A sighter is a colored section of material, built into the leader, that acts as a strike indicator
when tight line or euro nymphing. A sighter is useful because we don’t always feel the strike.
Instead, we often see the sighter hesitate or make a short upstream motion- as signals to set
the hook. The ability to see the strike is especially important when nymphing with light weight
rigs, as there’s not enough tension on the line for the angler to feel the strike. Remember, we
don’t ALWAYS dredge heavy rigs and flies on the bottom, a myth that still has “traction” in
some circles. Sometimes we need to drift the nymphs higher in the water column-using just
enough weight to achieve some depth but keeping the rig light enough that the current moves
the flies for us. All we do, then, is move the rod tip to maintain a small degree of tension
between rod tip and nymph. Think of drifting your nymphs just as you would a dry fly on a flat
piece of water. In both cases, drag is your enemy.
Strikes are often missed when the rod tip wobbles or shakes during the leading of the flies. The
rod tip wobble is passed down through the whole rig. Nothing is spared. Slack is created
unintentionally. Not all nymphing strikes are aggressive; some are super soft, a slight, barely
detectable pause. If there is any slack in the presentation, like the slack caused by rod wobble,
the “pause” never presents itself. A strike is missed. What you are striving for is the rod tip to
smoothly lead the flies, and eliminate any unnecessary jerking movements in the sighter. We
achieve “smooth operator” status when we create a solid base for our body and rod hand to
lead the flies. As my mentor Joe Humphreys often says, “you want to eliminate the Jerk on the
other end of the rod.” There is no such thing as a perfect leading technique. There is, however,
a way to minimize the damage. I call it “LOCK AND LEAD.”
Lock and Lead is obtained when the hand is positioned out and away from the body, with a
slightly bent elbow-in a locked position. After the cast is completed, the rod hand immediately
begins to move (horizontally, vertically, or both) to control the drift, but now you’re leading the
nymphs with a smooth and controlled lead, where any hesitation on the sighter is going to be
picked up with your eyes. If the elbow isn’t locked during the lead, wobble will inevitably occur.
If your hand and elbow are “fixed,” the drift will be smoother and the sighter will be “quiet.”
Sighters are loud enough, color-wise, already. The trick is to keep them quiet on the water. A
quiet sighter registers takes; a loud one registers only aggressive takes. You want both, and you
want to have confidence that if the sighter does ANYTHING unusual, you’ll see it and react to it.
You’ll still be the jerk on the other end of the rod, but you will be an aware (and successful)
jerk. Good Nymphing!