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ORVIS – Advanced Nymphing Tactics – When Indicators Work

ORVIS presents “Advanced Nymphing Tactics – When Indicators Work,” a video by The Orvis Company. In this informative clip, Dave Jensen demonstrates the effectiveness of using an indicator while nymphing in fly fishing. Part 2 reveals the reasoning behind Jensen’s decision to modify his nymphing setup, showcasing its remarkable effectiveness. By exploring various fly fishing techniques, skills, and tools, this video emphasizes the importance of having a diverse set of skills in order to increase your success in catching fish. Prepare yourself to gain valuable insights into cracking the code of fly fishing and discover more instructional resources by ORVIS.

Join Dave Jensen in ORVIS’ compelling video, “Advanced Nymphing Tactics – When Indicators Work,” as he showcases the most effective style of fly fishing using indicators while nymphing. Witness the thrilling moments when Jensen changes his nymphing setup and witnesses its remarkable effectiveness. By watching this video, you’ll understand the value of having a wide range of fly fishing skills at your disposal, enabling you to successfully catch more fish. Explore ORVIS’ other instructional resources to enhance your knowledge and skills in the world of fly fishing.

ORVIS - Advanced Nymphing Tactics - When Indicators Work

ORVIS – Advanced Nymphing Tactics – When Indicators Work


In the world of fly fishing, nymphing is a technique that is highly effective for catching fish below the water’s surface. And within the realm of nymphing, indicators can be an invaluable tool. When used correctly, indicators provide several benefits that can greatly improve your success rate. From increased strike detection to better control over depth and drift, understanding the art of nymphing with indicators can take your fly fishing skills to the next level.

Benefits of Using Indicators

Increased Strike Detection

Using an indicator can greatly enhance your ability to detect strikes. When fishing with nymphs, strikes often go unnoticed without an indicator as the slight movement of the line is easily missed. However, with an indicator, even the most subtle takes can be detected as the indicator will either pause, twitch, or disappear altogether. This increased strike detection allows for quicker reactions, resulting in more hookups and ultimately more fish landed.

Improved Fly Presentation

Indicators help to ensure a natural drift of your flies by keeping your line and leader in check. By suspending your flies at the desired depth, indicators allow for a more precise presentation. This is particularly beneficial when fishing in faster currents where it can be challenging to maintain control over your drift. With the aid of an indicator, you can achieve a drag-free presentation and increase your chances of enticing fish to take your flies.

Better Control Over Depth and Drift

One of the major advantages of using indicators is the ability to control the depth at which your flies are fishing. By adjusting the placement of your indicator, you can easily change the depth at which your flies are presented. This is especially useful when targeting different feeding zones within the water column. Additionally, indicators help to control the speed and direction of your drift, allowing you to keep your flies in the strike zone for longer periods of time.

Ability to Fish Deeper Pockets and Slots

Without an indicator, effectively fishing deeper pockets and slots can be quite challenging. These areas often require precise fly placement and longer drifts, both of which are difficult to achieve without the aid of an indicator. By using an indicator, you can accurately target these areas and increase your chances of success. The indicator will help you manage your line and detect strikes in these deeper and more challenging areas, making them more accessible and more productive.

Selecting the Right Indicator

Types of Indicators

When it comes to selecting the right indicator, there are a few different options to choose from. The most commonly used indicators are foam, yarn, and strike putty. foam indicators are buoyant, highly visible, and can be easily adjusted to accommodate different water depths. Yarn indicators are also highly visible and easy to adjust, but they tend to float lower in the water and may require additional floatant to stay afloat. Strike putty indicators are moldable, allowing for precision adjustments to the depth and are particularly useful for fishing in swift currents.

Considerations for Indicator Size

Choosing the right size indicator is crucial for strike detection. If your indicator is too large, it may discourage fish from taking your flies, as they can appear unnatural. On the other hand, if your indicator is too small, it may be difficult to see and can lead to missed strikes. It is important to find a balance between visibility and presentation. In general, larger indicators are easier to see but may require more effort to cast accurately, while smaller indicators may be more challenging to spot but can provide a more delicate presentation.

Adjusting Indicator Depth

Adjusting the depth at which your indicator is set is essential for effective nymphing. The depth at which fish are feeding can change depending on various factors such as water temperature, time of year, and insect activity. It is essential to experiment with different indicator depths to find the optimal presentation. Start by setting your indicator at a depth you think might be productive and gradually adjust it up or down until you find the sweet spot. Don’t be afraid to make frequent adjustments throughout your fishing session to match the changing conditions.

Choosing the Right Nymphing Set Up

Importance of Matching the Hatch

Matching the hatch is a fundamental principle in fly fishing, and it is equally important when nymphing. Fish are more likely to take a fly that closely resembles the aquatic insects they are feeding on. Observing the water for insect activity and selecting nymph patterns that imitate the prevalent bugs will significantly increase your chances of success. Pay close attention to the size, color, and behavior of the insects in the water, and choose nymph patterns accordingly.

Using Two or Three Fly Setups

Using multiple flies in your nymphing setup can increase your chances of enticing fish to strike. By offering fish a choice of nymph patterns, you can increase the likelihood of triggering a response. Two or three fly setups are commonly used in nymphing, with each fly imitating a different life stage of the insects. This approach allows you to cover various feeding depths and imitate a range of prey items, increasing your chances of hooking up with a fish.

Adding Weight to the Rig

Adding weight to your nymphing rig is essential for achieving the desired depth and drift. Split shot or tungsten beadhead flies can be used to add weight to the rig. The amount of weight needed will depend on the speed of the current and the depth at which you want to fish. It is important to experiment with different amounts and placements of weight to achieve the desired drift. Be mindful of the regulations regarding the use of lead or non-toxic alternatives in your fishing area.

Balancing Fly Sizes and Weights

When selecting nymph patterns, it is important to consider both their sizes and weights. The size and weight of your flies should be balanced to achieve the desired presentation and drift. Lighter flies will ride higher in the water, while heavier flies will sink faster. By using a combination of different fly sizes and weights, you can create a balanced rig that maintains a natural drift and keeps your flies in the strike zone.

Understanding the Importance of Fly Fishing Skills

Casting Techniques

Casting accuracy and control are essential skills in nymphing. Being able to place your flies accurately and delicately in the water will greatly increase your chances of success. Practice your casting techniques, focusing on accuracy and minimizing line disturbance when presenting your flies. Additionally, mastering casting techniques such as the roll cast and reach cast can be especially useful in tight or obstructed fishing situations.

Line Management

Proper line management is crucial in nymphing. You must maintain control over your line to ensure a natural drift of your flies. Pay attention to the slack in your line and be prepared to mend as needed to eliminate drag. By managing your line effectively, you can keep your flies in the strike zone for longer and increase your chances of enticing a fish to strike.


Mending is a technique used to control the presentation and drift of your flies. By mending your line, you can eliminate drag and achieve a more natural drift. Proper mending requires an understanding of the water currents and the ability to make subtle adjustments to your line. Practice different mending techniques, such as upstream and downstream mends, to improve your control over the drift and increase your chances of success.

Reading the Water

Being able to read the water is a vital skill in nymphing. Understanding the various water features and their significance in fish behavior will help you identify the best spots to target. Look for features such as deep pockets, slots, structure, and cover that are likely to hold fish. By reading the water, you can effectively target areas where fish are likely to be feeding and increase your chances of hooking up.

Observing Fish Behavior

Observing fish behavior is another essential skill in nymphing. Pay attention to the movements and feeding patterns of fish in the water. Look for signs of feeding activity, such as rising or bulging fish, and adjust your presentation accordingly. By observing fish behavior, you can gather valuable information about their feeding preferences and increase your chances of presenting your flies in a way that triggers a strike.

Observing and Analyzing the Water

Identifying Deep Pockets and Slots

When observing the water, one of the first things to look for are deep pockets and slots. These areas typically provide fish with cover, protection from strong currents, and access to food sources. Deep pockets and slots often have slower-moving water, making them ideal feeding zones for fish. Look for areas where the water depth suddenly increases or where the current slows down, as these are likely to be productive spots for nymphing.

Recognizing Fish-holding Areas

Fish-holding areas are locations where fish are likely to rest or seek shelter from the current. These areas can include structure, such as rocks or submerged logs, as well as cover, such as overhanging vegetation or undercut banks. Fish will often position themselves in these areas to conserve energy and wait for food to come within reach. By recognizing fish-holding areas, you can target these spots and increase your chances of hooking up with a fish.

Reading Water Surface for Clues

The water’s surface can provide valuable clues about what is happening below the surface. Look for signs of insect activity, such as rising fish, emerging insects, or insect carcasses floating on the surface. These indicators can help you determine the types of insects present and their activity level. Additionally, pay attention to the water’s surface texture and the presence of foam or bubbles, as these can indicate areas of higher oxygenation and increased fish activity.

Understanding Fish Behavior in Different Water Conditions

Fish behavior can vary depending on the water conditions. In faster-moving currents, fish may hold in deep pockets and slots to conserve energy and wait for food to come by. In slower-moving water, fish may be more spread out and actively feeding. Understanding how fish behavior changes in different water conditions will help you adjust your nymphing techniques accordingly. Be prepared to adapt your presentation and approach based on the prevailing water conditions.

Identifying the Best Spots for Nymphing

Targeting Structure and Cover

Structure and cover are key elements to consider when identifying the best spots for nymphing. Fish are more likely to be positioned near structure and cover, as these areas provide protection and access to food sources. Look for underwater rocks, submerged logs, overhanging vegetation, and undercut banks. These areas are likely to hold fish and should be targeted when nymphing. Cast your flies close to the structure and cover, and let them drift naturally through the feeding zone.

Focusing on Transition Zones

Transition zones are areas where different currents or water depths meet. These areas often create seams or currents that concentrate food and attract fish. Look for areas where fast and slow currents intersect, or where shallow and deep water meet. These transition zones can be highly productive and should be carefully targeted when nymphing. Cast your flies into the transition zone and allow them to drift naturally along the seam, maximizing your chances of enticing a strike.

Finding Current Seams

Current seams are another important feature to look for when nymphing. A current seam is a line where two different currents meet, often creating a visible and distinctive line on the water’s surface. These seams can concentrate food and provide easy access for fish to target their prey. By identifying and targeting current seams, you can increase your chances of encountering feeding fish. Cast your flies along the seam and let them drift naturally, mimicking the natural movement of the insects.

Understanding Tailouts and Eddies

Tailouts and eddies are areas of slower-moving water typically found below faster-moving current. These calmer areas provide an opportunity for fish to rest and feed. Fish often position themselves in the tailouts and eddies of pools and runs, making them prime spots for nymphing. Look for areas where the water slows down after fast-moving sections, or where there is a circular motion of water indicating the presence of an eddy. Cast your flies into these areas and allow them to drift naturally, taking advantage of the fish-attracting features of tailouts and eddies.

Exploring Undercut Banks

Undercut banks are areas where the current has eroded the bank, creating an overhang. These areas often provide shelter for fish, as well as a concentrated food source. Undercut banks can be particularly productive when nymphing, as the fish often position themselves close to the bank, waiting for food to be swept into the water. Look for areas where the bank has been undercut and cast your flies as close to the bank as possible. Allow your flies to drift naturally along the bank, imitating the natural movement of prey items.

Setting Up the Nymphing Rig

Choosing the Right Leader and Tippet

Selecting the appropriate leader and tippet is crucial for effective nymphing. The leader should be long enough to allow for accurate casting and presentation, while the tippet should be strong enough to handle the size and weight of the nymphs you are using. Consider the water conditions and the size of fish you are targeting when choosing the leader and tippet. In general, a leader length of 9 to 12 feet and a tippet strength of 4X to 6X is suitable for most nymphing situations.

Attaching Indicators

Indicators can be attached to the leader using several different methods. One common approach is to use a loop-to-loop connection between the leader and the indicator. This allows for easy adjustment and removal of the indicator when needed. Alternatively, you can use a slip-on or peg-style indicator that attaches directly to the leader. These indicators offer quick and secure attachment but may require cutting and retying the leader to remove them.

Tying Knots for Nymphing Rigs

Tying secure knots is essential for nymphing rigs. The most commonly used knots for attaching nymphs to the leader are the improved clinch knot and the non-slip loop knot. The improved clinch knot is strong, reliable, and easy to tie. The non-slip loop knot allows for more natural movement of the fly and allows it to swim freely in the water. Whichever knot you choose, be sure to practice tying it correctly and test its strength before heading out on the water.

Balancing Fly Sizes and Weights

When setting up your nymphing rig, it is important to consider the size and weight of your flies. Lighter flies should be placed closer to the indicator, while heavier flies should be positioned further down the leader. This arrangement allows for a natural drift and helps to maintain the desired depth. Experiment with different fly sizes and weights to find the right balance for your nymphing setup. Be prepared to make adjustments based on the prevailing fishing conditions.


Using indicators in nymphing is an effective technique that can greatly enhance your success rate. By leveraging the benefits of indicators, such as increased strike detection, improved fly presentation, and better control over depth and drift, you can significantly improve your nymphing skills and increase your chances of landing more fish. Through careful observation of the water, proper selection of indicators, nymphing setups, and fly fishing skills, you can become a more proficient nymph angler. So next time you hit the water, don’t overlook the power of indicators in your nymphing arsenal. Happy fishing!

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