Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stillwater chironomid (and nymph) techniques

I've read from various sources that fishing chironomids is considered by many (most) to be:
1) boring
2) difficult
3) glorified bobber watching

If you're thinking aligns with that viewpoint, then I'd say:
1) you're probably not doing it correctly
2) you're missing out on some techniques which could improve your catch rate

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a chironomid expert.  I started by reading techniques published by true experts such as Phil Rowley and Brian Chan and then spent time on the water applying them and making adjustments based on my own observations and experiences.  In my experience, on stillwater you can expect that chironomids and nymphs will consistently outfish other methods (streamers, dries) but to be consistently successful with them you must focus and fish them actively.  This means experimenting with:

Colors and sizes - examine the shucks on the surface to gauge size
Depth - trout will often take chironomid pupa at almost any depth but you'll often find "the zone"
Location - look for water over muddy bottoms anywhere from 6ft deep to 20 ft in most cases

Floating line techniques:

The easiest method is to suspend a pair of chironomids beneath an indicator ("a glorified bobber").  The method has the advantage of keeping the chironimids at a consistent depth (once their done sinking).  You can then either just sit and wait or slowly retrieve them.  I find it more effective to retrieve.  The key is to make this retrieve very slow and smooth.  A hand-twist retrieve works very well.  When you are ready to re-cast, don't just pull the flies up quickly, bring them up slowly and smoothly through the water to simulate ascending chironomids and you will occassionally hook trout during the rapid ascension, right in front of you!

Intermediate / Sinking tip line techniques:

My preferred technique for chironomids and nymphs in stillwater is to use an intermediate line with a sinking tip.  I like the RIO line with the black tip - it adds the right amount of camoflage.  I cast the 2-nymph rig out as far as I can manage and then count it down.  Then I begin a slow hand-twist retrieve.  Once I find a depth where I am getting consistent action, I use the count down to place the nymphs at that depth on every cast.  Some people troll slowly with their fins (assuming you're in a float tube) rather than retrieve.  This works too but I find that hand-twist retrieve is substantially more effective.

I generally fish chironimids and/or nymphs in pairs.  Combinations I like are:
- nymph (hairs ear, callibaetis nymph, scud, etc) as the top fly and chironomid as the bottom fly
- black chironomid top fly with red chironomid as the bottom fly

I usually tie them 12" apart and I personally have found no advantage to using a loop knot over a clinch knot, so I just clinch knot them both. In fact I've discontinued using improved clinch knot and stick to just the clinch knot and have lost no fish as a result of the knot coming undone.  The improved clinch knot, however, breaks more often than the clinch knot - so I find that it is not an improvement at all.  It's too easy for the line to cross over each other in the wraps of the knot with the improved clinch knot.

Regardless of which technique you use, it is critical to keep the line in a straight line in front of you and keep the rod tip pointed directly at the line.  Failure to do this will result in losing nearly every fish that hits.

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