What is Euro Nymphing?

A lot of people have yet to explore a growing world in fly fishing. We are slowly breaking away from our traditionalist roots. Our flies are changing, our techniques are being refined, and our small world of fly fishing is absolutely expanding and so are the ideas within – whether you like it or not. So, what is the buzz around Euro Nymphing? It’s taking America by storm in competitive fly fishing as well as the recreational scene. Many assume that Euro Nymphing is a singular idea that originated with European nymph fishermen. Au contraire, the ideas encompass many techniques from across Europe, and they have been refined since the 1980s. Let’s break it down.

What is Spanish Nymphing?

The first Euro-style technique we’ll introduce is Spanish nymphing. On a side note, many discredit or are baffled at Spain’s wonderful, top-notch fly-fishing opportunities. Spanish nymphing is the style closest resembled by the long-line techniques used by Team USA. Being one of the “long-line” techniques, Spanish nymphing utilizes a long leader, normally between 15 to 30 feet. This is the technique’s defining style. Traditional leaders are lighter, 1X to 3X. From that, a colored section of line, or “sighter” is added to the leader. From the sighter down, a section of 4X leads to a team of flies that are dropped off the main line using tag-ends from triple-surgeons or blood knots. The general leader formula is as follows: 8 to 12 feet of 1X-3X, 1 to 2 feet “sighter material” (3X indicator tippet or 6 to 8-pound colored mono), 3 to 6 feet of 4X fluorocarbon, and lastly, droppers of 4X, 5X, or 6X with flies attached. Flies should be heavy and spaced with the lightest one towards the rod and the heaviest fly (or anchor) furthest away from the rod. This technique requires a “lob” cast upstream and the flies are sunk to the bottom. As the flies approach the angler, a figure-eight retrieve is used to take up the slack. As the line is retrieved, the rod tip goes up, making the drift one consistent motion. From there, the line is then released and lobbed again for another cast. Rod lengths of the 10 to 12 feet variety are favorited by this style of fly angling. Overall, the Spanish method has its place, especially if you want to nymph a wide run or slot that seems just out of reach.

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What is French Nymphing?

The next technique, French nymphing, is similar to the Spanish style. It is another “long-line” style that utilizes long leaders and long rods. Leaders range from 12 to 20 feet and rods range from 10 to 14 feet. The French method uses micronymphs or small nymphs that are not super heavy but also not super light either. This allows for a slow drift, starting upstream of the angler, and by raising the rod tip, the flies are retrieved. This motion is similar to the Spanish style; however, the shorter leader does not need to be retrieved as the rod tip goes up as the flies approach. The defining aspect of the French method is a “Curly Q” sighter or indicator. This is a colored section of line that has a coiled sighter that acts similarly to a slinky. The coil is advantageous in three important ways. One, the coil takes a few extra seconds to become a tight line, which buys you time on your hookset. Simply put, the fish does not feel tension right away. Two, the coil of colored line appears on the water much easier than a single strand of line. Three, the coil is a true indicator. If it becomes uncoiled or straight, SET. THE. HOOK. The French have it right – this method is deadly if you know how to use it.

What is Polish Nymphing?

Now, let’s step away from the long rods for a moment. This next style of fishing rocked the fly fishing world. Polish nymphing was brought to the world stage by Polish fly fisherman, Wladyslaw “Vladi” Trzebunia at the 1989 World Fly Fishing Championship. Vladi landed a total of 60 fish, beating the next three contenders’ combined catch totals. The rest is history. Many refer to this technique as “short-leader” or “tight-line” nymphing. Unlike Spanish or French nymphing, the Polish method utilizes leaders that are roughly two-thirds the length of the rod. For example, a 9-foot rod would require a 6-foot leader, and a 10-foot rod would require a 6.5-foot leader. Traditionally, two flies are fished with a Polish leader setup. The anchor fly being the heaviest towards the bottom, and above it, the least heavy. The least heavy fly is connected to the main leader by using a loop (generally a perfection loop) that is wrapped through itself on a bight (the main line) between two blood knots. For instructional purposes, the attachment is most closely related to a girth hitch. This allows it to slide freely between the knots. Flies in polish nymphing have traditionally woven body style flies that sink fast and hard. However, heavy flies with wire and tungsten are also fished nowadays. The defining technique in tight-line nymphing is, well, obviously keeping a tight line. This is achieved by leading or pulling your flies just a tad bit faster than the current. Like the other Euro techniques, the flies are lobbed upstream. The rod starts high and the tip sweeps down and across current slowly pulling the flies with the current. The biggest perk to keeping a tight line is that it allows you to feel every bump and tick through your drift. However, you must react fast, because fish will feel moving tension as soon as it strikes. Vladi proved it is one of the most effective techniques in fly fishing today.

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What is Czech-Style Nymphing?

Some may argue with this next classification, but I’ve chosen to leave it separate from Polish nymphing to explain the differences. Many have heard of the Czech style of nymphing due to the successes of Czech competitive fly fishermen. However, the Czechs learned it from the Polish. One of the great differences is in the style of flies used. Czech nymphs are traditionally designed to be slim in profile, yet heavy and able to sink effectively. Flies with too large of a profile will resist sinking at a fast rate, like a large leaf fluttering to the ground.  It is key to weight your flies properly in Czech nymphing because heavy flies will reach the bottom, and they will be easier to lead through your drift. The flies generally imitate small nymphs, caddis larvae, and grubs. Also, the Czech method has incorporated the sighter section to the leader, just as a Spanish leader has a sighter. However, it maintains the same two-thirds of the rod proportion like in a Polish leader. As in French nymphing, Czech nymphing also requires the flies to be lobbed upstream and the rod is then raised up as the flies’ approach. The number one key to remember in Czech nymphing is that the Czech style utilizes a few styles found across Europe. And, it does not require a long rod or long leader to fish either. This aspect allows just about any fly fisherman to utilize this technique.

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Key Takeaways of European Nymphing

The key takeaways for understanding European nymphing that you need to know are line control, fly control, heavy flies, and the direct connection from line to a fishes’ strike. The Euro methods allow you to get more casts in than traditional casting methods and they maximize your hook-up rate. This has been a very basic intro to Euro nymphing and its many methods. If you want some more detailed instruction, come into the shop and we can get you set up and give you the information you need to get out onto the water.


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I grew up in the east, along the limestone belt of the Appalachian Mountains, where I pursued trout on the classic streams of Pennsylvania such as the Yellow Breeches and the Letort, along with endless brook trout streams and other great trout waters. My love for fly fishing grew and I began expanding my horizons when I began guiding for smallmouth bass in West Virginia and onto Alaska, where I fell in love with the landscapes, grayling, and salmon. Idaho and the inland northwest were calling to my trout bum soul, so I picked up and moved to Clark Fork, where I pursue a work and play lifestyle with North 40 Fly Shop. Stop in our Ponderay store for a cup of coffee and trade lies about the one that got away.
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