The nakedness I’m referring to is fishing without an indicator not the ultimate in wet wadding. For this conversation we’ll focus specifically on nymphing in streams. Fishing without an indicator is much more common in still water environments. In the evolution of fly fishing techniques it seems to me this was the quickest to be devoured. You float a dry, swing a wet and use an indicator for nymphing. Trust me I get it. Fishing with an indicator is the easiest and most effective method to catch fish, thus its popularity. European style nymphing and fishing with sighters instead of a suspension device brought naked fishing back in vogue, but that can be an intimidating space as well. I’m not suggesting you throw away your indicators or run out and buy a Euro nymphing rod, I’d rather talk about the space between the two.
Fishing naked can be done with a standard leader, but it is much tougher to detect a strike without a visual reference. You can use the tip of your floating line but then you deal with drag and inaccurate judge of depth. Euro-nymphing was my gateway to fishing without an indicator. In this technique I use a knotted leader with a built in sighter to provide a visual reference of depth and detection of strikes. There are a lot of good recipes out there; here is how I construct mine.
Buy the smallest spools possible, one batch of materials can tie a lot of leaders. Keep in mind mono will break down over time. I recommend buying tippet ring with rounded edges. I found flat, washer shaped rings have sharp enough edges to break the tippet off at the ring rather than the fly wasting five feet of material every time you get hung up. I won’t go into a lot of detail regarding tight-line techniques as there are a lot of good books out there by people better informed than me. I highly recommend reading George Daniel’s Dynamic Nymphing. As the name implies one method relies on a tight-line between rod tip and fly. The other, an indicator setup, there is a tight line between the nymph and indicator. The former is typically cast a short distance and the latter used for longer casts. Greatly oversimplified, I know. When I talk about the space between the two methods, think of your sighter as you would your indicator. Specifically I concentrate on the knot between the two sighters. I can go from high sticking with my line perpendicular to the water to casting distances I would with an indicator. I simply cast upstream and across, give my nymph time to sink and then raise my rod tip until the blood knot attaching the two sighters holds just on top of the water. In slow, deep water I’ll let the sighter sink completely. If the water is clear and the colored sections are visible I can detect strikes even when submerged. This is extremely potent because the path of the nymph is different than in a traditional tight line or indicator set up. In both methods the fly travels more or less in a straight line with the current. Using this technique the fly travels in a curved path starting in a straight-line and then arcing towards you somewhat opposite of swinging a fly, but effective for the same reasons. The greatest challenge of fishing naked is learning to detect strikes. Instead of an indicator dropping the leader will stop or hesitate. With any nymphing, I set the hook any time something looks "funny." The more you fish without an indicator the better you’ll get learning what “funny” looks like. Fishing naked is a stealth approach and minimizes the commotion on top of the water. It also presents a drag free drift by keeping line off the water or getting an indicator caught in a micro current. When I need to cast a further distance and don’t want to wade the water in front of me I’ll add a suspension device. The sighter provides a more accurate indicator placement and ultimately the depth of my fly. When used in tandem, if I can still see my sighter, I’ll concentrate on it rather than the indicator. I am amazed how often I catch fish on the twitch of a sighter before the indicator is disturbed.
Next time you’re out on the water lower your inhibitions and get naked. If you've read this far you know what I mean…