How to Fish a Naked Line Chironomid Setup
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How to Fish a Naked Line Chironomid Setup

Strike indicators are an incredibly effective tool in stillwater fly fishing, but sometimes it is more fun to take the indicator/swivel setup off and fish a naked line.  Though it may feel very approximate at first, it can prove quite effective in some situations and can even out-fish the traditional static presentation.  I will typically fish a naked line when I am in water deeper than 15 feet and I know that fish are suspending themselves a little ways off the bottom of the lake.

A victim of the size 18 Chromie/Copper rib fished on a naked floating line with a 21 foot leader.

Why do I choose these certain conditions for fishing a naked line setup?  Fishing water that is on the deeper side will allow you to really slow down your presentation without putting your fly on the bottom of the lake.  As far as fish suspending themselves off of bottom, this means that they are not glued to the mud looking for pupa and are actively cruising at a variety of depths.  The grab that takes place when a fish climbs onto the naked line can be absolutely heart-stopping.

How is it done?  I will give you an example of an ideal situation followed by (what I believe to be) the appropriate leader setup.  It is mid-June, I am anchored in 23 feet of water and there is a steady chironomid hatch taking place.  I am looking at my finder to see that fish are suspended anywhere from 14 to 19 feet in the water column, giving me ample opportunity to cover those depths with a naked line.  If I were fishing 23 feet of water and seeing fish at these depths, I would fish a leader that was 17-20 feet in length.  I am a big fan of fishing straight pieces of 8lb or 6lb fluorocarbon, allowing the fly to sink at its fastest possible rate when not prohibited by the thick butt section found on a tapered leader.

Once you are set up, make a decent length cast and set your rod in the holder for at least a minute.  I do not do any count-down process as my attention span is that of a goldfish, naked lining is based largely on feel and intuition.

I wish I had a scientific calculation that determines how long you should let your fly sink, but I will typically just set it and forget it for 1 to 2 minutes before beginning a retrieve.  The retrieve is a painfully, painfully slow hand-twist retrieve with the odd small strip.  Pictured below are some fish that are clearly suspended a ways off of the bottom.

If you are hanging up on bottom halfway through your retrieve, begin retrieving sooner after the fly hits the water or shorten your leader slightly.  Often when fish are suspended in the water column, you will find them eating your fly before the retrieve even begins.

I hope this sheds some light on the naked line technique, if you have any questions you can leave them in the comments or fill out the contact form below!

17 Responses

  1. Scott Bowen
    | Reply

    Thanks Jordan for the article. I am trying to fish this method more and more as it is fun and a nice change from indicator fishing. The 1-2 min pause to let the line sink. Are you stating that it takes this long for fluorocarbon to sink 20 feet. If I am using a beaded Chironomid does that change the timing, or are you saying just let it sink so that it hits the bottom and then start your retrieving bringing it up through the layers that fish are at. Also on a side note. You have commented before but can you repeat you Hummingbird setup you find that works the best.

    • Jordan Oelrich
      Jordan Oelrich
      | Reply

      Hey Scott,

      It is a nice change from strictly fishing with a strike indicator. While it is a little bit more approximate, the grabs can be incredible. I always fish a beaded fly of some sort, usually no bigger than a 5/64″ brass bead. You do not want your fly to hit bottom, but you want to be fairly close depending on where the fish are swimming in the water column. If they are suspended high up then either a shorter leader or less time between the fly landing and the beginning of the retrieve.

      As far as the Humminbird, I still have a Fishing Buddy 120 and it has not bit the dust yet!

      • Scott Bowen
        | Reply

        Hi Jordan, thanks for your message. I fished this way a fair bit this past weekend and had some great hard strikes. I also have the FIshin Buddy 120 and I recall you posting once a year ago about the best settings to use on it, Would love to hear those again. One of these days I would love to hire you to take my fishing friend and I out to one of those lakes in the Thompson that you are always pulling nice fish out of. Saving the pennies right now.

        Take care.

  2. Pete Lyford
    | Reply

    Is this done with a floating line?

    • Jordan Oelrich
      Jordan Oelrich
      | Reply

      Yes Peter, floating line is best for this technique!

  3. Peter DeRoche
    | Reply

    How do you attached the flourocarbon to your flyline? Braided loop?

    • Jordan Oelrich
      Jordan Oelrich
      | Reply

      A very short section of 12lb Maxima Ultragreen with a perfection loop on each end to protect the fly line!

  4. Don Andersen
    | Reply

    I fish long leaders a lot.
    1) your picture shown is misleading as it would take a severe strike to pull the slack out of the line.
    2) long leadering doesn’t require 1>2 minutes wait time. With a stop watch and six feet of leader to your fly, time the fall rate. Takes a lot less than 1 minute to drop well down.
    3) surprised that you didn’t mention casting technique. A typical forth and back cast will truss you up like a Chrismas Turkey.
    4) flies tied without metal beads work best as they don’t get to the bottom too quickly.
    5) floating lines of the long belly type are critical to keep the running line from tangling.

    Regards,

    Don Andersen
    Bamboorods.ca

    • Jordan Oelrich
      Jordan Oelrich
      | Reply

      Hey Don,

      Thanks for your comment, a few replies on the points mentioned.

      1) That is a photo that I happened to take of a client’s fly line while anchored up one day. Sometimes I do not have the exact photo I want while writing an article, so occasionally I will have to pull the next best thing from my photo archives. Luckily, most grabs that take place while targeting Pennask and Blackwater triploids in water deeper than 20 feet will straighten just about any amount of slack you have on the line.

      2) There are a few variables that come into play on this, primary ones being wind and depth of water. I have had times where a naked line will sit stationary for 3 minutes or longer while playing a fish, only to have a fish grab the fly unexpectedly. I do most of my naked line fishing in ~20-30 feet of water.

      3) I do not have any problems tangling naked lines while using the same casting stroke I would with a long leader and strike indicator setup, keeping the loops as wide open as possible to avoid the fly double-crossing the fly line. When I have people casting a naked line setup, it is always from an elevated casting platform on the bow of the boat to give them a bit better vantage point and leverage while digging the fly/leader out of the water.

      4) I have experimented with both and while a fly without a bead will fall at a slower rate, sometimes this can work against you in strong winds or deep water. Rarely do I tie with beads larger than a 5/64″ and typically choose brass over tungsten beads to control sink rate a bit. That being said, I was anchored next to a friend last week in 22-25′ of water, he was fishing with a small split shot 20″ above his fly on a naked line setup and seemed to pick up substantially more fish than I was on my naked line.

      5) Long bellied fly lines are good for this, but even with a shorter bellied head such as the SA Titan taper I have never noticed a problem with running line tangling.

      Keep in mind that the only time we are using this application is in stillwater, thanks again for your reply.

  5. Davis । fishing guy
    | Reply

    I would like to thank Jordan Oelrich first.Because he wrote better about line setup.I think those who love fishing like me.This blog is very important for them.I was looking for a blog like this.Thank you so much again for this blog.

  6. Mark Memmott
    | Reply

    Great article! Would naked line fishing work with leach and bigger nymph patterns or is it a chronomide only method?

    • Jordan Oelrich
      Jordan Oelrich
      | Reply

      Hey Mark!

      Thanks for the comment. This method is actually quite versatile and is applicable, but not limited to fishing micro leeches, shrimp, mayfly nymphs, damsels and bloodworms!

  7. John Bass
    | Reply

    Which fish finder should I use for fly fishing? Thx Jordan

    • Jordan Oelrich
      Jordan Oelrich
      | Reply

      Hey John,

      I have used a Humminbird Fishing Buddy 120 for almost 9 years now, but I had the pleasure of using the Helix 5 a few weeks ago and will definitely be adding one to the boat for next season! Absolutely amazing sounder with tons of bells and whistles!

  8. Rick Xavier
    | Reply

    Hi Jordan, great info. I like your approach here using an all fluorocarbon leader as it sinks with less arc which eliminates the need to add 25% additional monofilament leader to compensate for depth. Less slack line would likely improve hook set as well.

    • Jordan Oelrich
      Jordan Oelrich
      | Reply

      Hi Rick,

      Thanks for the comment. The full fluorocarbon leader is an excellent method that removes a lot of guesswork from the equation! Let me know if you get a chance to try it out this season.

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