body position, move your feet, change weight, guide the line through the run differently, start the cast further up in the run... you get the idea. Nymphing is often treated by dry-fly fishermen as though it were the same as dredging worms. It's not. In fact, nymphing presents so many more subtleties and possibilities than dry-fly fishing that it is the dry-fly fishing I often find mechanical and uninteresting. Keep trying different things until you hone in on your quarry - and then catch them in bunches.

One more comment: Sometimes the fastest, skinniest, most unlikely spots hold feeding fish. Don't always concentrate your efforts in the same old places, especially on pressured waters - the savvy fish aren't going to make it that easy for you.

Best of luck.

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
TroutnutJanuary 13th, 2007, 8:31 am
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2592
Never make the same cast twice in the exact same way. It didn't work the first time, so what makes you think it will the second?


I wouldn't completely agree with that, or at least I would attach a disclaimer to what "in the same way" means exactly. The easiest example is when casting to a rising fish: sometimes you may need several casts to sync your drift properly with the fish's feeding rhythm. These casts can seem identical in every respect except for their timing relative to that of the trout. The same thing could happen with unseen fish on the bottom when you're nymphing, only you'd never know it. So I think if you've figured out how to get the perfect drift through a sweet spot, go ahead and give it several tries before you give up. This has worked out well for me in the past.

All that said, I do agree with the main point you were making, that it's good to mix things up a lot.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
MartinlfJanuary 13th, 2007, 9:37 am
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3056
Excellent points from both Shawn and Jason. I need to be reminded of some of these things, and though I believe what Shawn says about changing weight to present a different look or action, I'm too lazy or forgetful to do this as often as I should. Experimenting with and changing weight frequently is a suggestion Joe Humphreys makes in almost every one of his books or videos on nymphing. Thanks for the reminder; I'll try to do better in the future. :)

One question: even if we try to make the same cast to the same place, how often do we succeed? I belive that each cast to the same spot, no matter how identical we try to make it to the previous one, is likely to be different. We are apt to be a little to the right or left, harder or softer, higher up or lower down, with more or less "tuck" etc. etc. That said, I do agree that one can spook a fish by showing it a fly in a way that alerts it to fraud.

Yes, I just contradicted myself, and not in the interest of being politic. Working out what works takes years of experience, and sometimes it just takes some luck. There are no guarantees, nor formulae that always work. But it is a heck of a lot of fun doing the problem solving and trying to come up with a solution for that day. The next day will almost certainly be different.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Shawnny3January 13th, 2007, 11:37 am
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
I love the Quality Control on this board - not a lot of B.S. slides through unchallenged. Thanks, guys.

I agree with what you guys have said to some extent. I would counter, however, that if you're making a half-dozen casts to a rising fish to try to match his timing, then you probably shouldn't have made the first five, instead opting to watch the fish for a few minutes before making one really good cast to him. Doesn't that sound poetic? I know... it doesn't always work out that way. But still something to think about. I think we often get into our own rhythm when we're fishing and end up flogging the water before we read it, substituting repetition for observation, fishing as though it were a race instead of a way to take a break from racing. I am not guiltless in this - I do it, too.

So maybe a better rule is to make every cast purposeful. Wow, how much better my fishing would be if I made every cast count.

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
GONZOJanuary 13th, 2007, 11:39 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
In fact, nymphing presents so many more subtleties and possibilities than dry-fly fishing that it is the dry-fly fishing I often find mechanical and uninteresting.


Boy, do I feel a lot of kinship with Shawn on that statement! But I don't want to offend the dry-fly addicts by reopening the Halford/Skues debates. Shawn, do you know the little Skues verse about the "subaqueous fly" and the "cunning brown wink under water?"

On the issue of doing the same/different things, I think everyone has offered great advice. I would only add that the manner of delivering the fly and managing the drift can often have an effect which is just as dramatic as changing weight. When fishing with one of my favorite fishing partners, we are often fishing with the same fly and the same weight. Sometimes, when I think his method of delivery has missed the mark, I will ask if I can cover the same water he has just fished. If I succeed in turning up fish, he gives me that "middle digit" look, followed by "OK, what am I doing wrong?" I think that the best way to understand the issues involved is to seek opportunities to nymph to visible fish in various clearwater situations. This really serves to drive home how often we think we have thoroughly covered a given spot with a nymph, but the fly has never been properly seen by the fish.

By the way, the delivery that we call "dead-drift" nymphing is seldom that. The nymph, the weight (or lack of it), and the leader have all kinds of interesting interactions with the bottom and the water layers, which cause all kinds of interesting movements and relationships to occur. While some of this is always beyond our control, experimenting as Shawn and Jason suggest can often make all the difference.

A second unconvincing presentation to a feeding fish will do more harm than good.


That sounds like the voice of experience, and that's always a good voice to listen to. My guideline is to try not to present the fly to the fish in a bad way before I have a chance to present it in a good way. When nymphing "blind," this requires one to imagine the likely position of various fish within a given drift.
Shawnny3January 13th, 2007, 12:48 pm
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Nice comments, Gonzo. It takes a lot of stones to step into a run your fishing partner just finished and catch fish - hope he's either a really good friend or has a really weak left hook.

This has become a pretty good thread...

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
GONZOJanuary 13th, 2007, 4:16 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Shawn,

He is a really good friend. As for his left hook, seeing as how it's the only hook he can throw (he lost the other arm), it's pretty potent! Notice, however, that I always ask permission first. :)
TroutnutJanuary 13th, 2007, 7:33 pm
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2592
I believe what Shawn says about changing weight to present a different look or action, I'm too lazy or forgetful to do this as often as I should. Experimenting with and changing weight frequently is a suggestion Joe Humphreys makes in almost every one of his books or videos on nymphing


That's a lesson I need to take to heart, too. Despite my general strong tendency toward experimentation and adjustments, I don't carry it over into my leader weighting nearly as much as I should.

I would counter, however, that if you're making a half-dozen casts to a rising fish to try to match his timing, then you probably shouldn't have made the first five, instead opting to watch the fish for a few minutes before making one really good cast to him.


I think there are some situations for that, especially on those PA limestoners you fish, but it's not always practical. Often it's hard to tell if a rise you spot is an isolated event or the first in a regular series, and it's better to just cast than to wait and find out and miss a shot at a cruising fish. Other times the fish is rising repeatedly but at irregular intervals, and catching it ready is a matter of trial and error.

Of course, even if I disagree with the minutae, I again agree with your main point that we should often study the water carefully before casting.

In fact, nymphing presents so many more subtleties and possibilities than dry-fly fishing that it is the dry-fly fishing I often find mechanical and uninteresting.


I have to break with you and Gonzo on this one! I can't argue on the merits of dry fly fishing because you're right that nymphing is more subtle and sophisticated. But I've loved fishing topwater since I was a 4-year-old catching bass on Rapalas, and I never get tired of that telltale swirl as I connect with a fish. I also enjoy casting a nice light dry fly and I'm much less graceful with some split shot on the end. Dry fly fishing just has charms I can't resist.

Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
TrowpaJanuary 13th, 2007, 8:40 pm
Eastern PA

Posts: 31
Wow...its great to hear a discussion on nymphing that isn't oversimplified. I am trying to improve my nymphing after years as a "nymph only when there are no rises and they aren't hitting streamers" fisherman.

I have come to the conclusion that nymphing is much harder than fishing with dry flies. Provided you have some basic casting and line control skills, dry fly fishing is sometimes pretty easy - figure out how to present a drag free offering in the feeding lane, and you'll do pretty well. To do this, all the variables are there for you to see: The line, the fly, the current, the fish.

Most of the time while nymphing, I can't see any of these variables. I find myself blindly guessing at questions like - How much slower is the current on the bottom compared to what i see on the surface? Is my fly really drifting naturally? Am I getting hung up occasionally because I'm 2 inches from the bottom and hitting rocks? or am I 1 ft off the bottom and hitting submerged tree branches? is my fly pulling my line now? or is my line pulling my fly? Is my fly coming close to the fish? are there even fish in this pool? Are those fish inspecting my fly and refusing it? Or are they ignoring it outright?

Unfortunately, unless the water is extremely clear and/or I'm fishing pretty shallow water - I can't answer these questions with any certainty. If I was dry fly fishing, I usually can. This is why I am confused when I am told by other fisherman that nymphing is easy.
-Steve
GONZOJanuary 13th, 2007, 9:21 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Dry fly fishing has charms I can't resist


Jason, that is entirely understandable, and you're certainly not alone in feeling that way. I think everyone should fish in the ways that they find most enjoyable and interesting. I'm just troubled by those who hold dry-fly fishing up as the "superior" form of fly fishing. (And I don't even mind if they mean superior aesthetically and for them.) OK, I'm a Skuesian, but he didn't shun the dry fly either.


Trowpa,

Asking the questions in the third paragraph of your post is exactly the thing that will help to make you a great nymph fisherman over time. You may not always be able to answer them with certainty, but they are great questions and being aware of their significance is a giant step toward better nymphing. I might add that when I said that "dead-drift" nymphing is seldom that, I didn't mean to imply that this was a bad thing. In fact, I believe that those subtle movements and interactions (even when they are unintended) can often be triggers that convince fish to take our nymphs. It seems to me that about the only organisms that "dead-drift" are either incapable of movement or, in fact, dead. Keep asking those questions every time you drift your nymph, and the answers will come--in the form of fish!
Shawnny3January 14th, 2007, 6:45 am
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Nice posts, all.

Good points, Jason - I agree with you more than I disagree, actually. And my posts represent an ethic I don't come close to in my own fishing. I'm well known to beat the water with something I'm pretty sure won't work just because that's the fly I want to fish that day (kind of like when we went bass fishing and you kept offering me one of your Dahlberg divers). Gonzo's right - you have to fish what you find fun to fish, even when that means fewer fish. I would also add here that for every ten times I fish a bad fly way too long, ONE time I find my crazy invention is better than anything else on the water, and that makes all the fishless days worth it. Without all the bad experiments I've tried, I wouldn't take nearly the satisfaction I do in the few flies I've designed that actually work.

As for the whole dries/nymphs debate: The reason the thrill of catching fish is augmented when dry-fly fishing, in my opinion, is that you are luring your prey briefly out of his own world and into yours. In contrast, nymphing is much more invasive of the fish's privacy. When you catch a fish on a dry fly, your satisfaction comes from having won a battle on equal footing; when you catch a fish nymphing, your satisfaction comes from having stolen something by being exceptionally sneaky. So maybe this is why we nymph fishermen get the right/wrong debate from dry-fly fishermen so often - they want us to be honorable soldiers and we're content to be good thiefs.

Paul, I agree with Gonzo - you're really close. My advice to you is to abandon your comfort zone completely and dive into nymphing with the calm confidence that you WILL catch fish. Do this: For 5 consecutive trips to the stream when the conditions are good, don't take any dries at all. During those excursions, make every cast with the belief that you will catch a fish on that cast. If you don't, try something different and make another cast. When you find yourself utterly frustrated or getting lazy, either take a break or leave entirely. But don't just make it an exercise in futility. The biggest reason we're not successful with new fishing techniques is because we only try them when the techniques we already know well aren't working - we never give the new technique a fair shake. Each fish you catch will make catching the next one easier. Paul, you obviously already know enough to be a really good nympher. I'd be willing to bet even money that after 5 trips to the stream, nymphing exclusively, you will be catching fish and enjoying yourself.

Gonzo, I'm not familiar with the Halford/Skues debate you're referring to. Mind filling me in?

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
GONZOJanuary 15th, 2007, 11:17 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Shawn,

Frederick Halford and George Edward Mackenzie Skues (pronounced "Skewies," I believe) were involved in one of the most famous debates in fly-fishing history. Both were very accomplished anglers and authors on the Itchen in Hampshire, England, around and after the turn of the 20th century. Halford was responsible for codifying much of what we have come to know as modern dry-fly technique. Skues, an attorney, resisted some of what he saw as the limiting and unreasonable aspects of the developing dry-fly dogma. Halford and Skues debated these issues in print and in person for many years, with Halford (and his disciples) asserting the superiority of the dry-fly approach, and Skues protesting in a very well-reasoned fashion. The sad upshot of this debate was that Skues was eventually driven from his cherished Itchen by the attitudes of the dry-fly men. (There is a very interesting and personally touching account of this in the lengthy correspondence between Skues and the American dry-fly master, George LaBranche. While LaBranche was also a very great proponent of the dry fly, his correspondence with Skues indicates that he was not a dogmatist, and that the two had a very sincere respect and affection for one another.) The influence of that debate is still with us today in the attitudes (both reasoned and unreasoning) of many modern anglers.

My favorite moment in that debate came when Halford confronted Skues by saying, "Young man, you cannot fish the Itchen in the manner you describe!" To which Skues simply responded, "But, I have done it."

If you are interested, I would highly recommend a Stackpole reprint of LaBranche's The Dry Fly and Fast Water in which Paul Shullery adds some very nice insights, and which includes many of the Skues/LaBranche letters. The LaBranche book is especially worth reading for his section on reading the water, which is one of the very best ever printed. (In my opinion.)

PS--Shawn, we clearly have a lot in common in our view of nymphing, but I'm not sure I'd characterize us as "thieves" exactly. (Though you're probably right that many dry-fly "purists" might see us that way.) It seems to me that, with the dry fly, the advantages are more in our favor, while in many forms of nymphing--especially "blind" nymphing--the advantages are more with the fish. Actually, I think you (like Skues) probably agree with this, and it is one of the reasons we find nymphing to be such an interesting challenge. (I did enjoy the analogy. Is it possible that we're "honorable" thieves?) :)
TrowpaJanuary 15th, 2007, 2:00 pm
Eastern PA

Posts: 31
Shawnny3 - if you're addressing me in your post, thanks for the encouragement to "fish without a net" so to speak ;) I scrolled up and down the thread and didn't see any "Pauls" other than my signature.

I think my signature may have been confusing though as "Paul O'Neil" is the source of the quote I was using - my name is Steve. I'll change that signature to avoid confusion.

Yes, I agree that leaving the comfort of the dry fly will help - that's why I think the winter is a good time to practice nymphing -my goal is to not put a dry fly on until at least may, however I can't say I won't break that rule as the weather warms just to get my "fix" in.

Can't wait to continue this experiment over the winter...


-Steve
MartinlfJanuary 15th, 2007, 2:04 pm
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3056
I'm not sure I'd characterize us as "thieves" exactly. (Though you're probably right that many dry-fly "purists" might see us that way.)


I'm partly testing my directions on formatting, but I must admit that my reaction to "thieves" was similar, as much as Shawn's witty and entertaining analysis pleased me. I also would partly disagree with his claim that

you are luring your prey briefly out of his own world and into yours.


He's still in his world when he rises, but he is certainly approaching a foreign element, and a more dangerous one. :)

I also smiled at Shawn's comment

I love the Quality Control on this board


One of the best things about this crew is the way folks usually tactfully challenge each other without trying to one up. I stress to my students two things about discussion. The first, "Opposition is true friendship," comes from William Blake:

The second, that one can disagree without being disagreeable, is just good standard operating procedure.

Anyone may slip on this second point from time to time, present company included, but folks here take steps to clear things up in rare instances.

Tight lines, my friends,
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
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