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ORVIS – Advanced Nymphing Tactics – No Indicator Nymphing

When you are fishing in certain water conditions and the trout are particular about their feeding habits, it may be necessary to change your nymph presentation. In this segment, Dave Jensen will teach you when to fish subsurface without using an indicator and how to rig your leader accordingly. While using an indicator or dropper dry fly setup can make it easier to detect strikes, mastering the techniques of no indicator nymphing will enhance your overall fly fishing skills and increase your catch rate.

For more information on nymph fishing, visit our fly fishing learning centers. “ORVIS – Advanced Nymphing Tactics – No Indicator Nymphing” is a video by The Orvis Company that explores alternative ways of presenting nymphs to trout in different water and feeding conditions. Dave Jensen, in this segment, discusses the benefits of fishing subsurface without an indicator and provides tactics for rigging your leader accordingly. While using an indicator or dropper dry fly setup may make detecting strikes easier, learning the skills of no indicator nymphing can enhance your fly fishing abilities and increase your chances of catching more fish. For further information on fishing with nymphs, Orvis offers fly fishing learning centers.

Many fly fishers commonly rely on indicator nymph fishing, but environmental conditions often call for a different approach. In situations where the water is shallow, gin-clear, slow, or the aquatic environment is still, naked nipping becomes your best tactic to minimize surface disturbance. Additionally, there are three key scenarios where naked nipping proves effective: when fish refuse your dropper and stay underwater, when fish are holding deep in heavy water with limited time to get the fly deep quickly, or when transitioning from dry flies or dry dropper setups. By cutting off your dry fly and tying on a weighted nymph, you can easily convert to naked nipping. In faster or deeper water, adding weight in the form of BB shot can help get your fly down effectively. Developing trust and learning are crucial in this technique, as you need to trust that your flies are reaching the trout’s depth. Pay attention to subtle indications such as movement or pauses from the trout, which can be more reliable than using an indicator.

ORVIS - Advanced Nymphing Tactics - No Indicator Nymphing

Conditions for No Indicator Nymphing

No indicator nymphing can be a highly effective technique in specific fishing conditions. Two key conditions that lend themselves well to this approach are shallow and gin-clear water, as well as slow or still aquatic environments.

In shallow and gin-clear water, traditional indicators can often spook fish due to their visibility and potential disturbance. By removing the indicator from the equation, you can present your nymphs in a more natural and stealthy manner, increasing your chances of fooling wary trout.

Similarly, in slow or still water, indicators can create unnecessary drag and hinder the presentation of your nymphs. By foregoing the use of an indicator, you can achieve a drag-free drift, allowing your nymphs to behave naturally and enticingly in front of the fish.

Key Situations for No Indicator Nymphing

There are several key situations where no indicator nymphing can be particularly effective. One such situation is when fish are refusing the dropper and staying undercover. In these cases, a small, weightless nymph presented without an indicator can often entice the fish to bite when other methods fail.

Another situation where no indicator nymphing shines is when fish are holding deep in heavy water. Deep holes or turbulent runs with strong currents can make it difficult for the indicator to stay in position and accurately detect strikes. By eliminating the indicator, you can get your flies deep quickly and increase your chances of catching fish in these challenging environments.

Lastly, no indicator nymphing is highly effective when there is a short window to get the fly deep quickly. This could be during a hatch, when trout are actively feeding at a certain depth, or when you spot a specific target holding near the bottom. By cutting off your dry fly and adding a weighted nymph, you can make a quick and precise presentation without the need for an indicator.

Converting to No Indicator Nymphing

Converting to no indicator nymphing is a relatively simple process. If you were initially fishing with a dry-dropper setup, you can cut off the dry fly and add a weighted nymph to your leader. This will allow you to get your flies deeper in the water column and increase your chances of success.

Alternatively, if you were using an indicator nymphing setup, you can remove the indicator and add weight to your leader or fly line. The added weight will help your nymphs sink quickly in faster or deeper water, improving your chances of hooking into feeding fish.

Trust and Learning in No Indicator Nymphing

When engaging in no indicator nymphing, it is crucial to trust that your flies are getting down to the desired depth. Since you won’t have a visual reference point, learning to estimate the speed and depth at which your nymphs drop is essential. By paying attention to the feel of the line and the behavior of your drift, you can develop a sense of confidence in your presentation, leading to more successful fishing outings.

Detecting Strikes in No Indicator Nymphing

Detecting strikes without the aid of an indicator can be challenging but not impossible. There are three key indicators to look out for when practicing no indicator nymphing.

Firstly, observe if the trout moves to where the nymph drifts. If you notice a fish following the drift of your nymph or adjusting its position in response, there is a high likelihood that it is interested in your presentation.

Secondly, watch for the trout’s mouth opening and closing. This behavior signifies that the fish is actively interacting with your nymph. A subtle opening and closing motion can be a clear indication of a strike.

Lastly, if you see the trout pausing and considering the nymph, it is a sign that it is actively assessing your presentation. This is a crucial moment to remain patient and ready to set the hook as the fish may strike at any moment.

Using No Indicator Nymphing in Clear Water with Cover

No indicator nymphing is especially useful when fishing in clear water with cover. In situations where trout refuse to rise to a dry fly, using a nymph as a sub-surface offering can be highly effective. By omitting the use of an indicator, you can present your nymphs in a more subtle and natural way, increasing your chances of enticing trout to bite.

Additionally, avoiding the use of an indicator allows for cleaner casts. In clear water, the visibility of an indicator can spook fish, causing them to scatter or become wary. By having a more streamlined presentation, you can avoid unnecessary disturbances and make stealthy presentations that are less likely to alarm the fish.

Using No Indicator Nymphing in Shallow and Clear Water

No indicator nymphing can significantly increase your chances of catching fish in shallow water. In these environments, trout have limited depth to maneuver and may be more cautious when feeding. By eliminating the indicator, you minimize any disturbance on the water’s surface and increase the probability of fooling these wary fish.

The absence of an indicator also allows for a more delicate presentation. Shallow water often provides better visibility, and any unnatural movement caused by an indicator can quickly alert the fish to your presence. By relying on the natural drift of your nymphs, you can achieve a more convincing and enticing presentation.

Using No Indicator Nymphing in Deep and Heavy Water

When fishing in deep and heavy water, no indicator nymphing can be a game-changer. Deep holes, turbulent runs, and fast currents can pose challenges when fishing with an indicator setup. The indicator may struggle to stay afloat, resulting in poor line control and reduced sensitivity to strikes.

By removing the indicator, you can maximize your chances of reaching fish at depth. Adding weight to your leader or fly line will ensure that your nymphs sink rapidly and maintain contact with the fish-holding zones. Additionally, without an indicator hindering your cast, you can achieve better accuracy and presentation in these challenging water conditions.

Using No Indicator Nymphing for Quick Deep Presentations

No indicator nymphing is particularly effective when you need to make quick and deep presentations. During certain hatches or when trout are actively feeding at a specific depth, time is of the essence. By cutting off your dry fly and adding a weighted nymph, you can get your fly down quickly and accurately. This technique allows you to take advantage of short windows of opportunity and increase your chances of hooking into actively feeding fish.

It is important to adapt the weight of your fly based on the current and depth of the water you are fishing. Experimenting with different weight configurations will help you find the optimal setup that allows your fly to sink quickly to the desired depth without becoming snagged or dragging unnaturally.


No indicator nymphing is a valuable technique to have in your angling arsenal. When fishing in shallow and gin-clear water or slow and still environments, removing the indicator can significantly increase your chances of fooling wary fish. In key situations such as when fish refuse the dropper, hold deep in heavy water, or require quick deep presentations, no indicator nymphing can be the difference between success and frustration.

By learning to trust your flies, detecting strikes without an indicator, and adapting your approach to different fishing conditions, you can master the techniques of no indicator nymphing. Whether you’re targeting fish in clear water with cover, shallow and clear water, deep and heavy water, or need to make quick deep presentations, this technique can give you the edge to consistently catch fish in a variety of scenarios. So, give it a try and embrace the art of no indicator nymphing.

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