Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: Tight-Line vs. Tango Nymph Rig

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From personal experience, the majority of anglers visiting Patagonia, will exclusively fish a dry-fly or a dry-dropper combination.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and in many cases, this technique will make many anglers happy.  However, from my personal experience, to catch large fish on a dry-fly, you must be a good caster and your must have the mental and physical confidence to handle Patagonia wind.  Further, I host many die-hard dry-fly anglers who are unwilling to fish the conditions (weather, water temps, etc).  In other words, they get a little grumpy when the fishing slows and conditions favor nymphs (they are un-willing to change tactics). That being said, regardless of the conditions, and based on my personal experience, I still believe that those who nymph fish Patagonia, will consistently catch more fish; and bigger fish.

The purpose of this email is to share with you how I nymph fish Patagonia.  Specifically, I fish the Junin de los Andes area, and whether you are on a float trip or walking-wading, there are gazillion areas to use nymphs.  I use three nymph rigs, but I favor two that regularly produce big fish.  

Nymph Tactic #1

Let's say I am dry-fly fishing, using a single-hand rod, and suddenly I come upon water that screams, "use a nymph."  Or, maybe the weather has put the fish down.  Regardless, in a pinch, this is what I do:

  • I cut the dry fly off and use the existing leader.
  • I add tippet by using a double surgeon's knot.  I'll add 10" to 20" of tippet.  By doing this, I have created a stopper knot.  A stopper knot prevents the split-shot from sliding down.   I tie on my preferred nymph and then add split-shot above the surgeons knot (stopper knot).  
  • I don't bother with adding an indicator because in a short while, I anticipate going back to the dry-fly (using the same leader).
  • Depending on the water, I'll dead drift or lead the nymph.
  • If weather conditions really put the fish down, and if I don't have the rod and rigging for tactic #2 and #3, I may even use a sink-tip poly-leader , foregoing the split-shot (if I have my poly-leaders with me).
  • This is quick change from dry to nymph is simple, easy, and effective.  

You could use this system anywhere in the world and catch fish!  The number and size of split-shot is entirely up to you.  

Nymph Tactic #2 (favorite for wind)

Let's assume you are bound and determined to nymph fish, all day long.  Let's also assume that the Patagonia winds will be howling and make any casting, of any kind of nymph rig, difficult.  Here's what I do:

  • I use my TFO Deer Creek 11ft 5wt switch rod.  Why?  In the right hands, this rod can launch a nymph rig +40ft!   The tip portion of this rod is extremely soft, so it will absorb major strikes from big fish.  The length of the rod, allows me to maintain good physical posture (i.e., prevents me from high sticking and avoids neck and shoudlder pain). 
  • I use what I call my Patagonia Tango Nymph Rig.  Back in the USA, we call this an adjustable nymph rig.
  • Especially in the wind, and at greater distances, this rig is significantly better than tight-line rigs, and others.  Why?  It's all about the dynamic relationship between the bobber and the weight (split-shot).  In other words, at any distance, the weight sets the angle of the line between 90 and 45 degrees, almost 100% of the time. 
  • If I encounter slow water, I may gently lead the bobber downstream.   
  • I recommend beginner nymph anglers to use this rigging and master it.  Why? Once you have mastered this rig, the transition to tight-line nymphing will be MUCH easier.
  • With the use of tin split-shot, you don't need tungsten or heavily weighted nymphs.
  • The length of mono for the adjustable bobber portion, limits the depth of your rigging.  I find a maximum length of 10ft works well.
  • Note: beginner anglers, do not attempt to cast this rig as though your would cast a dry fly. With shot and two nymphs, wide open loops are a must, especially in Patagonia wind.  I recommend learning how to flop cast and tension/water haul cast.  Casting this rig in a traditional fashion is possible and effective for long distances, but for only experienced casters!

The major advantage of this nymph rig is its ability to set a 45 degree angle at long distances; and effectively cast in a strong wind. My anchor fly tends to be something big and nasty looking.  Witht the exception of the leader butt large loop, be sure to make your perfection loops as small as possible.  

Nymph Tactic #3 (favorite no wind)

When the winds die down in Patagonia, I am using my tight-line nymph rigs as much as possible. Why?  The tactile sensitivity of tight-line vs. my Patagonia Tango Nymph Rig, is SUPERIOR (this does not mean I catch more fish).   In other words, without the use of a bobber/indicator, I am in direct contact with the bottom of the river; however, I must set the angle myself and constantly maintain a tight-line.  Here's what I do:

  • I use my TFO Deer Creek 11ft 5wt switch rod.  Why? I love this rod's multi use capabilities. Fact; it's not an ideal tight-line/high-stick nymph rod, but it works.  Personally, the length of the rod allows me to decreases the need to constantly maintain a high-stick nymphing posture. 
  • With little or no wind, in the right hands, you can launch a tight-line rig as far as you want. Remember though, the further you cast, the more difficult it will be to maintain bottom contact and a tight-line.  My personal opinion, tight-line nymphing is extremely effective >30ft.
  • Tight-line nymphing in the wind is extremely difficult.  Why?  As you are high-sticking, the wind will create an arc in your mono line.  This virtually kills your ability to maintain a tight-line.
  • If you do not maintain a tight line, leading the flies downstream, you will miss tons of strikes.  
  • The use of Hi-Vis mono is a MUST.  The use us a tapper leaders is a no-no.  Taper leaders do not sink as fast as mono and are difficult to see.
  • Make your perfections loops as small as possible; about the size of a rice grain!  If you can't do this, using tippet rings is recommended.

I use these two diagrams as a foundation.  I vary the line, sighter, and rigging based on conditions. 

If I don't have any tungsten nymphs, I use the drop-shot method, seen on the bottom far left. 

High-Vis Mono.  No bobber or indicator.  Sighter is the same high-vis red.  Unlike the photos of the above tight-line diagrams, I use a piece of clear mono to break up the color of the rigging =  I attach 30ft of high-vis red to my fly line, the I attach16"-20" of clear mono, then 16"-20" high-vis red, then the final portion is tippet-rigging-flies equal to about 6ft. Though extremely challenging, this system allows me to fish the deepest of pools.   

Final Word

To the experienced nymph angler, I know I skipped 'hundreds' of details.  The intention of this post, was to simply give future Patagonia anglers, food for thought.  In other words, in my opinion, Patagonia is more than just about dry-fly fishing, especially in gail force winds.  If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask.  

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and we look forward to fishing (nymphing) with you in Patagonia.

Saludos Amigos,