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Versatility Is Key to WNC Fishing Success

Mike Hodge

Customers come and go in the Tuck Fly Shop. Their needs differ, but many are looking for a nugget of information that could lead more fish, more often. Truth is, there's no secret to success. Too many variables --- weather, water levels, water temperature, fishing pressure ---- factor into whether you catch trout. However, the most successful anglers are often the most skilled. They're not the best dry-fly fishermen; they're not the best nymphers; or streamer junkies; or Euro specialists. Put simply, they can do everything reasonably well and they're willing to adapt to the conditions. For the sake of brevity, we'll assume that most anglers can fish a simple indicator, dry-dropper or dry-fly rig. That's fairly standard for most recreational anglers, and those setups will work the majority of the time. I can vouch for that because I fish and have fished those basic setups most of my 30-plus years on the water, even as I started guiding. Most of the time, I'm pretty proficient, but as I've guided more and I've run into scenarios where standard setups don't work. Anglers with a regular job can cherry pick the best times to fish; guides can't. They have to fish regardless of whether the conditions are favorable or not. Here are a couple setups that can make a difference on those tough days. Euro-nymphing

I resisted this method for years. After running into a handful of post-cold front, full-moon days in Octobers and November, I got with the program and started to appreciate the finer points of Euro-nymphing. There's no traditional fly line or bulky strike indicator, so you can you get your weighted flies down quicker and generate longer, drag-free drifts through the strike zone. Can you can fish with an indicator rig? Yes, particularly if the fish are willing to move through the water column. But sometimes they stick to the bottom and stay there. That's where Euro-nymphing separates itself from other approaches. It's not as sexy as conventional fly fishing, but it's certainly the most consistently effective. Rocky Mountain Rig This is simply a longer version of the traditional two-nymph inline setup. You can use two or three nymphs. I start with two nymphs. If I need more depth, I add a third fly --- inline --- or add more split shot. This is a good setup for the Tuckaseegee. Drop-Shot Rig Credit Kelly Galloup for this one. Instead of putting split shot above your fly, you place your weight at the terminal end of your leader by using a stopper knot. Use tags above the shot for your flies of choice. This setup initially is a little awkward to cast, but it reduces snags and keeps your offerings in the zone longer, particularly in swift water. A lot of the guides on the South Holston and Watauga rivers use this approach, otherwise known as a bounce rig. None of these setups are bulletproof. All have their place. The most important thing is to be flexible enough to try different strategies. Tight lines. Mike Hodge


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