One Less Split-Shot?

“The difference between a good angler and a great angler is often one piece of split-shot.” This is a quote that is often recited to me by clients while I am guiding, however, it is only ever mentioned when an angler is referring to adding more weight to a nymphing rig. You never hear this statement being made when an angler has the intention of removing weight. I think a lot of anglers have fallen into the trap of fishing rigs as much split-shot as they can get away. This is a sure way to make sure flies are always getting down, but at what cost? When trying to fish as much split-shot as a piece of water will allow, you are sacrificing one vital part of what we do as anglers, DRIFT!

Everyone is always bantering “Presentation is Key”. That is one part of fly fishing I will never argue. I also agree that in some types of water adding one more piece of split-shot could be the difference between catching fish or not. The difference is, I have a completely different approach towards getting that result. Instead of fishing as much split-shot on a rig as a piece of water will allow, I fish rigs with the least amount of split-shot as a piece of water will allow. So what does that mean? I use the least amount of weight I possibly can to still achieve the required depth. Why? DRIFT, more weight than necessary on the line increases resistance and friction. Think of a dry fly, it is much easier to get a natural drift with a dry fly because there is no weight involved. The difference between a good angler and a great angler could also be one less split shot. Think about this. If two anglers are both fishing the same run that is the same depth and getting there flies down. One angler is accomplishing depth with 3 split shot, the second angler is accomplish depth with 2 split shot of the same size. Wouldn’t you agree that the angler with less weight at the same depth is probably getting a better drift? And wouldn’t a better drift lead to catching more fish. Now I bet you are wondering how they could both be achieving the same depth, without the same amount of split shot.

There are three major ways to achieve more depth, without actually changing the amount of weight you are fishing on your rig:

1. Cast farther upstream. Casting farther upstream from yourself allows the flies more time to get down by the time they reach the area you are fishing.

2. Adjust tippet. I know it sounds minimal, but you would be amazed how much of a difference there is in the sink rate of tippet between just one size. For example, 5x sinks faster than 4x because of the smaller diameter.

3. Perform a “tuck cast”. A “tuck cast” is achieved when an angler elevates the rod tip back towards himself after completing the casting stroke, and before allowing the flies to land. This tucks the flies under the leader and rod tip with allows them to hit the water first and lead the line towards the bottom.

I have been focusing on achieving depth with the least amount of weight as possible in order to get the best drift possible. The next time you are setting up your nymphing rig, think about how you can achieve the desired depth with the least amount of split-shot. Fuel for thought, enjoy! Feel free to leave comments with any questions!

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5 thoughts on “One Less Split-Shot?”

  1. But if you stop and think, some of the most productive methods for trout are the Czech and European nymphimg techniques. Both of which employ a ton of weight and “pulling” your flies along to get your drift. Deadly techniques.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Jordan. However, I agree and disagree. They are deadly techniques, but they are not suited for every situation in fly fishing. Czech and European nymphing techniques are some of the most productive methods for catching trout in fast, deep water. In that particular situation a ton of weight is necessary, but those methods do not apply to all water types. Some trout streams do not even have deep, fast water. Fly Fishing is very situational.

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