Euro Nymphing, European Nymphing, Czech, Polish, French, (insert european country here), ESN, Contact Nymphing: many names are used to describe what is becoming a very much talked about and growing segment of our sport. What is it? It much more than nymphing while wearing a matching addidas track suit and gold chain whilst blaring techno. Party ya?
While there are many subsets within the genre, it can be generally characterized by using a longer leader without a suspension device, staying in contact with your nymphs through the drift. It can be a little gray in terms of what is what, but variety is the spice of life. You don't have to limit yourself to just nymphing while fishing a european nymphing leader. You can also fish dries, dry droppers, and streamers.
Most anglers fish rods that are built specifically for this style of fishing. Long soft rods (9.5-11.5ft) in length, typically in rod weights 2-4. While you don't have to have a specific rod to try the techniques, a euro specific rod will assist you greatly. Much like fishing streamers on a soft 4wt, you can certainly do it, but a fast action 5 or 6wt will undoubtedly benefit.
If you just want to get started with the gear you already own, you can dip your feet into the water by fishing a pre-made leader or tying your own and fishing it on the set up you already own. Personally I fish a 10ft 3wt, if you end up taking the plunge, a longer, lighter rod will only assist you in your nymphing pursuits. A good place to start is the Echo Shadow II series of rods.
I like a leader with a longer butt section so your fly line won't pull the leader back and cause sag. Companies like RIO make excellent pre-made leaders. The formula I like to fish can be see down below.
The formula above is a great all-around leader to learn and and explore some other techniques. It has enough mass to fish dry flies as well as fish light streamers. The .012 off an inch sighter (colored monofilament that usually ends in a tippet ring) material will float, when greased, for some up stream style presentations of light nymphs.
The leader above and the pre made from RIO both end in a tippet ring. A tippet ring is a small ring that you can tie tippet directly to. This allows the thin tippet to slice through the water without having to sink the taper of the leader. The result is a faster sink rate of your flies.
From the tippet ring I usually cut a piece of tippet (4x-7x) to the length of the deepest part of the river. Here in the South West, thats typically 5ft. From there, coming back up the tippet (non tippet ring side) 24ish inches, cut it. Leaving a small 6 inch tag, I'll reattach the section I cut off with a triple surgeons knot.
Fishing the heavier fly on the point or end of the tippet and the lighter fly on the dropper (tag created by tying the surgeons knot) has proven to be my preferred method. There is no right or wrong way to rig or fish; have fun! Fishing the heavier fly on the dropper will fish both flies closer together in the water column.
You don't need specific flies to get out there and start having fun. The nymphs you already have in your box will suit your needs. With that being said, I personally prefer jig style flies. They seem to hang up less. Flies tied with tungsten are heavier and allow more weight in smaller offerings. While more expensive, I believe it makes a big difference. Understanding your rig (leader +flies) and why it works for you will help maximize your success.
Without getting too crazy here let's paint with a broad brush and focus on fishing perpendicular to a run. Its best to remove the word 'cast' from your lexicon and replace it with lob. Because there is no mass (fly line) to turn over your flies you need to rely on the weight of the flies to load the rod. It will take some getting used to but once you get it you'll find you can put the flies where you want to. Try to get your flies to land in-line with each other so both drift in the same lane. Fishing near to far, shallow to deep, is an effective way to cover a piece of water. Keeping the sighter (bright colored mono that usually ends in a tippet ring) off the water, begin to lead the flies through the drift. I find that if I fish larger flies and keep my rod tip and sighter vertical I feel most takes. If I lead the sighter and fish lighter flies I tend to see most of my takes. Play around with the system and find out what works best for you. Remember, fishing is supposed to be fun! Don't forget that.
Multiple books and films have been written and produced about the above topics. I hope this general outline will provide some clarity in future angling pursuits.