Crocodile tears and snot bubbles…….   1 comment

Happy Black Friday folks!  I’ve decided to celebrate by writing an article I plan to submit to a certain website.  I’ll let you know details later.  It looks like I’m going to fish and film tomorrow.  Hope to post this weekend, stay tuned. 

Here’s the article, feel free to respond!

“Crocodile Tears and Snot Bubbles”


I showed up at the fly shop bright and early, looking forward to a fun day on the river.  The gentlemen I was slated to guide had arrived a day early, spent the night in one of the cabins that the fly shop rents, and had fished quite a bit the day prior.  Now, this can be a blessing or a curse as a guide, because the finicky tailwater I guide can turn on or off without warning.  After introductions and handshakes all around, I set to rigging their rods.

Noticing right off, that they had the proper flies already rigged up under an indicator, I asked how the river fished the day before.  I was told that there were “crocodile tears and snot bubbles” per fly fisher.  They hadn’t caught a fish.  Whoever at the fly shop sold them the flies had done his job by leading them in the right direction, as the bugs they were running were the same ones I planned to throw this day.  Why in the heck did they not hook up?

I guide by the notion that “if you change nothing, nothing changes”, and judging by the flies they had rigged, I was able to quickly throw that out of the equation.  The reason they were skunked the day before, lousy drifts aside, had to be a function of depth and speed.  When I am nymph fly fishing I live by the depth, speed, profile and color formula.  Those four factors play a huge role in my success as I guide or fish.  Remember, depth, speed, profile and color.

Once to the river’s edge, I quickly went over the tenants of a good nymph drift, and we spread out to work the run.  Noticing right off that these guys could manage a decent nymph drift, made it clear that depth and speed were the culprits of yesterday’s poor outing. Over the years, it has become apparent that you can throw the right bugs at improper depths and speeds and have a tough day on the river.  Conversely, you can throw the wrong bugs at proper depths and speeds, and still manage a few.  I adjusted the depth and speeds of both rigs, and we immediately began to move fish.

The rule of thumb for depth is to have your distance from your weight to your indicator at one and one half times the depth of the run your fishing.  I take it a step further and insure the weight is ticking the bottom from the top of mid-drift through the swing for my particular nymph rig.  My particular nymph rig consists of, in descending order, the indicator to the weight, to the two or three flies (see the Fly Fishers Playbook).  Again, the key to the depth is to make darn sure the weight is ticking bottom throughout the majority of the drift.

Depth is depth, weight is speed.  Once you have the depth dialed in, you can then dial in the speed.  Speed is simply controlled by weight.  More weight equals more drag, which equals slower speed.  I like to get my indicator moving at half the speed of the surface water.  Because of the nature of flowing water, the water at your feet is moving roughly half the speed of the water at the surface due to drag caused by the atmosphere.  Pick out a leaf, stick or bubble, and fiddle with the weight until your indicator slows to the proper speed.  I like to have a split shot above the leader to tippet connection, and micro-manage the weight with a tungsten putty to really dial it in.  I refer to this as slowing down the game.

So now I have the depth and speed dialed.  Next is to dial in the profile of the bugs that I am trying to match.  You have to discern what they prevalent bugs are where you’re fishing and go from there. I’m lucky, I get to be on the water a ton, so I usually know what’s coming off and I work backwards from there.  On this day the bugs that were going to pop where caddis and blue wing olives, so I simply did a bit of reverse-engineering.  Soft-hackled pheasant tails, and blue wing emergers were the flies I chose to run under the indicators.  Those bugs, at the proper sizes, were precisely what were on the menu.  Couple this with the right speed and depth, and you’re dangerous.

Once you have depth, speed, and profile locked in, you should be moving fish.  If you have one of those days where the fish are looking for all of the above AND colors, then you’re going to have to really get technical.  Honestly, it’s not terribly often where specific color plays a large role in catching fish, but it does happen.  There have been days when the fish will readily eat a blue midge larva over a red one, but thankfully, that is not the norm at least where I guide.  If you are sure your depth, speed, and profile are perfect, and you’re still not hooking up, look to decrease profile sizes and change fly color.

We fished the same flies all day, never changed anything but depth and speed, and had a wonderful time.  This systematic approach works.  The next time you’re on the river, try to employ this approach, it’s a safeguard against “crocodile tears and snot bubbles”!

Duane Redford guides out of Flies and Lies in Deckers, Colorado, on the famous South Platte River.  He is the author of The Fly Fisher’s Playbook, A Systematic Approach to Nymph Fly Fishing.

Posted November 23, 2012 by duaneredford in Uncategorized

One response to “Crocodile tears and snot bubbles…….

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  1. You are correct, sir. It’s not often that I change my flies during a day of fishing it’s ALL about depth and speed…PRESENTATION. Some days you can do no wrong so take them for what they are, others days can be tough and that’s when it gets technical.

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