Yes folks: bugs! Last week I said I would write about bugs. No idea why of course, it may be that I picked up the phrase from Charles Jardine while over in Germany a couple of weeks ago. I know he said bugs quite often and he said it in quite an impressive way: “I'm going now Paul, I'm going to fish some BUGS”
“You don't know what I'm talking about, do you Paul?”
I suppose that by “Bugs!” Charles meant that he would do some blind upstream nymphing, I sure hope so, because that's what I'm going to talk about this week. We're sort of moving into Czech Nymphing territory here, and my goodness has this technique become popularised in the last five years or what? Due I reckon to Oliver Edwards who hasn't stopped talking about it in all this time.
But I'm not going to talk about Czech Nymphing right now, it's a little bit different, and I'm going to write about bugs.
So here's the deal: You are river fishing and you're struggling to spot fish. There are plenty of waters where fish spotting is next to impossible – remember we have already talked about upstream nymphing, but this for was fish we could see, which is fantastic of course, but it doesn't happen very often. So this is blind search the water nymphing, or bugging as Charles likes to call it.
This is one situation where an ability to read the water really shines, for instead of attempting to fish the entire river, with the proper skills – and hey we've already covered this stuff – you can spend your time fishing where the fish are lying. I'm about to get all strange now, my face has become vacant, and my hair is standing up: there are times when you just know a fish is sitting in a run. Some people call it their sixth sense, others know it as being “in the zone”, whatever you call it have confidence in this feeling; bugging is based around it.
I have a rule for you: short line.
If you insist on casting flyline all over the river, you're going to waste most of your time. The more flyline you have out the less control you have. When bugging I really want no more than a couple of yards of flyline outside the tip ring. Five yards would be too much… sometimes you will need to cast longer, you know when the fish are lying under the far bank, but by far and the most effective way of fishing is at close range.
I'm going to introduce a couple of things now and very quickly, so hang on:
Bugs! Bugs are nymphs, general impressionist nymphs, flies which suggest something worth eating. They are a bit scruffy of course, the best things in life always are. And they are leaded – and quite heavily, depending on the flow. You'll need two of them, stick the heaviest on the point.
Indicators! Some sort of floating putty/foam ball indicator certainly will help you detect takes. Of course that makes it a bit like float fishing, but I always enjoyed that when I was younger; it's quite hypnotic. If you're not into floats then watch the flyline, or try the Hedged Bet, or else grease some leader up.
I fish bugs by casting upstream of where I think the fish is, with some slack line in the leader (I underpower the cast, but there are other techniques for longer range… here is one and here's another) and quite a long leader of two rod lengths or thereabouts (this is one place where it differs from Czech Nymphing incidentally; they use short leaders and rarely stick flyline on the water).
I let the flies sink, then lift the rod, tracking the flies, trying to keep in touch with them. If I'm really daring I'll allow them to pass me downstream, lowering the rod, before slowly lifting them up again – good place for a take. If the indicator moves, if you see anything move below the surface, if a strange sensation you don't really understand creeps up your spine: Strike!
If nothing happens cast further out, further upstream, or move; don't bother fishing the same more than a couple of times. If nothing continues to happen change your flies. We want to catch fish; this is not an exercise in casting. Bet you didn't expect that huh? :)
This is a great method for fishing pocket water, in and around boulders, faster runs, in and around undercut banks, and basically anywhere where fish hang out – making it a good one to know :)
Next week: The Slime Line