I started nymphing for trout a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Back then we called it tight line fishing or better yet, just nymphing. We never uttered the words – Euro nymphing, mono, dynamic, or any of the other great and powerful buzz words we hear from the leaders in the game today.
Lance, Devin, George, Gary are all people I’ve been fortunate enough to have on the Wet Fly Swing podcast and all people that are leading especially as more and more people try out euro nymphing.
But, to the untrained ear, the word Euro (fill the blank) can bring in derogatory thoughts to some. Case in point my brother Chris who just this week replied to a text from me……
Here’s what I said – I told him I was going to the cabin, taking our cat and heading out for some euro nymphing.
I will preface by saying that I love my brother, but our politics don’t align and we don’t always see I to eye.
Here’s his exact reply: “Cat? Euro Nymphing? You’ve changed. Don’t F$%*#ing call me anymore. Lol”
Now that was said facetiously but there is some truth in his mind to the euro because he doesn’t understand it. and the cat, well you are going to have to wait until the end of this post to hear how we ended up with a cat, a leash, and now a euro nymphing day on the river with the cat.
Today, I’m going to break down Nymphing basics and highlight some top tips for euro nymphing from some of my best guests that we’ve had on the Wet Fly Swing Podcast.
At the end of this article, you will have a strong background in understanding what nymphing is and how to get started. And you will have a ton of resources to draw from as you begin your journey.
Table of Contents
Part I – Basic Nymphing
Chapter 1 – What is Nymph Fishing
Chapter 2 – Nymph fishing history
Chapter 3 – The Nymphs Life Cycle
Chapter 4 – Nymphing Techniques (euro, mono, bobber, tight line)
Chapter 5 – Nymphing Rig, Rod and Gear
Chapter 6 – Tips on Casting a Heavy Nymph
Chapter 7 – Landing a Big Fish
Chapter 8 – best nymphing flies and matching the hatch
Part II – Euro Nymphing
Chapter 9 – What is Euro Nymphing
Chapter 10 – The Euro Nymphing Rig
Chapter 11 – Euro Nymphing Rod
Chapter 12 – Euro Nymphing Flies
Chapter 13 – 17 Euro nymphing tips for trout
Chapter 14 – Resources for Euro Nymphing
Before we get started I wanted to provide a quick summary of the tips covered toward the end of this blog post.
Click below and listen to the Top 17 Euro Nymphing Tips Podcast:
Find the show: itunes | stitcher | overcast
Sponsors and Podcast Updates
Part I – Basic Nymphing
Chapter 1. What is Nymphing
Getting down and dirty with it. chuck and duck. Bobber fishing. and even the fact that the word nymphing isn’t even listed on google in normal fashion because of the sexual annotation of the word nymph or its close relatives?
But, let’s not go there.
Nymphing never got the respect it deserved, especially early on because it wasn’t as graceful as some of the old school tactics, even though it’s one of the most effective methods to catch fish.
Unlike fishing dry flies, fishing streamers or even fishing the wet fly, nymph fishing is like the blue-collar way to catch fish.
As noted above, the key to nymph fishing and the best description is this – you’re trying to reach the fish below the surface that is closer to the bottom than the top.
This is important to remember because the faster you get down to the fish the better.
In nymphing, you are trying to imitate the nymphal stage of the aquatic insect but remember and as we will note later, you don’t always have to be exact or even close to matching the bug.
You can find some information online about the aquatic insects life history including the mayfly which is important for trout fishing.
There are a number of different tactics that we will cover today but in the simplest form, it is about getting down and dirty.
Now, euro nymphing is what we hear about every day and our most popular podcasts are always euro nymphing podcasts.
Euro nymphing has become the most effective method to get the fly down to the fish and allows you to feel the fish.
Take a look at part 2 for more details on euro nymphing.
Chapter 2. Nymph Fishing History
Even though nymphing has become this ubiquitous thing in fly fishing today is was not always that way. In fact, it was looked down upon for many years.
Gary Borger was on the podcast in a past episode and described what it was like when he first began nymphing. You think you get the skunk eye now for your style, find out below what Gary said it was like back in the day.
Gary Borger was also one of the first to develop nymphing and the first people to start nymphing fishing as we know it.
He talks about how it came to be in a past podcast episode:
When I started nymphing for trout in the 1980’s it was game on. I would guess to say that by then it was one of the most popular techniques. This is of course because we know that trout feed 90% of their day on nymphs.
So, if you can get your offering down to the fish with a drag-free drift and as natural as possible then you have a good chance.
One way to get a drag-free drift is to master mending of your fly line to present the fly properly.
Getting the fly down is where euro nymphing is so effective, mainly because it removes all of the things between you feeling the fish.
Orvis talks about the drag-free drift in an article on basic nymph fishing.
Here’s a short clip from that article on getting your fly to the fish:
“Once you cast your fly, imagine a vertical lane from the surface to the bottom parallel to the direction of the current. As long as your fly drifts along this lane, close enough for trout lying near the bottom to see it, you should be able to tease some of them into eating your nymph.”
Chapter 3. The Nymphs Life Cycle
I’m not going to BS you and tell you that I’m an entomologist. I enjoy learning more about the life cycle of the bugs we fish with but for more info check in with Rick Hafele who is one of our leading entomologists in the west and also wrote Western Hatches.
Peter at Ascent Fly Fishing is another great resource for matching the hatch and on aquatic insect biology.
Both Peter and Rick above have made their living identifying and teach aquatic invertebrate life histories with a focus on fly fishing.
Here’s a short clip on the stonefly lifecycle:
Stonefly Lifecycle video from Macroinvertebrates on Vimeo.
The life cycle of a nymph
Here is a very basic version of the life cycle of an aquatic invertebrate. The nymph, grows and lives on the bottom of the stream from a month up to multiple years. When ready to emerge and migrate, it starts it’s a journey to the surface.
Then transitioning to a wet fly and then into a dry fly. We are not covering wet fly fishing or dry fly fishing here but there are plenty of resources online that do.
What we are targeting is that bug that lives on or near the bottom of the stream. So we have to imitate a bug that has become dislodged and is floating downstream.
Chapter 4. Techniques for Nymph Fishing
Tight Line nymphing
Back in the day, tight line nymphing was my go-to strategy and I have caught many 100’s of fish using this technique. Here are the basic concepts – A Dry line is typically effective, a split shot 18″ above your fly and a standard 9-foot leader.
You can tie off a dropper fly from the shank of your hook to add a smaller pattern like a pheasant tail or small hares ear.
Domenick Swentoasky talks about his version of tight line nymphing at trout bitten. Dom was also on the podcast and talked about the mono rig he used.
Listen to the Domenick Swentosky Podcast on fishing the Mono Rig:
Indicator fishing for me has been more focused on steelhead in the past but the “bobber” has always been a killer tactic for trout.
There are many different ways to fish the indicator and many different rigs to setup but below is one example.
Like other types of nymphing, you can cast directly upstream, up and across or even down in some situations. The biggest difference is the indicator allows you to control your fly and drift with the visual cue.
There are different types of indicators like the thing-a-ma-bobber, yarn and balloons. For old school guides, yarn seems to be the preferred type.
Wet Fly Swing
As our podcast and blog will show, we talk a lot about the wet fly swing. But, we don’t about swinging nymphs for trout.
But, it is important to remember that wet flies, flymphs and nymphs can all be swung and effective if implemented correctly.
Understanding how to fish the hopper dropper rig is a helpful skill to understand. The typical setup is some type of a hopper (or large dry fly) with a small nymph tied off the hook bend.
This works great because the hopper acts as the strike indicator and in some situations works better than other strike indicator rigs out there.
The next part 2 of this article covers Euro Nymphing so we will get to that very soon. Now, let’s talk about the typical rod, line and leader for nymph fishing.
Chapter 5. Nymph Rod, Line, and Gear
For a general nymphing rod you’ll want to use something that provides for good line control of keeping line off of the water. You will want to have at least a 9 foot rod but a 10′ rod might be an even better fit.
I like a 5 weight rod and some use a 4 or 3 weight but we will talk more about this in the next section. So, in general, a 10′ 5 weight is a good all-around nymph rod.
Jason Randall talked about why length matters in a TFO blog post and in his book as noted below.
Nymphing Fly Line
The fly line is fairly basic in that you need a typical trout line in a weight forward floating line variety. Many of the companies produce great dry lines but Scientific Anglers Amplitude will work well if you are unsure where to start.
We’ve covered most of the important parts of the nymph gear but there are a few other items to think about. Split shot is one effective piece of tackle that will get you down to the fish.
Lead based leader has been common but non-lead is the better route for conservation reasons. Orvis put together a great roundup post to understand how much and when to put split shot on your leader.
One other general item that is very helpful, especially for beginner fisherman is a net. Stonefly Nets is a sponsor for the podcast this year so we will highlight them here.
Chapter 6. Tips on Casting a Heavy Nymph
This is where the chuck and duck terminology comes into play. and although you won’t always be casting an ugly flip cast, this will be a big part of successful nymphing.
There are times when you can make somewhat of a “normal” looking back cast when using lighter nymphs. But, if casting heavy flies there are a number of flip, roll and kinda roll, maybe not real fly casts you’ll make.
Pete from Orvis breaks down a few tips in one of their videos on casting heavy flies.
So, for nymphing, unlike dry fly fishing or wet fly fishing, you just use whatever you have in your casting bag of tricks to get the fly out there.
That might be a water-born flip cast. It might be the chuck and duck. It might even be the tree cast. I will worn you that the tree cast takes some serious balls and you can lose rigs for sure.
The helicopter cast might be a little safer to use and can be seen from Devin Olsen at tactical fly fisher.
Chapter 7. Landing a Big Fish
A bit part of landing big fish is keeping the pressure on and turning them into the area you want them to go. But also remember that many big fish will make that last big run when you ar lease expecting it so do not grab your leader or you will feel what breaking leader is all about.
Devin Olsen produced a great video on landing fish where he notes a slight angle of the rod towards you which is a game-changer on helping guide that fish in.
You may have heard of the lightsaber approach of the back and forth to tire or confuse the fish. Don’t do this.
Just stay calm, put the pressure on and turn the fish upstream and above you into a slower area where you can scoop up the fish with your net.
Chapter 8 – 12 Great Nymph Patterns
- Prince Nymph
- Hares Ear
- Pheasant tail
- zebra midge
- rainbow warrior
- guide choice hares ear
- san Juan worm
- pat’s rubber legs
- soft hackle (flymph)
Part II – Euro Nymphing
Chapter 9. What is Euro Nymphing
A good way to start the talk about what Euro Nymphing is all about is by comparing it to other forms of nymphing. Let’s take tight line nymphing and compare the two.
With Euro Nymphing you will find a more solid connection with your fly compared to typical tight line techniques.
This is because you are using a much lighter leader in comparison and a rod that is much softer than a typical nymph rod.
This light euro nymphing leader is much better for strike detection because you are connecting directly to your fly with almost zero slack. With older nymphing rigs, you would be using a heavier leader which gets caught in the current more and affects your flies sink rate.
You can also fish more water types like pools and similar water types because of this super thin leader.
Much of these tactics were developed as part of the team USA process where they are forced to fish small areas of water, with restricted gear often in areas that have been hammered by other fishermen.
You can listen to Devin Olsen who talks about the history of team USA and how euro nymphing came to be in the US.
Devin tells a story about the polish team fishing with sub-standard gear, some of it not even fly gear but that year at the competition they absolutely killed the competition. And essentially swept the games.
Like playing cards with my brother’s kids or something.
How’d they do it? Super long leaders, super-thin leaders, super light rod tips, super long rods and super heavy flies when needed..
That’s euro nymphing.
I won’t go into all of the details of what it is here but will clarify by breaking down each of the sections of the euro game.
Let’s start with one of the most important parts of the euro game – the Euro nymphing rig.
Chapter 10. Euro Nymphing Rig
The Rig might be the most important part of the entire thing so let’s start there and we will get into the rod next.
For this example, we’ll start with a thicker version of the euro nymphing rig to make it easier for a newbie just starting out. As you get better at the technique you can scale down the sizes to get smaller and smaller on your leader size.
Typical Euro Nymphing setup:
- From the Fly line, start with 10-12 feet of 15lb maxima chameleon.
- From there – Attach 3′ of green amnesia to that.
- Then attach 18-20″ of bicolor sighter (Cortland is good)
- Attach your tippet ring to this
- Attach your tippet to the tippet ring
- From the tippet ring, attach 2.5 to 3.5′ of tippet to your first fly.
- Then add another 20″ using a dropper off the hook bend and your next fly
- Boom, you are good to go. Take a look below as Devin describes it:
Take a look at modern nymphing, or check out Gilbert Rowley’s video that shows you how to set up the euro nymphing rig.
Chapter 11. Euro Nymphing Rod and Line
The key to a great euro nymphing rod is a soft tip to buffer the hard strikes. This is mainly because there’s no slack or very little slack in your rig.
Unlike, other nymphing where there may be slack, with Euro, you are direct to your fly and because of this, you will need a soft tip rod to buffer a strike and reduce the potential to break off the fish.
Also, the soft tip and longer length of a euro rod help to cast the long rigs. Given this, the 10.5′ 3 weight euro nymphing rod is the goto rod and essentially the equivalent to the 9′ 5 weight average trout rod you may have heard about. Although, I prefer a 9′ 6 weight for my general trout rod.
Also, there is a difference between the high-end euro Nymphing rods and low-end euro nymphing rods. It’s possible to lose accuracy with slow recovering less expensive euro nymphing rods. With higher quality euro rods, you can set the hook quicker due to less swing weight in these premium rods.
But there are a number of great brands doing euro now and regardless, you should be able to find a nice euro rod in your price range.
Devin has a selection of different euro rods at different price range so this should give you as start.
I also wanted to note the Pete Erickson episode who is Echo’s euro rod guru. He recommended the echo shadow x if you are interested in the Echo series rods.
Euro Nymphing Line
Again, there are a number of great lines on the market that cover the specifics of euro but to keep it simple up front Cortland makes a great line for Euro Nymphing.
There are other resources on euro nymphing lines out there so please check in with me if you have a specific company you love to see what they have for euro.
Chapter 12. Euro Nymphing Flies
Fly patterns or matching the exact hatch are usually not super critical in euro nymphing. Much more critical is your technique and how quickly you get down to the fish.
For fly patterns, an attractor style pattern typically works more often than a more imitative pattern.
So, here’s the top euro nymphs based on conversations with Devin Olson and Lance Egan in past podcasts (See below to listen to the full show).
Top 14 Euro Nymphing Flies:
- lite brite perdigon
- hares ear
- soft hackle carrot
- waltz worm
- squirmy wormy
- rubber leg stone
- Corn Fed Caddis (not a nymph but use it)
- thread frenchie
- Red Dart
- tungsten surveyor
- rainbow warrior
- iron lotus
Chapter 13 – 15 Euro Nymphing Tips
- Understand where to fish based on water temperature
- Reading Water – Look for any spot in the river that changes current or creates holding water
- Base tippet length on water depth but Fish as short as possible
- Don’t cast more than 20 to 30′ ever while nymphing
- If waiting for the feel of the fish strike, you’ve probably missed it.
- Use jig hooks so you hook the fish in the upper jaw
- Use hot spots on fly patterns and test different colors and locations throughout the season
- Cut the tag ends off of your knots close after seating them correctly
- Get rid of the welded loop and use a needle nail knot instead
- Use Fluoro-carbon for you tippet to get fly down quicker
- Practice casting in the park so you can hit a 3-4′ window
- Keep your sighter off of the water where possible
- Attractor patterns are better most of the time
- Spend extra cash to get high-quality euro nymphing hooks
- Use high-quality tungsten beads to assure fast sinking
- For each pattern, have a variety of beads sizes to increase different sinking rates
- “Thin to Win” – Keep your patterns thin
Chapter 14. Top Euro Nymphing Resources
There are some great resources that cover the Euro Game. George Daniel came out with Dynamic Nymphing which was one of the big treatments in the day. George was a guest on the podcast and covered a range of topics including euro nymphing and his background in teaching.
Modern Nymphing and Modern Nymphing Elevated are two great video resources. There is also a great euro nymphing youtube video produced by Lance and the guys.
Top Euro Nymphing Videos
Modern Nymphing – European Inspired Techniques from Capture Adventure Media on Vimeo.
Modern Nymphing Elevated – Beyond the Basics from Capture Adventure Media on Vimeo.
Euro Nymphing Class with Lance Egan
Top Euro Nymphing Podcast Episodes
Devin Olson in episode 43:
Lance Egan in Episode 108:
Pete Erickson in episode 118:
Domenick Swentoasky in episode 140:
The Cat – As noted at the start we now have a cat. I’ve always been a dog guy but our dog recently passed away. She was a great dog and will be impossible to replace.
But, weird enough, the next day a cat, same color combinations shows up on our door step. And turns out that he’s just as cool as the old dog. So, I’d say I’ve warmed to the cat.
My girls love putting on a leash and taking him for a walk. I won’t go quite there but do like is rabbit like fur and every time I pet him I can’t help but think what a nice hares ear that he could make if I was able to just snip a little bit of his soft rabbit like belly fur off.
We cover a lot in this post from the basics of nymphing to the advanced tips of euro nymphing. This article is perfect for you if you are brand new to nymphing or if you want to see some huge tips for euro nymphing.
Please leave a comment below or send a voice mail to dave here at wetflyswing.com/speak if you have any questions or want to take this further. Would love to hear how euro nymphing is going for you down the line!
Very much enjoy your podcasts. Great educational information but also entertaining. I seem to always pick up some tip I can apply to my own fishing. A big one for me is “ if I’m going to learn to swing flies, I gotta not bring my euro setup”. However hooking up with some big trout and steelhead on a euro setup is addicting, I still need to be versatile. Anyway thanks for the quality podcasts
Thanks for the feedback Joe and for your support. I hear you and have struggled with that as well.
euro for steelhead is something I may dig into a little deeper. Talk soon. dave
I just sent the link for this page to my son,
And told him that I subscribed to your podcast.
I’m 66 years old and make a living in IT…
But have NEVER subscribed to a podcast in my life.
Hell, I can find anything.
But this page is so well organized and logical,
I have to follow you.
Being a sexagenarian, I’m staring retirement right between the eyes,
And am really looking forward to doing all the things I’ve been putting off while working myself to death.
I sure do miss quality time fly fishing.
This is amazing Bob. You’ve come to the right place for sure since we have one of the largest fly fishing podcasts around. Check back anytime if you have questions. Are you interested in doing some destination travel for fishing in retirement? Thanks again!