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Robjent's Chalkstream Diary - Sawyer Nymphing

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A later summer brown trout that fell for a well-placed nymph A later summer brown trout that fell for a well-placed nymph

August finally treated us with some form of settled weather, we had the odd heavy shower but on the whole the month was good. The rivers looked spectacular, they were running full, most areas had lush weed growth and they were crystal clear. These conditions paint the perfect picture of a chalkstream, minus the mayfly I suppose, even though the odd bewildered one is still seen fluttering on the River Avon at that time of year. A perfect picture it may be, but the fish were reluctant to give themselves up in these conditions, my last article covered five tips for Summer Success and they have been vital this year for my own outings.

Last month I generally found the middle parts of the day to be very difficult with fish unwilling to come up to the top in the bright of the day, although with a little persuasion the odd fish was risen during this time. The main joy of this time of year is the evenings, and this year has been no different. Most evenings saw steady hatches of Sedges with a couple of different Olives also showing; annoyingly I also found some fish fixated on Midges in the midst of all this other fly-life activity!

Selecting_the_right_fly_395416063.jpgFor those fish not locked on to Midges my favourite patterns have been the softer winged Sedge patterns, i.e. Walker’s Sedge and CDC winged Sedges, but also Olive imitations in sizes 16-18 both emergers and full duns. For the Midge feeders it all has to be scaled down, using flies down to a size 20 and patterns such as the Griffiths Gnat and black parachute.

Over recent years the fishing estates have become more lenient on their fly rules with a lot of stretches now allowing nymph fishing in September and some even through August as well. Nymph fishing is often thought as easy, when the fish eat the majority of their food subsurface how can you fail? It is actually quite easy to fail and it is usually because we treat the method as being completely different to dry fly fishing. Nymph fishing and dry fly fishing are actually far more similar than we think; key elements include presentation, drift and knowledge of where the target fish actually is.

Spotting_a_lie_995496317.jpgOften when one is new to nymph fishing there is a tendency towards using an indicator, and they can be effective in the right environment but, particularly this year, on our clear chalkstreams an indicator can actually spook the fish we are after. Another popular method is the New Zealand dropper or duo set-up where you use a dry fly as your indicator with a nymph trailing behind; this method is limited to waters where a two fly set-up is allowed. This now leaves an often forgotten method that was thanks to the brain of Frank Sawyer and is as simple as they come.

The Sawyer nymphing method requires three key ingredients (minus the obvious rod, etc), these are; leader, floatant and nymph. The leader only needs to be simple, no 20-30ft excessive lengths, just 9ft or 12ft for really shallow waters, and breaking strain needs to be to match the piece of water you are fishing. Next is the floatant, originally the one used would have been Mucilin, this is very good and easy to dress on the line for this method but Gink or any other liquid floatant should work too. The job of the floatant is to provide you with an indicator, you achieve this by running the floatant on the leader from where it joins the flyline down to two or three feet from the fly depending on how deep you want the fly to fish. Lastly the fly, this can be much like selecting a dry fly, you look at what’s happening around you and select a nymph accordingly, for example if olives are hatching it is wise to go for an olive nymph imitation. If no flies are hatching there are several nymphs that are usually good effective patterns, these are; the Pheasant Tail Nymph – designed by Frank Sawyer to represent various Olives, the Hare’s Ear Nymph – a very versatile pattern, all things to all trout as such, and also shrimp – a fly that populates most of the chalkstreams and big part of a trout’s diet.

The_Evening_light_catches_the_Sedges_534895986.jpgOnce you have the set-up, the way to fish this method is to consider it a dry fly technique. So as you would normally, work up the water observing your surrounds until you locate the fish you want to target. To cast to this fish you will place a cast ahead of it with the intention that a dead drift will take your fly to the fish. As the fly drifts you will notice the dressed part of the leader floating and any interference with the fly will be indicated by a movement in the floating leader. When the leader moves you do as you would for a dry fly take and strike, from which point you know the rest.

I hope this method brings you success over the last month of the trout season and that you make it to the water at every available opportunity.

Alex Jardine
Alex Jardine

Alex Jardine works for international fly fishing specialists Aardvark McLeod where you can contact him at alex@aardvarkmcleod.com

Robjent's is a well-known country pursuits store located in Stockbridge in the heart of the Test Valley and a mecca for local and visiting fly anglers.

They stock a diverse range of high quality fly fishing tackle, shooting equipment, clothing and accessories as well as the providing the latest information on fly fishing and the most popular fly patterns in the area and further a field. Such brands as Hardy, Greys, G Loomis, Abel, Nautilus, Lamson, Rio, Costa, and many more can be found in store.

Go in and see the shop or for further information call +44 (0)1264 810829.

Robjent's, Halfway House, High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire, SO20 6EX

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