Upstream Nymphing – Improve Your Technique!

Upstream Nymphing – Improve Your Technique!

What Is Upstream Nymphing?

Simply put, Upstream Nymphing is casting against the current, so that your fly drifts back towards you, in to the waiting mouths of your esteemed quarry.


There are a few reasons, to be honest:

  1. Approaching from downstream, with the current taking some of the noise (or vibration) and sediment that you kick up, away from the fish will provide you with a stealthier approach.
  2. A trout has a rear facing blind spot of about 30° – not much, though it’s certainly worth knowing about.  Given that stealth is one of the first things that anglers are encouraged to give consideration too, the benefits of this are fairly obvious; the lower your chances of being detected, the higher your chances of a catch.
  3. You’ll be closer to matching the hatch, as those fish that respond to nymphs are less likely to respond to dries which may otherwise be outside of their feed depth.
  4. Bragging rights!  To perform this technique most effectively, you’ll utilise the exact same stealth, presentation and casting accuracy skills that you’ve developed in other approaches, though will need to refine them further by enhancing your ability to locate your target with little visual queue from surface feeding trout.  You’ll also improve your under-water presentation (which you won’t be able to see after it connects with the water surface) along with take detection; you’ll need to feel the take, instead of relying on your fly visually disappearing beneath the surface, and will need to see the difference between your rod tip moving due to environmental / angler factors, and that of a take.  There’s plenty to learn, and I think it’s only more than reasonable to associate this technique with highly skilled anglers.In order to best understand where you’ll find fish, you need to understand how the stream or river is – for want of a better word – structured.

    The size of fish that you can expect to encounter can come right down to the types of rock on the riverbed.  Chalk, sandstone and limestone (being relatively soft as far as rock goes) is easily dissolved by the water running over it.  This process sees the water absorb minerals, essentially fertilising it, which latterly encourages abundant growth of weeds.

    Granite, being harder, is less easily broken down, gives off fewer minerals, and as such encourages less weed growth.  The less weed there is, the less habitat there is for a fish’s natural food source.

    As such, you’ll usually find larger fish where the rocks are softer and foliage is in abundance and smaller fish where the opposite is true.
    Knowing this will help you to select the tackle you’ll need, though we should focus more on identifying potential hides for the nymphing upstream technique.

    Fish are predators, and sure, they’ll often go looking for food themselves, though they equally have the same wait-for-a-delivery-to-arrive mentality that we do.  For that reason, they’ll often lie in wait between weed beds, behind rocks or sufficiently raised silt walls, facing in to the current.

    These features present them with somewhere to hide if a predator comes by, along with respite from the current if it gets too strong.  Chiefly though, they’re in position to wait for the current to bring their food to them, a great energy saving tactic that will ensure that have plenty of fight in them for when you use this to your advantage.

    Keep an eye out for anywhere in which larger land animals, or other people, could disturb the embankment – whilst it may seem an unwelcome disturbance at first, what they’re actually doing is dislodging the local food source.  Use this knowledge to watch for signs of natural takes from that point and onward down stream, which will help to give you a zone to carefully approach and cast to.

    Consider as well that you won’t see anything – the water could look completely deserted.  Take your time though, watch the reeds, you might see the gentle swish of a tail out of sync with the movement of the foliage – a sign of a careful predator that’s waiting for its next meal to drift on by.

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