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Best Ways To Improve Your Nymph Rigs (Indicator Nymphing)

Nymphing is a skill that all fly fishers should learn. It produces lots of fish, and is extremely effective. With nymphing, you are drifting your nymph flies underwater and watching your strike indicator. Since most of a trouts diet consists of nymphs (underwater bugs), this method is the #1 way to catch the most trout.

Small adjustments to your nymph rigs can mean catching more trout. Adding split shot, adjusting your indicator, and adjusting your tippet sizing can all be effective.

There are many ways to set up a nymph rig. Everyone has their favorite methods. This article will cover my favorite ways to improve nymph rigs. This article is geared toward indicator nymphing (not Euro nymphing).

Although Euro nymphing is very effective, new anglers should learn the art of indicator nymphing, too.

Add A Tippet Ring To Your Nymph Rig

Some folks like tippet rings, while others don’t. I personally find that they can be really useful in several ways.

First of all, they extend the life of your leader! When you break off your flies and tippet, you should still have the tippet ring on your leader. This ensures that your leader isn’t getting cut back all the time. To be successful with this, make sure that your leader is heavier than your tippet size.

Second, they speed up the re-rigging process. Instead of having to tie a blood knot or surgeons knot, simply tie a clinch knot to the tippet ring. This allows you to add tippet more quickly, without having to deal with other knots.

Third, they are a great “split shot stopper”. Putting your split shot above the tippet ring will ensure that it won’t slide down to your flies.

Add More Splitshot To Your Nymph Rig

There are times when you only need a little weight, but there are also times when you’ll need 2 or 3 splitshots. This is especially true for deeper and faster runs.

Play around with adding and subtracting splitshot, and also fish different sizes of shot. Knowing how much weight to use is critical for catching trout.

Adjust Your Strike Indicator

Adjusting your indicator is crucial to catching fish. For deeper holes, move your indicator higher up your leader. This will allow your flies to get down deeper. For shallower holes, move your indicator lower down on the leader. This will allow you to drift your nymphs without getting hung up on the bottom.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not adjusting your indicator. Every time you fish a new hole, think about how deep you should fish. Make the adjustments until you start hooking trout.

Fish A Yarn Indicator On Your Nymph Rig

Although Thingamabobbers are good indicators, yarn is much more sensitive. If you want to detect the most strikes, definitely use a yarn indicator. Even if a fish barely bites your nymphs, you will see the yarn move. Some of the best nymphers swear by using yarn indicators.

There are many types of yarn indicators, but I have found that the New Zealand system works quite well. With the NZ system, you can slide the yarn up and down your leader really easily. This allows for quick adjustments on the water.

Taper Your Tippet Sizes

I really like to do this on most of my nymph rigs. Tapering your tippet sizes means that when you break off, you won’t lose all of your flies (usually).

Let’s say you are fishing 3 nymphs in a row. To your first fly, use 3x tippet. To your second fly, use 4x tippet. To your third fly, use 5x tippet. In addition to this, I am also tapering my fly sizes. The first fly is the largest (stonefly, worm, etc), the second fly is a medium fly (Prince Nymph, Copper John, etc), and the third is a small bug (Midge, Baetis, etc).

Using this method helps when you get snagged. Instead of losing all of your flies , you only lose one or two. However, if the first fly gets snagged, you may lose all of them. Although most of the time, this method really works and helps you lose less flies.


With these tips, fly anglers can definitely improve their nymph game. Find what works for you and try new methods.

As you fish more, your nymphing game will get better. It is a great way to catch trout, and sometimes the only way during certain conditions.