By Mason Prince
It may not feel quite like fall yet, but before you know it, cooler temperatures will be at our doorstep. Changing leaves and shortening days may mean pumpkin spice everything to some people, but to Keith Poche, it means that it’s time to follow the shad.
Knowing the Right Time
We always hear about schooling shad, but Poche says that the bass take a favorable liking to the pint-sized baitfish once the seasons start to change. Poche says that you’ll know it’s time to go searching for some schooling shad once you see and feel a few changes in your area.
“Once the leaves start changing and you get a couple of nights in the 50s or 60s, that’s when you know it’s time to start looking for shad,” Poche advised. “If you see some fog on the water in the morning, that’s when it really starts to hit. It may already be happening in your area, but I know in the southern part of the country we aren’t too far away from it right now. Just give it a few weeks and it will be time to let the shad lead you to the bass.”
Where to Look
Looking for schooling shad isn’t exactly reinventing the proverbial wheel. But Poche says it’s not so much about what you’re looking for, but where you’re looking for it.
“A lot of times you will see the shad schooling up in the backs of creeks in the fall,” Poche said. “They will start to flicker on top and you will see the activity. Not only will you see the activity of the shad, but also those bass chasing the shad. The bass will chase the shad to the backs of those creeks and that’s where you can really catch them.”
Poche doesn’t have an exact or scientific explanation as to why the bass seek out the shad come autumn; he just knows that it’s a fool-proof plan that he’s used ever since he was a kid. His years of experience have also shown him why the bass like to get the shad into tight spaces.
“The main places they push them are areas with cold and shallow water,” Poche pointed out. “That could be pinch points or small and narrow creeks. The bass just want them somewhere they can’t get away. Bass are ambushers, so they will just wait on a group of shad to come down a small opening and trap them in there.”
Which Bait to Use
When it comes to his bait of choice for shad imitation, Poche goes with a two-pronged approach that has netted him quality bites time and time again.
“If I can physically see the shad busting through the water, I like using a Berkley J-Walker topwater,” Poche pointed out. “I can really fling that out there and get a lot of bites with that. I’ll also work a lipless crankbait, mainly a Berkley Warpig, and rip it through the water. Once you catch one, it kind of starts a little feeding frenzy and gets the rest of the bass going.”
Once you start to feel that little nip in the morning air, it might be time to go hunting for schools of shad in your neck of the woods.
Tip 1. BEWARE OF YOUR PRESENCE
Believe it or not, fish can hear or sense your presence very well. If you are yelling to your buddy across the lake and there’s a fish right in front of you chances are that fish will most likely spook. Trout also have incredible eyesight so if you’re moving your body around quickly and the fish are relatively close, chances are they will see you and quickly spook.
Tip 2. THROW DRY FLIES
Not only are dry flies way more fun to throw than nymphs, but they are also extremely effective and a great way to single out fish. Who doesn’t love sight fishing especially to sipping trout? I have found that a size 18 or 20 Parachute Adams, Small Ants, Gnats and other terrestrial patterns all work very well. Every lake is different so try different flies and observe the insects hatching and feeding behavior of trout.
Tip 3. MATCH THE HATCH
Often times once you arrive at a lake you will see fish rising, so before you even tie a fly on it’s never a bad idea to watch a couple of fish and look closely to try to figure out exactly what they are eating and replicate it with one of your own flies.
Tip 4. LEAD THE FISH
Like any sight fishing, you always want to try to lead the fish by about 3 to 5 feet. Personally, I like to lead the fish closer to 5 feet then if the fish changes direction I can strip the fly so the fly will intercept the path the fish is swimming or if it’s necessary to recast, I can recast quickly without spooking the fish. Make sure your fly is in line with the direction the fish is swimming and theoretically and hopefully the fish will rise and take your fly.
Tip 5. DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE WEATHER
Most often in high altitudes the mornings are sunny with low winds and then after about 12 o clock, clouds will move in and the wind will pick up, the earlier you can be at the lake the better, once the clouds roll in and the wind picks up, dry fly fishing will become extremely difficult and almost impossible to achieve. Trust me it’s all about fishing dries in the high country.
If your above tree line and the sky gets cloudy and you hear thunder, or see lightning get to tree line ASAP, you do not want to be above treeline waving a 9-foot graphite rod when a thunderstorm hits, this will happen pretty much at least once every single day in the mountains.
Tip 6. DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO OFF THE BEATEN PATH
In most cases, the lakes with longest hikes or hardest climbs are usually most productive. Overnight hikes are very common in getting to those harder to get to/more remote places that will hold more fish and especially more fish willing to eat flies. Its also never a bad idea to ask someone at the local fly shop in the area what lakes have been fishing well and go from there. However, it is never a bad idea to explore a lake with zero information on it, who knows you might just find a secret high alpine lake loaded with fish.
Article by Flynn Kenney, check him out on Instagram @fkenney4.
Only a few years back, the mere mention of European style nymphing (let alone Czech nymphing) amongst a sect of American dry fly purists would be met with an inaudible profanity followed by a hardy wad of tobacco-stained saliva. However, most of those same anglers now find themselves hip-deep with a straight arm, scanning underwater feed-ways for a hungry fish.
In this guide, we will break down all the elements you need to know in order to perfect the Czech style of Euro-nymphing. Below you’ll find helpful tips about Czech nymphing, what flies you’ll need, proper fishing methods, and much more, and soon enough, you’ll be nymphing like a pro.
What is Czech nymphing?
Bringing a competitive mindset to casual fishing
The history of the Czech style of European nymphing dates back to 1984 on the Dunajec River in Poland when Poland and Czechoslovakia were engaged in a fly fishing tournament. Due to a lack of accessibility to materials such as fly line, many of the Polish fishermen were implementing a short line fishing method, where they relied solely on nylon line. It was here where a Polish Angler by the last name of Jelenski showed the Czech competitors two basic caddis larvae fly patterns (Hydropsyche, and Rhycophylia).
From here, Czech competitors implemented their new pattern and style to take second place (behind Poland) at the world championship on the San River, only to take first place the next year (1986), in the Freshwater Club World Championships in Liege. Only a few months later, the same angler by the name of Slavoj Svobada took first again at the Champion of Czechoslovakia, and then again to win the World Trophy on the Ourth River.
As years went on, the short line Czech style brought many more individuals to first-place victories. Eventually, an emphasis on further developing these fly patterns came about when a focus on creating these flies with a “shellback” came to prominence. Flies were cased in dried catfish or eel skin and later titled a “Bobesh”. From there, massive advancements were made over the span of many years.
Eventually, lead wire, tungsten bead, and specialized chemically sharpened hooks took the place of the original flies tied with old sponge and raincoat. Special rubber backs and an upgrade to ice dubbin allowed the flies to evolve to what we see them as today; meticulously crafted, attractive specimens that almost look to pretty to fish with. Furthermore, flies were not the only elements subject to change. Along the way, line indicators, thinner diameter nylon, and craft-specific nymphing rods began to come into popularity, only further propelling the Czech style into popularity.
Because of the magnificent success, these flies bring, along with a dedication towards always improving, Czech style nymphs have become a staple to any anglers fly box across the world, and paired with the tight line, short cast style, will continue to bring fish to those same anglers nets.
Czech Nymphing today…
Czech nymphing hasn’t deviated too far from its roots since its introduction to the world in 1984, and in basic terms can be classified by the act of short distance fishing where the fly’s float path doesn’t stray far from under the tip of the rod. By keeping an outstretched arm, often times the actual fly line doesn’t even touch the water, as the line is to be kept close and tight in order to detect strikes.
A Czech nymph rig can be set up with either 2 or 3 flies depending on the conditions of the water. These flies are classified as either Sedges or Bobeshes. Sedges often imitate sedge larvae ( Hydropsyche) and are tied with green or yellow bodies with dark thorax’s. Bobeshes on the other hand, are tied to imitate the larval stages of a caddis or other members of the underwater insect community, all with a thicker body and legs extending from the thorax.
Where and When to Czech nymph
Find your lane
Like all other forms of nymphing, and fishing in general, the best place to catch fish is moving water. More specifically, the seams and pockets created by moving water. As two currents meet, small pockets of slower water form beneath the surface. These areas act as a place for fish to hang out and conserve energy, as well as a direct feeding lane where fish await debris and insects as they wash down the currents of the river or stream.
With this in mind, the best place to float your fly would be in or around these lanes and pools. Fish often expect their food to be brought right to them, and will often gulp up an oncoming snack without a second thought. Not to mention, fish are less inclined to move in the hotter months of summer, and colder months of winter, so if you’re getting you fly right in front of them, they are 90% more likely to take it.
During its introduction to the fly fishing community, there was common misconception that Czech nymphing was a style of fishing solely used to fish icey Europen waters amidst cold winters; and furthermore, only to catch Grayling. Thankfully, this is but a myth and was dispelled rather quickly. In reality, Czech nymphing can be performed in any circumstance where the angler has access to moving water, and can correctly fish it.
Whether it be winter, summer, spring, or fall; this style can be implemented and is a practical alternative for when there seems to be no fish rising. As stated many times, fish do about 90% of their feeding underwater, so by refusing such a method, you’re bound to catch only a fraction of what you could be catching.
The key times to nymph would be when there is low visibility. Considering you will be so close to the pool you are trying to fish, you will be a clearer presence. You’ll have more luck on days with overcast, or sometimes rain, as your hovering rod and close proximity will be less easy to detect (by sight at least).
Czech Nymphing Method
Fish it tight, fish it right
When it comes to Czech Nymphing, the technique involved is just like any other sort of tight line nymphing. The basic idea of it is that you want your flies to simulate shrimp, larvae, etc. bouncing around in the current. By implementing a dropper system, this can be achieved with a few roll-casts, or simply taking one precise cast and splashing the flies into the water.
When beginning your drift, cast approximately 45 degrees upstream. Remember, Czech nymphing dictates there should be little to NO fly line touching the water, this allows a smooth drift, while also keeping your line tight to indicate any strikes.
Once the fly hits the water, remember to keep your arm extended. This allows you to better control your line, as well as get as far away from shore as possible. Now with your flies submerged, they begin their drift downstream. An easy trick to remember is to try to keep the tip of the rod almost directly over where the flies are drifting. You should be able to draw an almost completely vertical line from the tip to the flies throughout most of the drift.
Once you begin to reach the end of your drift, let the flies swing in the current before you pull the line out to recast. A common mistake many anglers make is pulling the line out too early. Often times the end of the drift is where the fish will make a split-second decision and grab at your fly, by removing them too quickly, you’re eliminating that opportunity, and most likely losing a lot of fish.
Throughout your whole drift remember two things…
- Watch your indicator: Traditionally, Czech nymphing is done using a leader strike indicator, or a colored extension of nylon that points out irregularities in movement. If you catch a glimpse of your indicator moving in an abnormal manner, it’s probably because a fish has your fly! When that moment comes, stay calm and give a strong, but not violent, set. If your eyes are elsewhere during a take, there’s a good chance you could miss it.
- Keep that line TIGHT: Everyone knows slack is an angler’s worst enemy. In Czechnymphing, this is truer than ever. By keeping your line tight, you are doing the following…
- Allowing yourself to feel if there is a strike or twitch of the line (in case an indicator fails to do so).
- Allowing for the indicator the function properly and act independent from the pushes and pulls of the current.
- Creating a clear and natural-looking drift
- Keeping excess line out of the water, which may spook fish examining the nymphs for authenticity.
Czech Nymphing Flies
Beware the Bobesh
In reference to the history portion of this guide, the traditional Czech nymph (or Bobish) was created as a competition fly. One of the main reasons these nymphs were so favored was due to the way they functioned in their setup, as well as their weight. In said competitions, weighted leader or split shot was prohibited, so anglers had to get crafty and implemented tungsten beads in order to get their flies down in the fast currents.
These flies are tied on a dropper system stemming from a monofilament, or fluorocarbon (preferable) leader. 3 flies can be tied to the rig, but depending on water conditions, sometimes 2 will work better. In reference to the diagram below, these nymphs are rigged as such:
- Leader indicator is connected to fluorocarbon leader
- From the leader, 4 ft-8ft. of leader lead to the first tag end (created by a surgeons knot). Here is where your first nymph will sit.
- Next, travel 20″ to the next tag end and attach your heaviest fly.
- Another 20″ from there, tie on your final fly. This will be your lightest fly.
The reason for the specific placement of the flies is what makes Czech nymphing so effective. Once the flies hit the water, the middle nymph will sink the fastest, and drag along the bottom as it is swept through the current. The remaining 2 flies will float above it in a “V” shape, advertising 2-3 flies on various levels, ensuring at least one is seen by a hungry fish.
Which Nymphs to use…
The beauty of fly tying is that each tier makes their flies a little different from the next. However, because of this, there is no exact defined list of which flies are THE Czech nymphs. However, the broad definition would state that; if the fly is tied with a weighted head, tied on a grub style hook, and imitates a freshwater shrimp, caddis, or larvae…it’s a Czech nymph.
Here are just a few examples of some variations of these flies:
Original Ryacophila (olive) Tungsten CZ Caddis Hot spot Ryacophila
Frenchie style Czech Nymph Woven Brown Peach Vladi Polish Woven Nymph
What Equipment to Use
The best rod to use is something long, that way you can get as far from the shore as possible, without losing that tight drift. Look for a 10-11′ rod, generally with a low weight (about 3-5 is best). You want a nice low weight in order to feel the vibrations in the line in order to detect a fish taking your fly/ making sure your bumping bottom.
Flylords Recommendation: Thomas and Thomas Contact rod (11′, 3 weight)
In order to combat the long rod, a larger reel with sensitive drag is recommended in order to balance your rig out.
Flylords Recommendation: Abel Model SDF Reel
In Czech nymphing, your leader is one of the most important elements in your loadout. With flimsy, or oversized line, fish can get spooked, or much worse, snap off. Considering your fly line will almost never even touch the water, it’s up to your leader to be the workhorse here. Its generally suggested you go with a 4x-5x leader, as it will stand strong, but not be too noticeable. Also, when it comes to material, stick to fluorocarbon as it will make your line sink much better than Mono.
Flylords Recommendation: Scientific Angler’s Fluorocarbon Leaders
Okay…let’s all agree to stay away from bobbers for this one. There are a lot of good leader indicators out there, and when it comes down to it, it’s all going to depend on what is easiest for YOU to see. They’re not very expensive, so buy a few and find your favorite.
Flylords recommendation: Umpqua Indicator Coil
Now that you’ve got all you need to know about Czech nymphing, get out there and catch some fish!
This article was written by Flylords team member Wills Donaldson
If you imagine a perfect day on the water, pleasant temperatures and sunshine probably come to mind. But rain, which is a common summer afternoon occurrence, leaves most anglers packing up their cars and heading for home.
But, if you’re willing to stick it out through the bad weather, you’ll reap some major benefits. The moment the first drop falls, people will start heading for home, and that’s the first advantage to staying out. Most likely, you’ll get the water to yourself.
Apart from that, the fishing itself is likely to improve as well. Some people love fishing in the rain, since the low light conditions and abundance of food can trigger heavy feeding in fish. Fishing during a rainstorm, though, requires different tactics than on a bluebird day. Not all rain is created equal, either, so knowing how to approach each situation is key. Tailoring both your fly choice and presentation to the conditions can make or break a rainy day on the water.
The Calm Before the Storm
While fishing in the rain can be an opportune time, don’t discount the cool, calm time before the storm. Fishing right before it rains can be just as effective as during or after a rainstorm.
Opinions differ on what exactly causes this increase in activity before inclement weather. Two of the main guesses are barometric pressure and low light conditions.
It’s hard to argue against the idea of low light conditions being a good thing. Low light, with or without rain, often causes an increase in fish activity. Hatches may start to come off, harsh direct light goes away, and fish may be harder for predators to spot. Fish respond well to all of these things.
As for barometric pressure, many anglers swear by it, while others think it’s more of a correlation than causation. Pressure tends to fall dramatically right before a storm, and it’s during this time of rapid change that fish are thought to feed the most aggressively.
It’s well-known that fish can sense pressure changes due to organs like the swim bladder, which are acutely tuned to pressure. The thoughts about why pressure affects fish, though, vary widely. One idea is that a drop in pressure may cause small baitfish and plankton to rise in the water column, leading to a feeding frenzy among predators. Another guess is that the predatory fish themselves will rise temporarily in the water, making them easier to target in the shallows. A third idea supposes that fish make the connection between pressure drops and bad weather, so they choose to feed before the rain mucks up the water.
Whatever the true cause of the action, it’s evident that the fishing improves before a storm, so target this time aggressively.
Different Types of Rain
Fish respond differently to different types of precipitation, so it’s important to cater your techniques to the type of rainstorm.
A quick, mild drizzle likely won’t affect fishing much at all. If you don’t even think to look for your rain jacket, you probably don’t need to worry about switching your rig, either. Fish may take dries or nymphs during a light rain, although rises may be hard to spot among the raindrops!
If the rain picks up into a steady shower, it’s probably time to switch tactics. Fish will likely stop rising to the surface for tiny insects, so swapping out for a nymph rig is a good idea. The other option is to use large, gaudy dries like hoppers. Rain knocks tons of insects and other food sources into the water, so fish may sit along the shore ready to gobble up terrestrials as they tumble in. You can get the best of both worlds by tying a nymph off the bottom of your hopper.
When a heavy downpour rolls in, the water starts to rise and turn muddy. This may effectively eliminate dry fly activity, as well as small nymphs. Now’s the time to throw on something large and juicy like a San Juan worm or streamer. Flies in this type of water should be visible and appetizing. Save your delicate flies for the nicer weather.
General Rainstorm Tips
Use quicker retrieves – If you’re fishing the high-activity period right before rain, try fishing any stripped fly more aggressively than normal. During this frenzy, fish key in on fleeing prey, and you can take advantage of the chaos by giving them something to chase down.
Adapt – Probably the most important thing to keep in mind when fishing in the rain is that you must be willing to make adjustments along the way. If you keep the same rig from pre-storm to post-storm, you’ll probably strike out through most of it. Changing tactics frequently to match the weather is the way to go.
Look for slow eddies near shore – Especially in a medium-strength rain, try to fish the slower pockets near shore. Not only do these pockets give fish a safe haven during rising water levels, but they also collect insects that fall in from the banks.
Prepare for another bump in activity after the storm – While the calm before the storm is great due to pressure and light changes, don’t forget to fish after a storm, too. If you catch it just right, you may be rewarded with massive hatches of insects as clearing weather meets with a cooling evening. Get ready to throw your dries back on as soon as the rain stops.
Fly Suggestions for Rain
The three top categories of flies during a rainstorm are terrestrials, large nymphs, and streamers.
Any terrestrials can mimic bugs falling in from the shore, but sticking with large ones like hoppers or big ants is probably best, especially if the surface is disturbed by rainfall.
As for streamers, try visible colors like black or dark brown to make them stand out against the murky water. A black woolly bugger is perfect.
If you’re nymphing, stick with large, visible flies like a Pat’s Rubber Legs or San Juan worm. Prey items like worms and chubby stoneflies get kicked up during rough water and make for a juicy, highly visible meal.
This article was developed by Flylords’ content team member, Katie Burgert.
The “what” and “why” of using a dry/dropper rig are explained a few weeks into Fly Fishing 101. You cover more water, present to more fish, and maximize your catching potential.
But there have always been many more ways to tap into 2 fly systems than a Chernobyl Ant with a Copper John underneath it.
Here are four dropper rig ideas for all types of trout fishing. These incorporate streamers, dries, nymphs, and even mice. What they all have in common is this – the flies work in tandem. Fishing the flies together can create a whole greater than the sum of each individual fly’s parts.
Check out the four rigs, as well as a few notes on knots and storage, below:
Finding treasure on the water
by Chris Hunt
South of Old Faithful, a tiny stream runs beneath the Grand Loop Road—thousands of tourists drive over the little bridge every single summer day.
A trail generally follows the stream on its gentle course to Shoshone Lake. If you walk the trail, you might occasionally see a tiny brook trout finning in a deep, dark corner of the creek. More likely, if you’re not an angler and staring keenly through polarized lenses through clear water isn’t really your thing, you might notice a fish dart for cover as your shadow crosses the stream.
This unassuming brook … this … rivulet (for “brook” is even too prominent a descriptor for this diminutive trickle) is one of the more complex fishing destinations I’ve ever visited. Yes, there are non-native brookies here. In fact, any fish in this stream is non-native—before the National Park Service introduced lake trout, brown trout and brook trout into Shoshone and Lewis lakes and their surrounding drainages, the whole drainage was likely fishless.
I make a point to visit this little run now and then. Not every year, but almost. I’ve fished it from its forested, mosquito-infested headwaters to its modest “estuary” where it must crest the black-sand beach and flow into Shoshone Lake.
For some reason, this tiny little stream captures my imagination, and it does so in that Dr. Ian Malcom “life finds a way” manner. It’s not a thriving trout ecosystem (at least not at first blush). It’s not stunningly gorgeous (but its beauty grows on you). It doesn’t flow through severe, weathered country (but if you hike it after an autumn snowstorm, you’ll see more than just boot prints on the trail).
For me, this little ribbon of flowing, tannic water simply beckons. I want to know how it works.
So I become a trout prospector.
Most fly fishers who possess a rod smaller than a 5-weight will understand what I’m trying to communicate. When you approach a fishing destination with light-weight tackle, you have, for the most part, adjusted your expectations accordingly. You’re not fishing to catch trophy trout that might one day adorn the wall of the cabin. Instead, you’re after something more visceral. Not the “what” of fishing, but more likely the “why.”
Take this little trickle in Yellowstone. Yes, it’s small. It’s unassuming. It’s likely ignored by most anglers who are, instead, heading to sexier destinations like the Snake or Lewis rivers, the Lewis River Channel or the Firehole farther north.
But it’s part of something grander, as most small waters are. It’s part of the entire drainage of two high-elevation lakes that, for better or for worse, have been manipulated by humankind for about 130 years. No, there are no roads to Shoshone Lake, and Lewis Lake only gets drive-by treatment from most. But both lakes (and the streams that feed them) are home to a complex fishy food web that starts and ends with introduced species. And this little blue line on the Yellowstone National Park map is part of that web.
As I “prospected” the stream earlier this summer, I knew I’d catch brook trout. These introduced exotics from the shoulders of Appalachia are now among the most prominent salmonids throughout the park. Over the years, though, I’ve often wondered why I wasn’t catching more brown trout in the stream—I’ve seen redds in the broader waters of the creek near its confluence with the lake, and it’s a near certainty that young-of-the-year browns use the stream as a nursery before retreating to the lake once they reach a reasonable size.
So, on this “prospecting” trip, I was hunting for browns. I knew they’d be small. I knew they’d be just about right for the wispy little 1-weight I was using. I also knew that brook trout, in streams like this one, tend to outcompete other fish, including browns.
I considered this the fly-fishing equivalent of a gold-panning endeavor where, among the hundreds of pieces of gravelly detritus, an occasional flake of shiny metal might turn up.
I wasn’t interested in a trophy. I wasn’t interested in a hero shot. I simply wanted to see if there were trout among the char, why they turn up, where they turn up … and why so infrequently. And, as if awaiting a proper introduction, two 4-inch long young-of-the year browns hit my size 16 Adams.
Gold flakes. They turn up, often when you least expect them to.
This is likely the logic behind “prospecting,” and one of the reasons that 1-weight fly rods exist in the first place. It’s about treasure, and the effort it takes to look for it. It’s about getting out of the car and wandering a blue line on the map in real life. It’s about mosquitoes that feel as if they might be able to carry you off if they had the good sense to work together to drain your body of blood. It’s about stealth and accuracy. It takes commitment.
If this isn’t your thing, don’t ditch the 5-weight. But if exploration turns your crank … if the discovery process lights your hair on fire, even just a little, then a light-weight rod or two ought to occupy a corner of your closet.
These tiny, delicate implements can be transformed into the gold pan and the screen, and every now and then, a piece of treasure might just turn up.
Chris Hunt is the national digital director for Trout Unlimited. He lives and works in Idaho Falls, and is the author of the newly released book, “Catching Yellowstone’s Wild Trout: A Fly Fishing History and Guide.”