Lightweight. We saw how lightweight lines can improve stealth and contact, and how lightweight flies can produce a more natural presentation. The same goes for all the other components of our rig. With a lightweight rig, we can hold that rig off the water at greater distance, increasing or decreasing drag as we see fit. When well balanced, a lightweight rig remains easy to cast. Incorporating a lightweight tactic in our rig improves presentation and assists in maximizing stealth and contact.
Low profile. To minimize drag and maximize benefit, each and every component of the rig must be reviewed in the context of a low profile tactic. The choice of a furled leader/line over a monofilament one, whether or not to incorporate a tippet ring, the size of the tippet, the profile of an indicator, etc. all play into the overall profile of the rig. The knots used to connect sections of a hand-tied tapered leader/line, to attach tippet to leader/line, to build a multi-fly rig, etc. may seem inconsequential when viewed individually, but their profile can add up when considered in the context of the whole rig. This might seem obsessive, like the fly fishing equivalent of an ultralight backpacker cutting the tags out of her t-shirts. But, hey, sometimes it’s the details that give us the extra confidence needed to trick fish.
Dense. Just like our line needs a certain amount of density to cast, and our flies need a certain amount of density to reach a target depth, our overall rigs must have balanced density to ensure we can present the fly as intended. For example, transitioning from a dense, stiff fluorocarbon leader to a relatively buoyant, pliable nylon sighter can sometimes create an unwanted hinge in the rig during casting. Balanced density ensures there is still adequate mass to cast a lightweight, low profile rig.
Stealth. We already discussed how the choice of line, flies, etc. can impact stealth. The manner in which we incorporate them into a rig also impacts stealth. Take, for example, the colored nylon sighters incorporated into some nymphing rigs. Generally, red/orange sighters provide maximum visibility, especially in low light. When held above the water, red/orange sighters are also maximally visible to trout. Yellow/green sighters provide good visibility as well, especially in bright conditions. They are often a bit harder for trout to discern from the background. Nylon sighters also come in white. White nylon sighters are highly visible in bright conditions, especially against dark backgrounds. They can get lost in foamy waters or against a snowy bank. White nylon sighters are also more difficult to see when viewed from below the water’s surface. Of the options discussed, white sighters are the stealthiest under most conditions. Incorporating a sighter into the rig becomes a balancing act between stealth and visual contact. The same goes for indicators. We can improve stealth by choosing a color that is least visible to the trout, but that remains visible to us. When a color combo is chosen, incorporating the stealthier color closer to the water’s surface might further improve stealth.
Contact.There are two broad categories of nymphing rigs. First, tight-line rigs. Second, suspension rigs. Tight-line rigs are made to ensure physical and visual contact with the fly (some anglers even call them “contact rigs”). An in-line sighter, such as a bright piece of nylon, is often incorporated. Little to no slack is allowed to come between the angler and the fly during the drift. With this kind of rig, the force of a strike is more likely to translate up the rig. Takes are seen, maybe even felt. Suspension nymphing involves hanging flies off some buoyant object. Examples include the classic “hopper-dropper” setup along with various forms of indicator nymphing. Thingamabobbers, New Zealand strike indicators, the visible end of a floating PVC fly line, or a nylon sighter greased to float are all examples of suspension techniques. The act of suspending your fly under an object inherently reduces physical contact.
This is not always a bad thing (remember, there are no absolutes in fly fishing). One example of when a suspension rig might provide an advantage to the angler is fishing greater distances. When fishing tight-line rigs at greater distances, the rig must enter the water at a shallow angle. At a shallow angle, more line must be buried to reach the same depth. More line in the water means more of a profile for drag to act upon. The noise created by this drag can cloud the potential benefits of contact nymphing technique. At a great enough distance, the physical contact normally gained from a contact nymphing rig might not be appreciated much at all. Suspending your fly can eliminate the need for a shallow entry angle, and reduce the negative effect of burying more line underwater.
No matter which rig we choose to fish, the angler benefits from maximizing contact. With a tight-line rig, shooting for shallow entry angles and choosing a sighter color with the highest visibility under a given set of conditions are examples of maximizing contact. With a suspension rig, choosing indicators with the least effective resistance to pull increases contact. The indicator should not be too buoyant for the weight of the flies. A conical or torpedo shaped indicator easily displaces through the surface film with a tug, and might provide better contact over a cylindrical indicator. When using multi-fly rigs, keeping tags short can ensure minimal displacement of that fly registers through the rest of the rig. Introducing additional weight into the rig, such as lead-free shot or tungsten putty, creates an anchor effect and may boost contact as well. There are pluses and minuses to each of these examples. The important thing is that we think about how and where they impact contact in our rig.
Next . . . The Angler