My take on Euro Nymphing is likely going to be different than other people’s take on Euro nymphing simply because Euro nymphing can mean a lot of different things. I have been teaching all forms of Euro nymphing since 2008 and have determined which version is the most effective.
What Is Euro Nymphing?
Euro Nymphing is a tight-line nymphing method that uses very thin leaders, weighted flies, and a piece of colored line known as a sighter, all used together to suspend your flies off the bottom and to maintain direct contact with your flies at all times which greatly improves your strike detection.
Euro nymphing done right will allow anglers to be able to control the speed and depth of their nymph better and it improves strike detection. Euro nymphing done right is often the most effective way to nymph which is why the pros use it.
All The Versions Of Euro Nymphing
The reason I said that my version might be different than another person’s Euro Nymphing is that Euro Nymphing can mean many things.
I learned the history of Euro Nymphing from Jack Dennis who was one of the first coaches of the USA national fly fishing team. It was when the USA started participating in the European fly fishing competitions that anglers from outside of Europe first started seeing Euro nymphing being used and that is when they saw how effective it really is.
Back then Euro nymphing consisted of a polish version which was taken, changed, and used by the Czechs which became known as Czech Nymphing. Over the years the French and Spanish started to adjust and change the technique to be more suitable to their river and as it stands now in 2021 it’s hard to beat the French and Spanish in the world champions ships.
Now you have French nymphing, Spanish nymphing, Polish nymphing, Czech nymphing, and probably 50 other variations. As European nymphing has evolved my anglers have their own version that works for them which is why I say my version might be different than another person’s version of Euro nymphing.
Despite the many versions of euro nymphing, the basics of using a high rod tip, along with weighted flies and a sighter remain the same throughout all versions.
What really changes from 1 version to the other is the length of the leader that is used and the positioning of the angler.
As I understand it and based on how Jack Dennis describes it, the Polish nymphing method was the first version of the European Nymphing ever used and it was created by a competition angler name Wladyslaw (“Vladi“) Trzebunia.
As the story goes Vladi outfished every angler around him by such a large amount that nobody could even come close.
The original Polish Nymphing method uses a short leader that was about 2/3rds the length of the rod ( 7 foot leader with a 10-foot rod) with 2 or 3 heavy flies and a piece of colored mono between the top of the leader and the fly line.
No fly line or almost no fly line is used when fishing and only the leader is out of the guides as the flies are flipped out and then lead down the river directly under the rod tip.
The flies are suspended just off the bottom and because the leader is tight the entire time anything that touches the fly would be felt by the angler.
The polish method is a very short line version of Euro Nymphing and can be excellent is fast choppy water. It’s not a method I use often.
Czech nymphing is what made European nymphing popular. Czech nymphing is basically a copy of the Polish Nymphing method that was slightly modified so that the sighter was more in the middle of the short 7-foot leader and the flies are slowly pulled along under the rod tip.
Because the flies are pulled slightly faster than the current the strike detection is immediate.
Check Nymph flies are also skinny and very heavy so they get down very fast and stay down in the faster currents.
Czech nymphing today can be very different than the original Czech nymphing. I have seen Czech tournament anglers use many versions of this and they will adapt to the river and the situation they are in.
Like the Polish Nymphing method, Czech Nymphing is also a short leader method and you need to get very close to the fish the therefore it is best used in fast loud water where your close proximity to the fish is not going to spook them. This can be an excellent method in deep pocket water.
I do not use the Czech nymphing method very much.
Spanish nymphing is what I describe as long line check nymphing. The Spanish nymphing leader in tournaments is usually double the length of the rod. That means the leader is 20 feet long on a 10 foot rod.
The reason for the extra long leader is that some rivers are shallow and very clear and the trout will spook easily if you get to close to them. This makes the Polish and Czech methods not very product. The polish leader still uses the sighter and and multiple weighted flies.
The other thing that makes the Spanish method different is where the Spanish stand. They often stand behind the fish and cast up and out while staying behind most of the fish.
I had the opportunity to train with the world champion Spanish Angler David Arcay and he said that during the tournaments they are only allowed to use a leader double the length of his rod but when he fished for fun or when training he would use 30 to 40-foot leaders.
Check out some of David custom Euro nymphing gear on his website AcayFishing.com
Like the other euro nymphing methods, no fly line is used with the Spanish Nymphing method which means that they are casting 30 to 40 feet with just a leader. That’s pretty impressive.
My version of Euro Nymphing is a Combination of Spanish and French Nymphing. When I’m guiding and teaching new anglers I use this 16 foot leader.
When I fish for fun I’m often casting a 30 to 40-foot leader which you can make by extending the 20-foot section to the desired length.
I will discuss Euro Nymphing leader setups in another article which you can find on the Fly Fishing page.
There are huge advantages to the Spanish nymphing method which is why it’s so hard to beat the Spanish anglers in world fly fishing competitions and it’s why I use this method more than other Euro Nymphing methods.
The primary advantage to Spanish nymphing is that you can effectively present your fly to fish that are far away from you so you don’t spook them and you can make very long drifts which puts your fly in front of a lot more fish than the shorter line Euro Nymphing methods.
With Spanish Nymphing, you do not pull your flies through the water. you simply allow them to drift freely at the speed of the current and you just take up the slack and maintain slight and controlled tension between the rod tip and the flies.
French nymphing is very similar to Spanish nymphing with the exception that the French tend to cast straight upriver and retrieve the flies back and they end the drift just in from of them. Whereas the Spanish will cast up and across and can let the flies pass them and continue to fish downriver.
The advantage to the French Nymphing method is that you are directly behind the fish which makes it impossible for the fish to see them. The French adaptation is meant for low clear waters with very nervous trout.
Just like the Spanish anglers, the French competition anglers are very difficult to beat which is why my version of Euro nymphing that I mostly use and teach to clients is a combination of the French and Spanish nymphing methods.
I had the opportunity to fish with a competition angler from France. He flew in the nigh before the guide trip and I got to witness the effectiveness of the French Nymphing style first hand. He out-fished every angler the day 10 to 1 using small flies and a 30 to 40 foot leader with precision casts.
It was amazing to watch and to see how extremely effective this method was first hand from an expert.
The original French Nymphing Versions also used very small flies, much smaller and much lighter than the huge Czech nymphs you might see. The reason for this is because of the slower and shallower water that the french fish.
Using a couple of big Czech nymphs would just mean you are dragging your flies across the bottom.
The French also came up with the slinky sighter which I have tried but do not use except for fishing frog water.
Some anglers and competition anglers simply call Euro Nymphing just Modern Nymphing. Modern Nymphing is basically what I do as an angler and a guide and it’s just variations of the European Nymphing methods above.
When I see modern nymphing done or explained it’s usually very similar to the Spanish nymphing method and setup.
Why Euro Nymphing?
The simple answer to “Why Euro Nymphing” is that if done right in the right type of water you can not beat it.
Other nymphing methods like indicator nymphing and the old school high-stick nymphing where invented by anglers, but Euro nymphing is designed by competitors.
Euro nymphing has evolved and is ever-changing by the world’s best fly anglers because in order to win against the best anglers in the world you need to use the best methods possible in all kinds of different river situations.
What works for me on my home river might not work for you on your river because your river might be 300 feet wide and slow and deep.
Another guide might have a different version of Euro nymphing than both of us because maybe his mountain stream has lots of deep pocket water so his version of Euro Nymphing might be closer to check nymphing than French Nymphing.
That is why there are so many variations to Euro nymphing coming from so many anglers, guides, and competition anglers. Everyone takes the basic concepts of Euro Nymphing and then adjusts them to meet their own needs.
How To Euro Nymph
Euro nymphing is a lot more than just the leader setup. Euro nymphing done like a pro involves proper body placement, different cast, and learning how to cover the water well. Check my Fly Fishing page for my series on Euro nymphing methods and tips.
Every year a do a few sold out Advanced Nymphing classes and clients that have done these classes claim almost instant improvements in the amount of fish they catch.
Advanced nymphing include more than just presentation and often I provide so much information that it’s almost to much to retain.
So I had a private page on my guide website for those anglers to use as a reference but I recently decided to include all of that information on my page Fly Fishing Nymphs so don’t forget to check it out.
Got A Question About Euro Nymphing
If you have a question or comment about Euro Nymphing let me know in the comments section below.