This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke.
Over the years I made a sharp transition from spending all of my time nymphing with indicators to only tightlining. As with most people who begin to euro nymph, I quickly saw my catch rate go up significantly. It started out great, but I began to realize that I was skipping large sections of water to get to the prime tightlining locations. The long leader used in euro nymphing slowly began to give me hints of ways to indicator fish with the same kind of success in the water types I was passing up. I started to transition back to suspender fishing when the water dictated it, applying the same strategies I learned while euro nymphing. Things like staying connected, focusing on fishing a single line per drift, breaking the water down into a grid and covering it methodically. However, the biggest obstacle I found through this learning period was the manipulation of fly line. So I just eliminated it all together and now I rarely have fly line outside of my reel. The leader I use is a long 20+ foot mono leader, followed by an 18 inch sighter, two feet of 3x tippet, and lastly three to six more feet of 5x.
Nowadays, I spend a good portion of my time on the water using that one leader, alternating back and forth between different styles of nymphing. If I hit a deep run or pool, I fish a thingamabobber. If I reach fast riffles and pocket water, I’ll euro nymph. If the water is too low that I can’t get close to the fish in that same water, I’ll fish dry dropper or fish my nymphs under a Dorsey yarn indicator. My leader is not perfect for any of these styles of nymphing. It is however, a good leader that can be used for each of these rigs without having to swap out and re-rig everything. Most importantly it eliminates the majority of the mending previously needed when indicator fishing and allows me to maintain a direct connection from rod tip to indicator throughout the drift, resulting in perfect unimpeded drifts.
Rigging and fishing all of these methods really warrants a longer in depth discussion that we will focus on in future posts. In this post I will just touch on fishing with the Dorsey yarn indicator.
Last week the water was extremely low and I was having trouble getting in range of the fish when tightlining the fast water. For that reason, I switched from tightlining to fishing the Dorsey yarn indicator. As with most of the effective techniques I’ve learned, this one was introduced to me by Dom. He has a way of sifting through all of the fly fishing literature on the web and finding new techniques that fit specific applications on our rivers perfectly. Dom only gets partial credit though. Pat Dorsey came up with the indicator, hence the reason we call it the Dorsey yarn indicator. Here is a short video posted by Blue Quill Angler explaining how to rig the indicator.
When I fish this rig, my positioning and method for covering the water is very similar to when I am euro nymphing. I work my way upstream, fanning out and fishing the water in a grid to cover all of the possible holding lies. The great thing about the Dorsey indicator is you can fish at a further distance than you can when tightlining. Just like the dry dropper rig, this is a great low water presentation. It’s amazing how lightly the rig drops on the water, even when using flies up to one gram. The yarn reminds me of a parachute, slowing the descent to the water, and cushioning the impact.
When I’m fishing in this configuration I don’t usually attempt to fish deep. I reserve my deep indicator fishing to a thingamabobber. On the average I fish my flies two to three feet below the Dorsey indicator. The big difference between this rig and fishing dry dropper is the adjustability. With dry dropper you are forced into clipping or extending tippet to your dropper to reach the perfect depth. With the Dorsey indicator it is as simple as wetting the rubber band and sliding the indicator up or down the tippet.
So I spent the afternoon last week with tremendous success fishing upstream through skinny water. I dropped the yarn indicator along banks, depressions, cutouts behind log jams, and even shallow riffles that I would have normally walked past. In the fastest of water the Dorsey would plunge with every fish that took. In slower runs there was often no more of an indication of a strike than a slight twist in the indicator.
I was just about to call it quits for the day when I reached a spot that had a slow seam next to a circular eddy. Any other nymphing technique into the eddy would have been a difficult presentation. I adjusted the Dorsey indicator to about two feet above my fly and cast into the seam. The indicator drifted along naturally and caught the eddy and circled back upstream. Nothing. I tried again. Still nothing. I quickly adjusted six inches deeper and tried the same drift one last time. This time the drift extended slightly farther and the Dorsey indicator paused in place and rotated slowly. With any other indicator the slight deviation in the drift would probably have gone unnoticed. I lifted up hard and saw a tremendous gold silhouette dive for the bottom.
Sometimes I do strange things while I’m alone on the water. An onlooker watching me would think I lost my mind. Why would a lone fisherman reach their hand up, mumble thank you, and fist bump the air while fighting a big fish? I’ll tell you why. Because the Dorsey yarn indicator is legit. Thank you Pat Dorsey.