Bounce Nymphing

“Bounce Nymphing” is another technique that will enable you to keep in contact with the bottom and keep a tight line to your flies. The rigging method is a variation of a tight line rigging method. I have a friend, John, who I fished the Upper Sacramento River with, and I watched as he vacuumed a run right in front of my eyes. He was using a very tight line and kept most of his fly line off the water. As I’ve since discovered he was “Bounce Nymphing”.

I came across an article in “Fly Fisherman” magazine, written by Larry Tullis. I’ll give you a dose of his medicine.

Bounce Nymphing

Bounce_Nymphing_MendingAny of us that have spent any time nymphing know that trout feed subsurface most of the time. In streams and rivers the bugs drift along in the current and are gobbled up by trout waiting for food to come to them.

Most of this “nymphing” occurs in the lower third of the water column. Of all of the myriad of nymphing rigs and techniques to catch these deep-feeding trout none is more productive than the uncommon method Larry Tullis has called “Bounce Nymphing”. This nymphing style keeps the flies suspended close to the bottom, at nose level to the trout, much longer than regular nymphing.

“Bounce Nymphing” is said to have originated in Utah by Provo River anglers to describe their technique of fishing nymphs on a spin or fly rod with monofilament line and a spinning reel. Larry Tullis experimented and adapted this method’s best traits to fly-fishing tackle, and it’s now his favorite nymphing system. It is a recommended method for guides to use with beginning fly fishers to help them catch fish. More experienced anglers have started to use the method regularly because they recognize its advantages. “Bounce Nymphing” with small nymph imitations is especially good for selective fish in heavily fished waters, but this technique works in most places and with most nymphs.

Bounce Advantages

When fishing using slack-line nymphing methods, typically with indicators and shot, the fly:

(1) Takes a long time to get into the strike zone near the stream bottom.

(2) Sinks, and it is near the bottom only a short time before it swings up at the end of the drift.

(3) Hangs up on the bottom when you use heavy weights to overcome these problems.

High Stick Nymphing

When you use High Stick Nymphing methods;

(1) High-stick nymphing keeps little slack in the system.

(2) You can keep the nymphs at the right level and detect strikes quickly, but you can’t fish effectively at long distances.

(3) Drifts are short, so this works only in swift, shallow water where you can approach the fish closely.

(4) The slight tension on the line common in high-stick nymphing sometimes discourages selectively feeding trout.

Bounce Nymphing

When you are using the “Bounce Nymphing” method;

(1) The weight is on the end of the leader with two short droppers above. This keeps the flies suspended just off the bottom and slows the flies to more closely match the speed of the naturals in the slower water near the stream bottom.

(2) The “Bounce Nymphing” method keeps the flies near the bottom two to three times longer than other nymphing techniques because the flies sink quickly and don’t “ride up” until the very end of the drift.

(3) Because there is no hook on the end of the leader, this rig also reduces the number of stream-bottom hang-ups. Several small split-shot in a row, rather than one large split-shot reduces the likelihood of the weight wedging between rocks and makes weight adjustment easier. Tie an overhand knot on the end of the leader to keep the weights from slipping off.

Rigging for the “Bounce Nymphing” Method

(1) The distance between your buoyant foam or yarn strike indicator and the bottom weights should be about three times the water depth.You can fish a bounce-nymph rig without a strike indicator, but it works better with one as visual reference.

(2) It is recommended to use leaders from 8 to 16 feet long.

(3) Start with a 7-foot tapered leader and add 3 to 9 feet of 3X to 6X tippet. The long, thin monofilament allows the nymphs to sink faster and stay down without being pushed upward by the current. Use as light a tippet as possible given the size of the flies, the water conditions, and the size of fish you expect to catch.

(4) Place the droppers 6 to 12 inches apart and keep them short (2 to 5 inches) to help avoid tangles. The bottom dropper should be about 6 to 12 inches above the weights. To make a dropper, connect two tippet sections using a double surgeon’s knot or blood knot. Clip the upper tag end and leave the lower tag end long enough to attach the fly.

“Bounce Nymphing” Technique and Tactics

Bounce_Nymphing_Cast_and_MendThe “Bounce Nymphing” rig is designed to drift with a tight line between the weights and the strike indicator and a slack line between your rod tip and the strike indicator.

This gives you the advantages of both slack-line and tight-line nymphing. The taut portion drifts more slowly than the surface currents because of the weights dragging and bouncing along the bottom. This taut section transmits strikes better than standard nymphing rigs where there is often slack between the flies and the indicator.

Bounce_Bynphing_RiggThe indicator bounces and twitches as the weights negotiate along the stream bottom, but the rig should not hang on the bottom if you use the right amount of weight. The flies should not drag on the bottom; they should drift suspended 2 to 12 inches above the stream bottom, so do not use weighted flies.

For “Bounce Nymphing”, it is recommended to use a 9-foot, 4- or 5-weight rod with a clean and conditioned floating line. Lighter lines are great if you can cast them with weight. Heavier rods and lines cast weights better, but the stiffness and water resistance of heavier lines reduces their effectiveness at achieving a natural drift.

I personally have fished the method using a 9’6″, 6 weight with a 4 weight line. and have seen people use as light as 2 weight lines.

Rigging a “Bounce Nymphing Rigg”

(a) Indicator

(b) Tie the fly to the tag end of the tippet knot about 2″ to 5″ long

(c) Tie the second tag end for the second fly 6″ to 12″ apart.

(d) Tie the weights 6’ to 12″ below the last fly

(e) Tie a double overhead knot and place the shot above the knot

Casting the “Bounce Nymphing” Rigg

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t cast the fly line so much as lob the indicator and flies, keeping a wide-open loop. If you try casting this rigg with a tight loop you will constantly be tangled up.

It is essential to start the cast with no slack line between the rod tip and the weight. If you have slack in your system, strip in line or allow the current to pull the line tight to eliminate the slack before you cast. Using water tension to help load the rod, you can often cast the flies from downstream to your target in one smooth stroke.

If you must false-cast to lengthen your distance, wait at the end of each stroke for the leader to straighten and the weights reach to the end of their trajectory before you start the next stroke. A tight loop with a sudden stop will cause tangles and you will spend more time unraveling the mess than fishing. Work on developing gradual stops and starts for an overall smoother cast and fewer tangles.

The most common presentation is often to cast up- and across-stream and drift the flies down to below where you are positioned.

You can cast straight upstream with slack between the rod tip and the indicator so the line does not pull the indicator in any unnatural direction. This requires steady line control.

It is a good idea to try to keep the indicator downstream of the flies. This keeps the line tight between your indicator and flies and helps instantly transmit any strikes. The indicator twitches and jerks as the weights bounce along the bottom, so don’t set the hook until the indicator stops or you see something else unusual. Often, the tight line and tension from the indicator causes the trout to hook itself.

In fast or deep water use a tuck cast to sink the nymphs to the bottom faster. Combine the tuck cast with a reach mend for the perfect drift. Mend the line upstream to introduce more slack or eliminate a downstream belly of line that may pull the indicator downstream too quickly.

When you make a full mend to the indicator, follow it by wiggling out more slack line for a longer drift. When the indicator is downstream, you can also lower your rod tip and wiggle out extra line to extend your drift. Add a small downstream belly to your line if you want to speed up a drift that is dragging on the bottom too much.


“Bounce Nymphing” is not intended to replace other nymphing methods. It’s just another effective tactic to add to your all around game. “Bounce Nymphing” works best in gravel runs, riffles, and troughs to about six feet deep with moderate to fast currents. Slow currents make it more difficult to get a good bounce going but it works fine if you downsize your weights and strike indicator.