Yesterday we went over different situations where you could take off your indicator when nymph fishing. I wanted to follow up this discussion with a reason I feel nymphing without an indicator is so productive and that is the elimination of Vertical Drag. When most fly fisherman think of drag they are thinking of horizontal drag, periods where the flies drift at a speed different from that of the current. Usually this is caused from the fly line on the water’s surface either pulling the flies forward or holding the flies back. I believe there is another type of drag that can affect your drift. Think of your flies drifting vertically in the water column. No side to side dimension here, just the line where it enters the water down to your flies below. Because of the friction of the current against the river bottom, the water towards the bottom of the water column is moving slightly slower than the water on the surface.
When indicator fishing, your indicator is floating so you are drifting at the speed of the current on the surface, not the speed of the water on the bottom (where your flies and the fish are.) Without an indicator, the leader is able to cut through the current, allowing it to drift at the same speed as your flies on the bottom. When nymph fishing, we must think of our flies in multiple dimensions, not just the drag that can occur on the river’s surface. Eliminating vertical drag along with the tradition, horizontal drag, will get it so your flies are drifting naturally and the only movement they have is being influenced by the current.