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Short Line and High Stick Nymph Fishing Theory, Practice and Design
Eugene Macri

Tony LaPorta High Stick Short Line Nymph Fishing on Conewago Creek at

Lefty Kreh once told me years ago at a Letort Regulars Fly Fishing Picnic that there are very few truly new things in fly fishing. Most of the time things are rediscovered or recycled.  And that includes high stick and short line nymph fishing! I learned how to nymph fly fish when I was around 13 years old.  I had been fly fishing since I was about 9 years old.  But I really got into nymph fly fishing around 13 or 14.  Local Fly angler Ray Bales demonstrated the techniques called short line and high stick fly fishing and we all used it.  Western Pennsylvania had quite few really good fly anglers and Ray Bales was one of them.  It's been over 45 years ago I learned how to fly fish in this manner using nymphs and all of a's some revolutionary technique?  Oh, well these guys have to make a buck one way or another I guess?

In fact, I was fishing Henry's Fork of the Snake River near the ranch in the late 70's and early 80's when I had numerous locals come up to me while fishing and stated, "You must be from Pennsylvania...."  I asked how did they know that.  "Because all you guys fish nymphs the same way...unlike most of the guys out West."

There are different variations of the game including Czech or European Nymphing. In recent years these European techniques have invaded America with less than stellar results. Unfortunately, in America these techiques work well on some streams but not on others, especially spring creeks.  I watched these idiots step into the stream and spook trout for a hundred meters believing the techniques that worked on fast European and Western America Rivers will succeed in the East.  It's hard to believe that many fly anglers and some so called guides don't understand the applications of these technique and basically convince clients that they can use them everywhere.

Heavy water is fine for these technqiues but shallow streams and slower waters such as spring creeks and spooky trout require a much more refined technique. In spring creeks especially like the Letort or Big Spring or English Chalkstreams you are hunting for fish first.  Seldom do you really get to fish the water blindly.  An errant cast or misplaced fly could end your adventure of ever getting that fish to take a fly.

Another problem is selection of clothing.  I have seen numersous fly fishermen and guides on our Eastern spring creeks with white colored hats.  I guess they think that the off white won't spook the trout. If I can see you from the other end of the stretch what do you think the trout see in the light colored mirrored bottom of the stream?

These techniques work but they must be refined for the type of water, and the fish you are working on.  Trout are a direct product of the type of environment they live in.  Different types of environments produce different types of trout behaviors including wariness, feeding styles, and hostility towards one another.  This type of technique works used in the proper setting but don't let anyone tell you that it's a panacea for all nymph fishing for trout.




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