Tight Line Nymphing: Drift with a Stable Sighter

by | Nov 5, 2019 | 6 comments

A simple piece of colored monofilament might be the most important element in a tight line nymphing rig. The sighter, placed just above the tippet section of the leader, shows us everything about the drift. When fished well, a Mono Rig or a euro nymphing setup provides the angler with amazing control over the course of the flies. So it’s important to use it to our advantage.

Reading the sighter is an unending education. Like so many interesting pursuits in life, tight lining is something you can refine to no end.

Everything we read from the sighter follows from first gaining contact. Learning to make that contact happen, and learning to see whether we are in touch with the flies, is the primary skill. Everything else follows from there.

In a future article, I’ll break down all the elements of reading a sighter, but for now, let’s focus on just one important aspect — keeping the sighter stable.

READ: Troutbitten | Tight Line Nymphing — See Beyond the Sighter

First, learn to consistently read the sighter for contact. Second, focus on maintaining that contact by recovering only the slack that the river gives you. And third, develop the skills for a smooth and stable ride by watching the sighter.

The nymphs mirror the action of our sighter. Understand that. Lift the sighter a few inches, and the nymphs lift a few inches. Now jiggle the rod tip. Notice that the sighter jiggles, and so do the nymphs below. Remember, whatever you do with the rod tip is transmitted all the way down to the nymphs. And any irregular or added rod tip motion is usually too much.

 

Photo by Bill Dell

The contact rigs we use are built for precise control over the flies. So we must do the right things with that control. Be careful. And keep the sighter stable.

Real nymphs have a limited ability for propulsion, and trout are used to seeing drifting aquatic insects, not bugs that are jumping up and down through the water column or alternately racing downstream before pausing in the flow. None of that looks natural — but a good, stable ride through the strike zone sure does.

Our job as nymphing anglers is to imitate the small and sometimes tiny food forms that trout eat. It’s a tough skill. Streamer fishing is more forgiving, because trout are used to seeing how larger bait fish move around more. We can get away with an imperfect drift on a three-inch streamer. But will trout tolerate unusual motion on a half-inch long nymph? Nope. Wild trout, especially, just won’t buy it.

So aim for a stable sighter, and get closer to a true dead drift.

Fish hard, friends.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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6 Comments

  1. Hard to do but so true.

    Reply
    • Ha. Good point. It is very hard sometimes, isn’t it?

      Cheers.

      Dom

      Reply
  2. Hi Dom, Still enjoying my day out fishing with you. I learned more in one day than you can imagine. I just want to tell your readers that you are an awesome guide and they should all book a trip with you. Looking forward to our next outing.

    Reply
    • Hey, thanks Bruce. That’s very kind. I enjoyed the day as well. You learned a lot in the morning and reaped the rewards in the afternoon with fish in the net. Very cool.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  3. There is much wisdom here. Thank you. One especially illuminating idea is that a sighter is like a book: it must be read and interpreted for it to have meaning. And, like a book, it’s meaning isn’t always obvious. I think that an indicator, especially when fished upstream, does the same. A fly fishing indicator doesn’t just indicate a strike; if read correctly, it can give one a lot of information about what one’s flies are doing beneath the surface.

    Reply
  4. I’m looking forward to your continued education on the sighter. Especially things like how much bow to put in the line, using the sighter to understand where your nymphs are in the column, and more. I’ve searched the web high and low but haven’t been able to find any articles or videos that go into any depth on the subject.

    Reply

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