As a primary star hopper for decades, here's what I've found as the most efficient, or the method that works best for me. It may not work best for you.
You have a huge strike against you with bright skies and few guide stars to get you in the ballpark, but as one of the others said, it's not impossible to find things, up to a point.
Given that you have those bright skies, first off, know your targets! I repeat, know your targets! Don't go looking for something beyond not only the capabilities of you scope, but the sky conditions as well. I'd go knocking at least two magnitudes, maybe three off the limit of your scope to start with. Then there's the matter of surface brightness. Do your research. While some objects list a magnitude well within range of your scope, ahem... don't be so sure. Take the Helix Nebula or M33. Trust me on that. On the other hand, there are some objects that have magnitudes that you don't think your scope can reach, yet they have high surface brightness and guess what? That's why you need to look them up, especially when you get beyond the Messiers, for instance.
Next, get a decent quality wide-field eyepiece. You DO NOT have to break the bank and get a high-end bauble that some might argue will give you the same views you can get in a 25-inch scope with a 10-inch scope. Don't believe the hype. All you need is a decent quality midrange EP with say, an 82 degree field, mid magnification so you can detect smaller objects, but not such a high magnification that you can't fit the really large ones into the eyepiece, within reason. There are a few objects that are just to large and diffuse for the average ocular but they usually require binoculars or extreme wide field low powers anyway, like the Witch Head and I doubt you'd catch it if your skies are that bright.
Now, get a decent star chart, one that shows plenty of detail, but doesn't overwhelm you. The Tirions or even the Uranometra charts are good for that. If you really want to go cheap, there are plenty of alternatives, though I can't vouch for their accuracy. I personally use Megastar and despite what some might say, I love it and have never seen another program that has impressed me enough to switch.
Now, though this is gonna cause some screaming from some people, get a 5mw (that's milliwatt) green laser pointer.
Yup, notice I didn't say Telrad or one of those boxy pointer thingies.
I also suggest some kind of optical straight through finder just in case the batteries go out on the laser, or it's too cold for the laser to work. I suggest a 50mm, so you have enough aperture to actually see something your aiming at.
I also shouldn't have to go into the safety precautions with using the laser. Those threads have been beaten to death.
Next, given what I've said above, select your target, say M57. You can tell about where it is between those two stars in the lower part of the lyre in Lyra. Now aim the laser between the two stars. Go to the eyepiece, assuming you've aligned the laser at dusk with some immovable object or Polaris or something. The chances are, if you have that wide-field EP in the focuser, you'll be right on the Ring Nebula. If not, start mowing the lawn a tad and you'll soon find it.
When going for more difficult objects that are not as boxed in as M57, you just eye the area by using key stars, do a bit of mental calculations and measurements, then aim the laser at the spot. Maybe aim at a nearby star, then move to another one, then jump to the spot, using the gap between the two other stars as a measuring stick, more or less.
I've used that method to find almost 2K faint fuzzies. It works, though the more challenging the object, the tougher the search can be, and not always successful. Sometimes, because some of the objects I search for are extremely faint, even if my laser gets dead-on, I might not see it and start mowing the lawn and miss it. Or, when I'm in the ballpark, I might mow the lawn and scan right over it and miss it. Back to square one, I try again and sometimes get it, sometimes not. However, brighter objects should be easy and with a little practice, you'll soon become a master. After all, this is all part of the fun.
Best of luck if you try this.
Edited by Feidb, 30 August 2015 - 05:52 PM.