Casting heavy nymphs

Casting heavy nymphs

Paul Arden | Monday, 20 July 2020

had a good week working with the Aslis in Sungai Tiang. I have a video to edit from the trip which should be available around the end of the week. We had good conditions for the first few days and everyone caught fish - they are learning fast! Then it decided to rain on us and the river flooded. This is an unusually wet summer. Anyway we rafted out which was quite an adventure. I think you’ll enjoy the video when it’s finished. I’ll aim to upload Wednesday or Thursday.

There is a question on the Board about casting and fishing heavy fly rigs such as they commonly fish on the Tongariro in NZ. A long time ago I used to fish there, basing myself in Turangi at the start of my NZ summer. The Tongariro is mostly a winter fishery, hitting the spawning runs from Lake Taupo, and occasionally I would find a late run of fish. Of course there is other fishing to be found but it’s not the sort of information you publish on the Internet.


The Tongariro is a swift river and you need to get your flies down. Originally it was fished by swinging streamers on sinking lines but more typically nowadays, and for a long time since, it is best fished with nymphs. They use the Rudi Ferris Indicator, which is basically a big tuft of wool, greased up and attached to the line using the inner section of Bic Biro pen tube. Very clever!


Underneath this is a very heavy fly. Big dumbbell eyes and MANY turns of lead. And there is usually a second fly which can be a small nymph or more likely a glo-bug. I know - damned ugly to look at and even uglier to cast!


But it works and works very well. You may have heard of the Tongariro Roll which was popularised by Herb Spannagl? Herb wrote a few articles on the subject which you can find in the Sexyloops Articles section. I met and fished with Herb quite some time ago now! Super guy and a truly outstanding fly caster.


So the question is how to cast this rig? Well I think that there are a couple of important points. The first is that you will need a heavy line. At least a class AFFTA 8WT. Also you do not want too long a leader. I mostly fish with 18-22’ leaders for trout but with this tackle you can forget it - the flies will never get airborne! So you definitely need to shorten up the leader. I would also really spend time working on line tapers. A heavy trout “Spey line” is going to make your life far easier.


Trying to find the perfect line however can be quite expensive. I personally would probably be tempted to build one. It’s quite easy to weld lines and Lasse has some articles on this subject in the Articles section. But having said that I’m sure the perfect line exists nowadays. Some of these short heavy brick-on-a-string fly lines were originally made for this style of fishing. Ie Skagit. Remember it’s not about matching the line to the rod; rather it’s about matching the line to the flies - then find the right rod afterwards, which is going to be an HT8 of course!


Another important consideration is the Collapsed Cast. To get depth with nymphs you do not want your leader to fully straighten; the current will keep your flies high in the water. So you must collapse the leader - the Collapsed Cast can be found in the Sexyloops Video Manual. It’s very easy to collapse the leader with a Roll Cast. Herb actually first introduced me to the Collapsed Cast years ago - I wrote an article for FFFT “Get out of Jail” series about it, but that one never got published! It turns out that if you fish the Balkans they are experts at this style of presentation. You must learn it; for me this is the no1 presentation cast.


Something I thoroughly recommend is to learn to read the water. Learn how it flows. If you can pitch/collapse your flies into the current seam they will quickly find the bottom - and furthermore the fish lie in seams so this is really where you want to cast. If you need more depth pitch your flies further upstream, also into the seam. Learn how the river flows by pitching flies with fluorescent coloured beads into the river and watch how they sink in different currents. Believe me; this is not time wasted.


So for me this is an excellent question but I would first really look hard at the tackle you are using and where your flies are being pitched. Casting-wise I’m not sure that I can offer much, only to be efficient with your Roll cast, which means straight anchors correctly aligned, a well formed D or V-loop 180 degrees to target, delay rotation to the end of the Stroke - ie Drag (Herb’s “Slip”) possibly using the “Cradle Grip” that you can find in the Comp Distance Casting video, haul late and smooth.


You need to be able to do this both shoulders using Circle-C and Double Spey casts. The Poke/ Tongariro Roll is very handy as a means of lengthening the line in the D-loop and also arranging your anchor neatly. Incidentally the Perry Poke and the Tongariro Roll to my knowledge were invented separately around the same time. They are, or were, different. The TRC slips line on the Poke.


Last – but most certainly not least – with flies of this weight, you could abandon the indicator altogether and French Nymph. There are certainly pools where you cannot fish this way - the limit on French Nymphing casting distance is around 40ft. But I’m surprised that no one is doing it. It is the answer to gorge fish for sure - the number of big fish I would have caught in my 3000 days of NZ fly fishing would have been far higher had this method been invented or I had thought of it.


Lengthen up the leader so that you are casting only leader, watch the fly. If you can’t watch the fly then watch the fish. And on the Tongariro you’ll mostly have to watch the swing of the leader. There are times when it will be absolutely deadly.



Right busy day today. I have some guests from KL visiting. Hopefully tonight we can have a campfire and talk some bollocks. Having spent a week with the Orang Asli it will be nice to be able to talk and be almost understood again :))))


Have a great week. I’ll be chasing Snakehead.


Cheers, Paul