Home » Dries, wets and nymphs: They work like a charm

Dries, wets and nymphs: They work like a charm

Not too many fly-rodders use wet flies any more. I don’t really know why; the wet fly is one of the most versatile weapons in the ongoing battle with trout, but it has largely been superseded in the popular imagination by the nymph.

I am aware that many of you are now bewildered.Wet fly, huh?

Fishing flies come in three basic categories: dry, wet and nymph.

Insects in trout streams start out in a larval state, curled up in little balls and drifting around aimlessly. In this sense, the larval-stage bug reminds me of my immediate post-college days. Flies tied to resemble this exciting stage of bug life are called nymphs.

Then it decides to hatch, and, shucking off its larval armor, swims to the surface, like a guy who decides at age 27 that he can no longer stand living with an old college pal, three extremely weird dental students and a cat with bladder problems. He makes a dramatic break for freedom. These aspiring insects are imitated by the wet fly.

(Say, “Larval Armor” would make a good name for a rock band.)

Once it makes it to the surface, the newly freed insect either a) is gobbled by a trout b) winds up on someone’s windshield or c) applies to graduate school. This stage of the insect’s development is represented by the dry fly.

In classical fly-fishing, the nymph is fished on the bottom; the wet fly in the middle of the current; and the dry fly floats on top.

Dry fly fishing is fun because the angler can see the fly, and it is very satisfying when a fish comes up to grab it.

Alas, trout spend most of their time hiding under rocks and eating whatever floats closest. In this sense, trout remind me of my post-graduate school days.

In recent years many anglers have taken to nymphing in a big way. They do this with tiny flies, gossamer tippets and a device known as a “strike indicator,” a piece of brightly colored foam or yarn attached up the leader. When the indicator disappears, you’ve got a strike.

In other styles of fishing the strike indicator is called a bobber. It is the designated hitter of fly-fishing — here to stay, but abhorrent to the purist.

I use nymphs — without indicators — often, but lately I have been using wet flies, fished any old which way.

And with considerable success. Standard wet flies — Hendricksons, Cahills, Adams, the same classic dry fly patterns — can be fished upstream (as with dries) or downstream.

Or downstream on a swing. This is my favorite method on big water, like the Housatonic.

Using a swing, I cast about three-quarters upstream and immediately throw an upstream mend. This allows the swimming fly to drift naturally, and if there’s a conservative trout in range he will consider it closely.

And as the fly gets downstream, the drag on the line starts, and the fly ends its run swinging around until it is directly downstream from the fisherman.

The swing is when you get the hits.

I usually cast three or four times from a spot, adding more line each time, to cover a wider area.

Then I move downstream three large steps and repeat the process.

It’s not the most elegant procedure, perhaps, and I certainly wouldn’t wear seersucker to do it.

But it works like a charm.

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