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Short Line nymphing is, as the name implies, fishing with a short line cast upstream of the angler and a dead drift until below the angler with no line or leader lying on the surface of the water. Done correctly the nymph, or nymphs, will drift in a natural line with no drag. It is particularly effective for grayling, which are relatively insensitive to the close presence of the angler but also works with trout. There are a number of variations of the method such as Czech Nymphing, classically done with a horizontal rod held at shoulder height and the flies directly under the rod tip and French Nymphing using a very long leader of up to 10 metres and small nymphs which requires serious casting skills. The method described here is between these two extremes as taught to me by Jan Siman, a well known Czech guide and member of the Czech team which won the world championship in Wales some years ago. As with all fishing methods there is no absolute correct way, the technique described is the one used by Pat Stevens and myself but everyone is free to develop their own variations.
The Rod And Line
The normal rod for this method is a 10 foot, 3 or 4 weight with a progressive action. A shorter rod can be used but the longer rod gives more reach and control. Pat and I both use Marryat Tactical 3wts, this rod also casts a dry fly well. Any fly line and reel which suit the rod can be used, a 9 foot 4X or 3X tapered leader should be used.
The Business End
Tippet rings make the construction and maintenance of the terminal rig much easier than tying blood or water knots. The smallest rings are the best to use. It is normal to use a bite indicator, there are many variations but the simplest is a short length of hi-viz braid with or without contrasting dots.
See the attached diagrams for the rig I use and the way I make droppers
Choice Of Flies
I normally fish with 2 flies but may put a spider on a top dropper in the spring. It is usual to put the heaviest fly on the point and a smaller fly on the dropper. Use nymphs you have confidence in for the river you are fishing. The main issue is the weight of the point fly. You want to be near the bottom of the water with this fly and should touch it now and again. It is common to use jig hooks on the point in the belief (hope ?) that they swim hook up and therefore snag less. A Jan Siman tip is that when you do snag and it comes free with a bit of a tug immediately cast the flies back into the water, this reduces tangles.
The primary requirement for short line nymphing is flowing water. In deep, slow pools your flies will just sink to the bottom and attach themselves to it. The opposite extreme, riffles, can be worth a look, especially during a spell of hot weather as the fish seek out the oxygenated water. The best water for this style of fishing are the runs between the riffle and the body of the pool and the faster streamy water when the river is a little high. You can fish upstream or down, it doesn't seem to affect the catch rate, wading downstream in the faster runs is easier and less tiring than fishing upstream.
If fishing downstream take up position near the top of your chosen run and, with your back to the bank, stand facing the flow just to the side of the faster water. With no more than 30cm of fly line out of the rod tip ring gently lob the flies upstream, do not attempt to make a proper cast. With your rod held up at a minimum of 45 degrees to the vertical keep the indicator clear of the water and try to pause briefly to allow the flies to sink. Then with the indicator held above the water accompany the flies downstream at or slightly slower than the speed of the water at the surface, never faster. You may need to raise your rod as the flies go past you, the indicator has a second useful function as a depth gauge. Watch the indicator carefully and gently strike if it changes its path or stops. If it stops slowly it is probably the bottom, if quickly it might be a fish. When your rod is about 30 to 45 degrees to the horizontal below you stop leading the flies which will then rise in the water, you can often get a strong take at this moment so it is important that you keep your rod up. If it is pointing at the flies you will get broken. At the end of the drift make a little strike, it is not unusual to have a fish on without realising it. With the aid of the water loading gently recast or lob your flies back upstream and repeat. You can make a series of casts to cover several parts of the run, extending your arm to increase the reach of the rod and using a little more fly line. Pay particular attention to the changes of pace at the edges of the run. Then take a sideways step or two down stream and repeat the process.
This is the essence of short line nymphing. Your flies are allowed to drift as naturally as possible in the run, and as there is no line or indicator lying on the surface the drag on the flies is minimised. As there is no slack line between your hand and the flies you are in constant contact with them and can detect through the line and the movement of the indicator what is happening below the surface.