Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Skinny Water Setup For The Swift And Some December Dates.

"Elmer's most favored flies are uncomplicated and impressionistic: a few turns of thread or dubbing can often go a long way"
From Swift River, Ma. The Lost Valley's Tailwater by Christophe Perez in Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine, January/February 2014

I love this low flow on the Swift. It makes you hunt for the trout and stalking is the name of the game. A few posts back I mentioned how the shadow of a person walking along the bank fell on the "thin" water and sent the trout running for cover. The ripples from careless wading will do the same thing and so will your fly line hitting the water when fish are in less than five inches of water. That low water condition is all over the lower Swift (not the pipe or the tree pool of course) and I needed a system to be successful.

First, a 15ft salmon/steelhead leader tapered to 4x with an additional 5ft of 5x was looped to my 2wt Triangle Taper line. Here comes the fun part - This line was mounted to a 10ft 4 WEIGHT Grey's rod!!!!! It's the longest trout rod that I have. Would this rig work?? It worked like a dream. First, the full flex Grey cast that 20ft of leader without a problem. When I put 15 feet of fly line beyond the rod tip everything worked fine - my midge larvae pattern fell on the water like dust!!

Before you say that I'm doing a French/Spanish nymph thing notice that I'm not relying on bead heads to propel my line like they do. Any weighted fly would be dragged through the moss under these conditions. Actually I'm getting sick of bead heads and only fish them when I need to get DOWN. I like flies "in the drift"!

Brook trout were holding in water that barely covered their backs. Bows were holding below them with their backs exposed!! I didn't want to be within 25 ft of these fish and this setup made that possible. I took bows and brookies with a very simple larvae pattern: size 20 to 24 scud hook, brown thread from the bend to the thorax for the body, a few strands of midge flash for a wing stub and finishing with a black head of black thread. Wicked simple, wicked effective.

Soon I'll have some thoughts on rod and line weights. That will be fun.

November has actually been a nice month weather wise and the fishing has been good. We had some good days in December last year which ended when the Ice Age started in January. A 45 degree day in December is like a 45 degree day in April so book a date. Deposits are never required so if the weather turns bad we can cancel. As simple as that!



Anonymous said...

I don't think that "beads = French/Spanish nymphing."

For French nymphing, you're actually supposed to use *very* little weight or no weight, as weight spooks fish. That's the point of French nymphing, which was developed for shallow water and spooky fish. Much of the casting is done because of the fly rod length and the leader set-up, particularly in the butt section, which is meant to be stiff to help with casting. And, the use of one very small fly.

Welcome to French-style nymphing! You're being open-minded, suddenly!

Hibernation said...

Those Grey's streamflex long rods are awesome rigs! Love your set up Ken. GREAT swift set up, and a lot easier than my 20-25 foot leaders made with 30-20-15# Big game, 10-8# trilene XT, 2X, then 2-3feet of 5-6x tippet. I'm going to try your idea... WAY simpler!
Happy Thanksgiving,

Millers River Flyfisher said...


Thanks. Fewer knots to collect pine needles and leaves too.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!


Google up French nymphing flies and tell me what you see. Look at videos of tying nymphs for French nymphing and again tell me what you see. You will see billions of bead heads! Read George Daniel's book "Dynamic Nymphing", basically a book with strong French/Spanish nymphing direction, and you will see that his Heavy, Medium and LIGHTWEIGHT set ups ALL include some weight to the fly! The lightweight set up is basically his French set up. I use no weight for the conditions that I described and I don't use indicators, sighters or homemade mono slinkys either.

What "you're actually supposed to use" does not define the technique as it's actually being preached by the marketing machine.


Joe C said...


For the last four years I have been using a Greys Streamflex 10' 2 wt. mostly Czech nymphing. It is soft enough to cast up to 28' of leader without weight so many times I use it for conventional casting as well. Also when Czech nymmphing on the Swift weight is very subjective. I normally fish a size 26 glass bead nymph on point with a size 30 non-weighted as a dropper about 15" above it. When I fish slower water with a conventional cast I usually end up with just the size 30 unweighted, cast slightly across and down. It touches down even softer than my 00 wt. It is certainly unconventional but I've never been one to follow set traditions.

In your response above you noted " I don't use indicators, sighters or homemade mono slinkys either". It seems like sighters are always included in conversations as an indicator which it is not. Bobbers, indicators, slikys etc. are all designed to show a "take" of the fly.

The purpose of a sighter is to allow one to see his/her leader. It is usually incorporated high into a leader and does not enter the water. When Czech nymphing in current the sighter allows you to see your leader as you walk your rig through the current without slack between you and the fly. True Czech nymphing is all feel, not visual like indicator fishing.

I did get out Saturday morning (something I normally don't do) to the Swift. Five cars already at the RT. 9 parking so I drove down to the Pipe. Seven cars already there so I went back to RT. 9. Folks were all spread out and the Y pool was deserted. Fished a size 30 midge and picked up close to a dozen rainbows. Others came and went but it was never crowded.

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Joe C.

Thanks for the comment. Always appreciated from you.

So far my eyes are good enough to see the leader without the sighter. Guess it's from my Tenkara fishing with "invisible" green line. So far so good.

This rig of mine is for low water conditions and I will adjust accordinglytp flow conditions.

When you say Czech nymphing do you mean French nymphing considering the length of the leader? It's funny but years ago I used to fish 5 ft of heavy mono with weighted flies during heavy Spring flows, just dredging the bottom up close. I should of named the method "Massachusetts Nymphing"


Anonymous said...

I have read George Daniel's book. And, I French-nymph a lot. You're new to it, and so, believe what you want. You're just recreating what some Euro-nymphers have done already. What you're doing isn't that novel, honestly. You just think it is.

Anonymous said...

You're fishing for brookies in water so shallow their fins show? And, rainbows are below them? Well, those brookies are spawning and the rainbows are eating the brookies' eggs. Is it ethical to fish for spawning fish? Many would say NO.

Anonymous said...

That's not a larva pattern. That's an emerger.

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Dear Little Anonymous,

If you read the Daniels book you would understand what I said. Did you Google French Nymphing and see the flies that are used? Of course not. W E I G H T E D!!!!!!!!!

I catch brookies and bows just like EVERYONE is on the Swift at this time of year and we have been doing that for some time and the brookie population just seems to be expanding. Personally I like to get the bows below the redds. You seem too new to the Swift environment to have such strong opinions.

And now you are telling me what kind of flies that I'm tying??

Listen, go find a blog where everything happy, happy, joy, joy and where no conventional feathers are rustled. "Gee, what a great pic of that trout" or Gee, what tiny flies you tie". It will be safe there and you will not have to get your shorts in a knot over what I write. This blog has been going for 14 years with the same views and opinions from me and others. You are not one of them. Go away.

Joe C said...


"Massachusetts Nymphing", I love it!

Without this becoming a long dissertation on fishing style I would say I fish a mix of "Czech nymphing" with the long leader usually seen in Spanish nymphing.

European styles of nymphing:

The Polish style of nymphing is essentially the same as Czech Nymphing. In fact, the Czech method was derived from Polish Nymphing and the differences mostly arise in the way your leader is rigged. As stated above, the Polish Nymphing technique is very similar to Czech Nymphing. The emphasis is on short casts and fishing close to your location. As with Czech Nymphing you will not be casting your fly line so much as you are casting your leader.

French Nymphing utilizes longer leaders, anywhere from 12 to 20 feet, and smaller flies than the Eastern European styles of fishing. Spanish Nymphing is a long leader, longer presentation style of European Nymphing. More similar to French Nymphing than Polish or Czech Nymphing, Spanish Nymphing relies on long rods and long leaders.

Now, when I fish the Swift in low water I reduce the fly weight to virtually nothing. Since what I fish is short line nymphing that leads to having the weight of the fly line in the guides being heavy enough to pull my leader back up through the guides, hence the long leaders that I now use. I also found that when a Swift River rainbow wants to run, the last thing I want is to have the line/leader junction slamming through the guides so I extended my leader length more ergo long leader short line nymphing. As I said earlier, I've never been one to follow set traditions. I prefer to just enjoy fishing by reading the water, seeing what works and modifying techniques to best fit the situation.

Tight lines,


Millers River Flyfisher said...

Thanks again Joe!

Just before the turn of the century I was reading the "Letters to the Editor" section of a fly fishing magazine that had a guy ranting away about how we didn't "fly fish" any longer. "Many fish with just a few inches of fly line past the tip top" or something close to that. I guess that wasn't fly fishing. Go back 20+ years ago and a friend watched me take a Millers brown with a very short upstream cast and a high stick drift almost at my feet. "That's too close to bait fishing" and off he went with his down and across presentation. He didn't care that Theodore Gordon used the same approach as mine when fishing sunken flies a 100 years before. Dan Trella used nothing but mono to zip weighted goldies across the Y Pool during the salmon winter of 2011-2012. An old trick popular around the Great Lakes and still fly fishing. The thing is our methods are pretty much the same, in many ways, as the methods that now have a name.

Bob O said...

Comments here seem to agree that in skinny water, smaller unweighted flies, on longer leaders, stealthily presented with least disturbance to sight or sound or surface bear best results - regardless what the technique is named. Thanks again Ken for your practical, insightful commentary.

Millers River Flyfisher said...

From the website FLY FISHING POINT - Techniques - French Nymph

"The types of flies used for French nymphing are mainly beaded flies, jig flies, classic Czech nymphs, other weighted flies (for instance pheasant tail), or even wet flies. Smaller sizes from 12-16 are generally used, with size 12 for high water conditions and 14-16 for normal or low water conditions. One trend lately is the use of small tungsten flies tied on jig hooks, which sink well and tend to not get snagged on the river bottom due to the jig hook construction."


The Eye on Harvard said...

Hi Ken. Reading the comments I have no doubt about the stealth of the long leader (whatever european country name somebody might apply to it) Help me with the physics of casting here on the Swift. You are plying a 20ft leader, 15ft of flyline for 35 ft of line outside the rod tip with a fly that has no weight to speak of. How do you stay in contact with the fly and for how long can I keep in touch with it? Most places the river isn't wide enough to back cast 35ft to lay it across to those brookies 35 ft in front of me. I can't picture keeping contact with the fly upstream very long by raising the rod as it floats back to me. Roll casting on the down stream diagonal to avoid the trees with a feather light leader I end up with a pretty big belly for a while until the leader straightens out and swings with the current. I guess the simple question is which direction should I be casting and how do you keep up with the drift with such a long line and no indicator? High stick and strip? I'm game to try new things every time I go out. Thanks!

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Eye on Harvard,

Most of my swift fishing with a 20 foot + leaders is with no or very little fly line beyond the tip top. The Stiff butt of my 15ft steelhead leader plus the slower action rod solves that issue. It's easier than you think. When I had 15 feet of fly line beyond the tip top it was easy too and that line was a 2 wt on a 4 wt rod. That's a subject for another post.

I am in touch with the fly at all times. Very long casts were done upstream with a low rod angle and a quick intake of line. Across and down presentations were on a fairly tight solving the contact issue.

Much of Tenkara fishing uses the same principles. It's not as difficult as you thing. If I meet you on the Swift I will demonstrate.

Happy Thanksgiving!