European Nymphing Presentation
Before I considered this new approach, I asked myself, why change. I was catching fish dead drifting my nymphs with strike indicators or at least I thought I was dead drifting my flies. I later found out that 80% of the water’s speed is within the top 20% of the water column; therefore my strike indicator was traveling a lot faster than the water where my fly was which meant my fly was being dragged along unnaturally. This dragging also caused the fly to ride higher up in the water column and not in the feeding zone of the fish. Being that the water is slower along the edges and the bottom of the river; those are going to be the places where fish hang out.
Because fish are curious creatures they take many food and non-food items in their mouth with fishermen only detecting a small fraction of these bites mainly because the fish spit many items in the split second, long before you feel anything in your hand.
When I used a strike indicator, I was introducing inefficiency to my fly rig. I normally would put split shots above my flies to better sink them to where I thought the fish were. What I was doing was introducing a dead spot in my line. When a fish would strike the fly, it would have to carry that weight tightening the whole system up so when the fish would feel some resistance, the fish would spit the fly because no real food item would normally pull back.
As with all fishing techniques, European Nymphing is not suited for all water types. Fast water, lots of current seams, boulders and pocket water are the areas you should target.
Riffley waters are areas where fish go to feed aggressively. The turbulence oxygenates the water as well as providing cover thus making the fish feel safe.
This type of water also is to the fishermen’s advantage because it disguises your presence both visually and the noise you make while wading.
Look for areas where you can predict a trout will reside. Pick places where you can dissect the water.
Having an appreciation of the history behind European Nymphing creates an understanding of why things are done the way they are.
There are hundreds of books on fly fishing with very few dealing only with nymphing.
The birthplace for river nymphing is Great Britain. It started over 250 years ago in the shires of North England with the introduction of slim, sparsely hackled wet flies called Spiders. Names like T.E.Pritt, G.E.M Skues popularized these flies even though nymph fishing was regarded as unorthodox on the chalk streams of the southern England.
This all changed with Frank Sawyer who is credited with the modernization of nymphing.
He created a technique called the induced take which is deadly. \an example of this is the way a cat reacts to its toy. Toss the cat its toy and let it sit, the cat will just look at it. As soon as you start to move the toy away from the cat, the cat will pounce on its toy. Sawyer was the first to write about this. He described casting his fly upstream and when he thought his fly was close to a fish, he would raise his rod which would pull the fly away from the fish. He believed that a fish’s reaction would be the same as any other animal. The instinct of the fish is to chase down its prey.
His fly, the Pheasant Tail Nymph brought him fly fishing immortality and is used throughout the world today. Many people have expanded on the work of Frank Sawyer but techniques were evolving in other parts of the world. American fly fishers were using a technique call high sticking while short nymphing was being developed in Poland. It wasn’t until the World Championships in 1986 that the rest of the world focused on short nymphing which is now known as Czech nymphing.
The origin of the Czech nymph began in 1984 on the Dunajec River in Poland. Repressive social and political barriers restricted fishermen from using equipment and fly materials that fishermen from the free world took for granted. Yarn from sweaters formed their fly bodies, horsehair was used for ribbing and plastic from rain coats was used for the shell backs. As restrictions gradually lifted, access to better equipment and materials improved.
The first great success of the short line nymph technique was recorded at the World Championships in Belgium in 1986 and in Finland in 1989. Czech nymphs achieved global recognition at the World Championships in Wales in 1990 when the Czech team took first place. The Czechs repeated this success again in 1994 in Norway, 1996 in the Czech Republic, 2001and 2004 in Sweden and 2005 in Poland.
Let’s talk about the key elements within European Nymphing.
Rods and Reels, Fly Lines, Leaders, Flies and Presentation. When all of these are put together properly, it allows for success.
Rods and Reels
If you have a 3, 4 or 5 wt 9’ fly rod, you can Czech Nymph. However, a longer rod will give you a longer reach and more line control. The ideal rod length is 10-11’. Try to use a light rod to minimize arm fatigue. Slow action rods are preferred because you are using light tippets. The flexible rod tip will act to protect these tippets from breaking. Fast action rods are not recommended. One last important point is that you are not mending the line; you are just lifting the line off the water and lobbing it upstream.
Reels are not a major concern as they are only for line storage and an aid after the fish is hooked. However the reel should allow for a balanced system to be achieved.
The choice of fly line doesn’t really matter because you have very little fly line extending past the rod tip.
When considering leaders, this is when European Nymphing starts to get interesting.
There are 4 different types of leader designs that are used in European Nymphing. They are
the Czech Nymphing Leader, the Polish Nymphing Leader, the French Nymphing leader and the Spanish Nymphing Leader.
In your handouts I have provided details on each of these leader designs. I encourage you to do some research on these leader designs to understand them better. However there are a few common elements that all leader designs incorporate. All leaders have a sighter made from Hi-Vis 10lb mono with loops on either end. These are used for sight detection. Colours like orange and green are highly visible. For better sight detection, apply a bar pattern to the sighter using a black permanent marker. Dropper tags are always formed from the leader's parent line. This provides a smoother transition of line tension resulting in less line breakage. Use a triple surgeon's knot or equivalent to complete all non-loop leader interfaces Leaders are constructed of light fluorocarbon tippet material that minimizes drag on the flies as well as the leader is able to cut through the water column quickly.
Polish and Czech Nymphing are similar in that they use a short leader technique while French and Spanish Nymphing use much longer leaders. No matter what nymphing technique you use, they all eliminate fly line on the water.
Because these technique were developed over in Europe, we talk about how they rig up there flies. First off, they fish mainly with 3 flies.
The middle fly is the heaviest fly which takes the rig down to the bottom. The tail or point fly is a lighter fly which could be a mayfly or caddis larva. The top dropper which is above the anchor fly could be a soft hackle or something imitative of what the fish are feeding on.
This configuration will allow the flies to sink in a V shape. This rigging also has a tendency to tangle.
Therefore an alternative rig would be to go to a 2 fly system. The light fly is affixed to the top dropper tag and a heavy fly (anchor fly) is attached to the point position.
Note: if you want to fish some really shallow water (6” to 18”), reverse the fly orientation. This will minimize your rig from hanging up on the bottom.
Not matter what rigging you choose, the flies should be at least 20” apart.
For beginners to European Nymphing techniques it is recommended that short line techniques be mastered first namely Polish or Czech Nymphing. These techniques will allow you to catch fish thus building your confidence. French and Spanish nymphing techniques should be something you evolve into. It takes a lot of skill to effectively cast your flies using the longer leaders.
Presentation using a short line technique would be as follows.
Cast your leader at a 45 degree angle with hardly any fly line out the rod tip. Do not drop the rod tip because you may get strikes as your flies descend the water column. When your flies reach the bottom, the leader will be traveling slower than the surface current; track your rod ahead of the flies really slowly. Do not pull the flies along. In essence, you are moving the rod at the same speed as the flies on the bottom. Trust me, it takes some practice. When a strike occurs, the line will stop or exhibit some irregular action.
The drift is short; 45 degrees upstream to 45 degrees downstream of you. At the end of the drift, do a slight hook set to either set the hook for fish mouthing your fly or you're preparing to make your next cast upstream. There is no false casting. You raise or lower your rod to accommodate differences in the stream bottom profile. Try to guide your files into high protective areas (example: the cushion that exists in front of boulders).
Drifts vary with the technique being used together with the current speed. When Czech nymphing; drifts are quite short, approximately 5 seconds. Spanish and French Nymphing was result in drifts that are 30 or more seconds.
Strikes mainly occur as the flies are descending through the water column. These techniques are based on reaction strikes from the fish so you don’t want your flies in the water for a long time, actually, long drifts result in less hook-ups. Often, a natural drift is not the way to go. You want the flies to hit the water and start descending through the water column with no delay.
Even though riffley water will muffle your presence do not make the mistake of wearing brightly coloured clothing.
- Focus on the areas of the river that most people pass up; riffley faster water. These are very productive areas.
- Do some research into the history to get an appreciation of why things are done the way they are.
- Pay attention to your equipment especially rods and leaders
- Master the short line techniques before challenging the longer leaders to build your confidence.
- Ensure your fly orientation on your leaders is correct for the water conditions being fished.
- Practice, Practice, Practice
- Most importantly, Have Fun.
Thank you and Tight Lines