Euro nymphing is a specialized form of fly fishing using only heavily weighted nymphs with no split shots or strike indicators. It has been referred to as Czech, French, Tight-line, High Sticking, and Polish Nymphing.
European nymphing was formally introduced in 1989 at the World Fly Fishing Championship by Wladyslaw “Vladi” Trzebunia of the Polish national team. Using a refined method first developed by his father, Vladi won the championship and single-handedly caught more fish than the 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams combined! Since then, his technique was adopted and has been continuously improved by fly anglers across the world.
In other words, this technique is a very effective way to catch fish no matter the flow or depth of water, it can be fished in any time of year, and has produced in both recreational and competitive fishing.
In its basic form, Euro Nymphing uses a single line, with a heavy weighted nymph at the end of the tippet. There is a sighter line between the main line and tippet. This is attached to another long piece of leader that then goes directly to the main fly line. There is no shot for weight, or floating bobber indicator. The sightline helps an angler detect a strike on a tight line. This technique is about drifting a fly on a tight line, feeling the bottom with as little line contact on the water as possible.
The total leader length should be twice the rod length as a general rule of thumb. The bulk of this will tend to be the section tied directly to the fly line. The sighter line, which is brightly colored for contrast, is attached to this and is about two feet in length. Typically, the sighter is a bright chartreuse section and a neon red for low light and bright conditions.
At the end of the sightline a tippet ring is attached and then a piece of tippet generally about two feet long is attached. Towing the line in a very small way is your fly tied to the end of the tippet. Above that anglers will often fish a fly on a dropper. All in all, this is the total set up for Euro Nymphing.
The technique is as simple as the set up, there is no false casting, nothing bulky to bunch and tangle during your back cast, and this all helps with the other beauty of this rig, efficiency. You simply implore a roll cast of sorts, lead the fly on a high rod, no mending, tight line. When the fly finally starts to tail out of the drift, swing it through, as it rises in the water column downstream and about even with your hip, use that tension and “roll” cast again. No fuss no muss.
As long as you can “feel” the bottom or you can see subtle movement in the bright sighter line you’re doing it right! One of the biggest struggles is the absolute line control one must have for this technique. It’s supposed to be fun, but remember line control isn’t the place for cutting yourself some slack, pun intended.
Now that we have talked about the casting, let’s dive into the strike. When you feel or see a strike it can come as the proverbial thump, or a subtle as seeing the colored line move a fraction of an inch, or even a pause. The instant reaction is to immediately set the hook up, but in Euro Nymphing the best way to set the hook will be to note the angle of the sight line and set the hook in the opposite direction. So if the line is at a ninety degree angle then the up hook set would be correct, but if it was at any other angle you would have slack in the set up with that set, you may miss the fish or even worse break it off on the set. so , if the sight line is angled downstream, set the hook angle upstream and so on.
Euro Nymphing Gear
Now the fun part, gear! You can use any fly rod over about nine feet in length to Euro Nymph. Honestly, you can use any length fly rod, however, you have the greatest advantage over 9-feet. Just like any other method of fishing, there are technique specific options for euro nymphing that will help you become more effective. A good euro rod would be a 9 – 11 foot, 3 or 4 weight. The length helps keep the line off of the water and because the flies are so small and the cast so efficient a heavier rod is a detriment. Moreover, the tip will be very light to detect a strike by feel and enough butt to handle big fish. There are many reputable rods made specifically for this technique.
The line is generally thinner than the normal weight forward line, the leader can last a very long time with the use of a tippet ring at the end of the sightline. Sightlines can be hand-tied with high contrast mono or purchased in a pre-made setup. Then the tippet can be of single diameter to help control the sink rate and easily replaced all with the help of the tippet ring. In the end, it will look a little like this if you want to build a basic one: the thickest section of a nine-foot 4x leader trimmed and attached at the point of equal diameter to the sightline, then at the end of the two-foot sightline, a tippet ring and a two-foot section of 6-7x tippet then the fly.
The flies on the end can vary greatly or be a very simple system. In general, the flies will be compact, tungsten weighted, wide gap nymphes. The sizes I would start with would be in the 10-16# size. Most of the time the bottom fly will be compact, not many appendages or hackle, maybe hard-bodied and a touch smaller in profile than the dropper fly. The dropper fly should have a bit more bulk to get it up in the water column. Some popular patterns are perdigons, barbless jigs, frenchies, and micro buggers. Don’t be afraid to try any heavily weighted nymph in this technique, just try to remember that the bottom fly needs to be dense and compact in comparison to the dropper.
Here’s one of our go-to euro rigs:
The beauty of Euro Nymphing is also the fact that it can be done on a standard rod. So, if you’re a generalist with a 9 foot 5 weight, run an 18 to 20 foot leader set up, carry a sight line in your already overloaded pack and bingo bango you can Euro Nymph with great success.
This technique has so many more intricacies than I can cover in the depths of about 1000 words, but the resources exist. Also, because you already have a rod capable of giving this method a try, get some sight line and a good selection of tungsten nymphs and give it the old trout bum try. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t catch fish in a different way than you already weren’t catching fish, and at best you become a better, more well rounded angler who needs to buy a whole new cache of tackle. I prefer the later approach.