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How to Properly Weight Nymph Rigs to Keep your Flies in the Strike Zone


If only getting a nymph right in front of a trout’s nose was as simple as sinking it, right?

Many fishermen claim to have fool-proof strategies for getting the fly down to the fish, but we all know that varied weights and water conditions affect where trout bite and how eager they are to take the bait.

Only one thing is certain when catching trout: They feed under the water 80 to 90 percent of the time, so adding weight to your nymph or line is key. Of course the real challenge is knowing knowing when and how to add weight in order to match changing water conditions. Yes, it’s an acquired skill, but the following tips will help get your nymphs sunk right, every time.

How Is a Nymph Weighted?

how is a nymph

Weight is added to a nymph using three methods:

  1. bead heads,
  2. lead wire, and
  3. split shot.

How Bead Heads Weight the Perfect Nymph

Bead heads, the brass beads fastened directly below the eye of the hook, are built into the nymph during the fly tying process. They’re perfect for slow, calm water, in which the weight of the bead alone will sink the nymph to the feeding zone. In tranquil waters, one bead head is all you need.

To tie a bead onto your nymph, look for brass beads with tapering holes drilled through them. The large end will be fed over a bent barbless hook, which is bent over to accommodate the bead. The brass bead is then fed over the point, around the bend, and up the shank of the hook.

Once the bead is in place, thread that tapers from thick to thin along the shank should be wrapped behind it. Once the thread is secured, a few drops of cement are applied, and the body is constructed behind the bead.

When to use them: Bead-weighted nymphs are the standard when fishing for brookies, as are the 8-foot-6-inch, 5-weight Clearwater rod, single-action reel, and Scientific Anglers Wavelength line. Bead head nymphs are ideal when you need a precise cast into holding pools where trout are hiding.

 How to Use Lead Wire When Weighting a Nymph

Lead wire on a nymph serves both to add weight and to secure the bead head to the shaft of the hook. To affix the lead wire, insert one end of a thin-gauge wire into the largest hole of the bead, and make about 10 to 12 tight wraps until the wire is about one third of the way down the shaft of the hook. After that, wrap the wire with thread, tapering toward the rear end of the hook.

Lead wire is good for running currents at a medium speed. The extra weight of the lead wire sinks the nymph to strike zones from mid-depth to bottom.

Looking for additional equipment? A 10-foot, 7-weight G. Loomis rod with a fast tip is ideal for picking up the nymph and laying it down again, and a Redington reel with its smooth drag keeps a fish’s head up. For pushing the added weight to the target, try a Wulf tapered line.

 How Many Split Shots Do I Need to Weight My Nymph?

Split shots are small pieces of lead that are placed about 10 to 12 inches above a nymph for added adjustable weight and are ideal in fast, deep water when you really need to sink your nymph. A simple knot tied in the leader locks the split shot in place and prevents it from sliding.

Whether you have a single piece of number 10 ball shot or a strand of number 1 egg shot, nothing does a better job of getting the nymph down into the feeding zone where trout are biting, no matter the season.

Anglers fishing for hog steelhead in fast, deep running water will use solid lines of ball shot, sometimes six deep, attached to the end of a 3-foot-20-pound test monofilament butt.


How Can I Make Casting Easier?

Casting will never be cake walk – especially once you get your line and nymph fully weighted – but thankfully having the right equipment makes all the difference.

If you’re looking to get the nymph down to where the big ones are holding, the Scientific Anglers Wet Cel sinking line with a sink rate of 4 to 5 inches per second can do the job. Additionally, a Hardy Perfect Wide reel holds plenty of backing for screaming runs when a steelhead takes the nymph.

Remember that casting is hard work, especially with the combined weight of the sinking line and the split shot. Even with a 9-foot, 10-weight Douglas Sky Fly fast action rod, 20- to 25-foot casts are probably the limit for even experienced anglers.

How to Make and Weight the Perfect Nymph Every Time

how to make a perfect nymph

Successful fly fishermen spend long hours on the stream adjusting weight and reading currents, and the most experienced fishermen will tell you that it’s all a process of trial and error. They learn to place enough weight on the nymph rig to keep it tracking along the bottom, and if it doesn’t hang up every few seconds, you stand a better chance of landing fish consistently.

Learning your reel, learning your nymph and learning your waters are the most important things you can do, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different weight under different conditions.

To find bead heads, split shot, lead wire and more from your favorite brands, including Echo, Douglas, Redington, Scientific Anglers and more, visit Stillwater Fly Shop.

Have you ever tied the perfect nymph that kept the fish biting all day? What are your best tying techniques?

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