Archive for January 2014

Skinny Rig   3 comments

Hidy Ho Neighbors!

I had an absolute blast at the Fly Fishing Show.  Presentations were packed, met a bunch of super people, and sold some books.  My presentation was centered around mastering technical water and one of the rigs I discussed is the “Skinny Rig”.  I refer to it as that because it has no weight, and is designed to be fished in skinny/shallow water, or at a skinny depth just below the surface.  It’s great for picking off fish in shallow holds or for catching fish feeding on emergers, duns, spents, or pupa just below the surface, in the film, or on top.  I mentioned at the show for folks to come to the blog and search thru the archives for the original skinny rig explanation.  That proved to be a pain, so I am going to re-post about it.

The skinny rig is nothing more than giving you the opportunity to put your flies exactly where the fish are feeding.  Once you determine what they are feeding on, and where in the column they are feeding, half the battle is won.  Let’s say that you see fish feeding slightly below the surface, with their backs breaking the water, but their heads are not.  Maybe there’s a Blue Wing hatch occurring simultaneously.  Bingo, they are probably eating the emergent phase of the BW.  This is where the skinny rigs shine, and can be used for any emerging or pupating insects.

Using my normal nymph rig (pictured), simply move the indicator up the leader so it’s about 5 feet from the first dropper.  Take off any and all split shot weight, apply floatant to the San Juan Worm (SJW), and you’re ready to go.  If you’re not using an SJW just make sure the fly you have in that position is NOT weighted.


I use monofilament leader in all of my nymph rigs because mono floats better than flourocarbon, and I want something that helps buoyancy of the rig.  The tippets are flouro, but that doesn’t seem to hurt the drift because most drifts are only 5 or so feet and the mono is carrying the heavy load. Sliding the indicator away from the flies just helps to ensure you’re not spooking fish with indicator “slap”, and that the fish only see the presented flies.

Once you find feeding fish as I explained, the set-up is critical.  Most of the time, you’ll set up slightly downstream of the fish.  Occasionally you’ll set up above the fish, but that’s for special occasions when it’s the only way you can get to them.  Pick out one feeding fish when possible, and cast accordingly.  You’re probably screaming, “According to what!” According to the speed of the water and the depth of the fish.  It’s your job to try to place your offering at or above the fishes level.  You do that by practicing casting angles, reading water, and reading fish depths and feeding behavior.  It’s not as tough as it sounds, but does take practice.

Most drifts are much less that 5′, so once you learn the sink rate of your particular rig, you’re almost there.  I have beginners use this method a lot, so it can be perfected quickly,IF, you have a working idea as to how quickly your rig sinks.  Experiment.

The “set” on the skinny rig is more of a full “lift”  Too rigorous a set, and you’ll snap everything off, especially after nymphing with the same rig for a period of time.  I could carry a second rig set-up with a dry-drop rig to use for the same reason, but I’d rather capitalize on the versatility of the nymph rig.  Plus, it’s really fun to set on a “swirl” around your fly, or to watch the indicator scream across the river without warning.

Here’s a quick video showing casting angles.  Go to:  (click on)

Hope this explains the rig.  The best way to learn it is to use it, so Fear No Water!