By Lee Harrison
Whether you are a new or seasoned fly angler, chances are you have at least heard of “Euro Nymphing”. Overhearing conversations about it can seem intimidating, as if it were a dark art. However, it’s a lot simpler than one might think. Here’s a quick overview to get you started into the world of Euro nymphing.
What is Euro Nymphing?
Euro Nymphing has many names. Czech nymphing, Polish nymphing, and tight-lining are just a few of them. However, they all encompass using the same basic technique.
To simplify the explanation of this technique, we will describe it as tight lining - meaning that the angler is keeping the tippet under tension, or tight, the entire time the fly is in the water. It is crucial that you do not leave the fly line resting on top of the water. This will result in unnatural drifts and fly presentations.
When employing this technique, the angler casts upstream and leads the drift of the subsurface fly with the rod tip by 1-2 feet depending on line length. The angler then allows the fly to swing under them and repeats the process.
The Basic Technique
Casting upstream is the foundation for your fly presentation. As the name implies, Euro nymphing uses wet flies, or nymphs, under the surface of the water to draw strikes from fish. Since we are using nymphs, we are often trying to get those fly patterns as far down into the water column as we can. Traditional Euro nymphing is done without any split shot, just the weight of a bead-head fly. To get those flies down quickly, one must use the hydrology of the river and couple unorthodox methods.
Casting upstream will allow the fly to sink faster as it is not being picked up by line on top of the water where the current is faster. This allows you to make shorter casts in front of pockets and seams where fish might be holding, and in turn more control of your presentation.
Another technique employed by Euro nymph anglers to get their flies deeper, is the haul or strip. Once the fly is in the water and sinking one can haul or strip the line back through the eyelets of the rod. This seems counterintuitive and you may think it would raise the fly in the water column, but it actually brings the fly right underneath your line thus submerging it further. You won’t need to strip much line in to get the desired effect. Sometimes, just an inch or two will do the trick.
Euro Nymph Rigging
The line setup for proper Euro nymphing technique is another topic that anglers discuss at-length. There are many different methods when it comes to fly line and tippet. And while a specialized Euro nymphing setup will provide the best results, you can begin to practice with just a typical 5-weight setup.
Rigging for Euro nymphing begins with a lighter fly line. A 3-weight or 4-weight is recommended. From there, tie on a leader of 4x (non tapered) tippet. Below that is a series of multi-colored lines known as a sighter. This replaces an indicator. At the end of the sighter, we recommend using a tippet ring so you don’t have to cut your sighter when changing out the tippet.
Next, comes a stretch of 5x-7x tippet. The size and length of this tippet will depend on the fly size and depth of the water you’re fishing. As a general rule of thumb, the tippet should be the depth of the water, plus one foot for heavy flies - or, the depth of the water plus two feet for lighter flies. For example, if you are fishing a 4-foot deep run, you can use a tippet that’s anywhere from five to seven feet long, depending on the weight of your flies.
Recommended Euro Nymphing Fly Rods
Finally, one of the most frequently asked questions about Euro nymphing is the rod you should use. We recommend light, medium-action rods that have reactive tips to allow anglers to feel a strike. In the Mystic lineup, we would suggest our M-Series rod in a 10’ 3” 3-weight. This will allow you to control the depth and drift of your flies and feel the slightest strike from opportunistic fish.
Give Euro nymphing a try, and add a new technique to your fly fishing arsenal!
Lee Harrison is an outdoor writer and fly angler from Colorado now living in Montana to explore new fisheries. His favorite species to target is native cutthroat trout at high elevation lakes. Follow lee at sparkmediahouse.com.