5.5 Tips for Nymphing in European
.5) The Rod
(Echo Shadow X in action on the Rio Grande, 2018 National Fly Fishing Champion Norman Maktima)
While you can throw weighed streamers with a 4wt, it probably isn't the best tool for the job. You certainly can euro nymph with the rods already in your quiver, and you definitely should if you're thinking about testing the waters before you dive in. Just like making the jump from your first "do it all " rod to a proper meat chucking streamer stick, you'll be equally pleased with owning a rod designed with tightline nymphing techniques in mind. Echo makes it easy with the Shadow family of rods. Between the Echo Shadow II and Shadow X you'll be sure to find something to fit your needs. When considering a new euro stick, think about the size of the water and fish you will encounter on a regular basis. A 10ft 3wt is the 9ft 5wt of euro nymphing. If you find yourself fishing heavy flies for bigger fish in heavier current, you may want to to opt for a 4wt, a 2wt if the opposite is true. The advantages of a euro specific rod are length and tippet protection, allowing the angler to fish further and thinner diameter tippet. Opinions in fly fishing are like..... you know the saying, find what speaks to you.
1) Understanding weight via bead size.
For consistency in the weight of your flies, it is best to familiarize yourself with the sizes of the tungsten beads you are using. Having an idea of how much weight (or what bead sizes to use) will help you dial in your drifts. Brass breads are fine, but tungsten is twice as heavy, allowing more weight in smaller offerings. Thinking about your rig in terms of the size of beads you’re running compared to the size of fly will help you stay consistent.
Once you start to connect water type with bead size, you’ll be know what to use to dial in that perfect drift.
Below are the common slotted tungsten bead sizes and their weight in grains:
2.4MM 1.1gr 2.8MM 3.2gr 3.3mm 4.5gr 3.8mm 7gr
Most of the time here in New Mexico I like to run 5x fluorocarbon tippet, although 6x makes it onto my set up a good chunk of the time. I prefer fluorocarbon to monofilament because it sinks, is more abrasion resistant, and doesn't stretch.While often not the first thing to come to mind, the thinner the tippet the faster your flies will cut through the water and vice versa. This is especially true when fishing smaller flies with less weight (i.e 2.mm tungsten beads). This becomes more important in stronger and more complex currents. Even the change from 4x to 5x or 5x to 6x will get your nymphs through the water column without bumping up weight. This becomes key when fishing highly pressured water. Thinner tippet will give your bugs a more natural drift through the column. Find where you're comfortable, 5x and 6x may sound intimidating, but today's euro specific rods will protect light tippet. Or just run 4x. Live your life.
3) Fly placement.
(You can see this masterpiece in person at the MoMA in New York)
Should you put your heavier fly the dropper or on the point. What about two flies of the same size? Typically flies of the same weight will hit the same band of the water column, as will a heavier fly on your dropper. Think of it this way, heavy fly on point, more vertical presentation of the flies, heavy fly on the dropper more horizontal presentation.Before rigging up, consider time of year, average water depth, and how you want your flies to present. During the warmer months, I like to try and cover two bands of the column (middle lower or upper/middle). I typically like to run my heavier fly on point unless I’m fishing really shallow water, floating my sighter or dredging deep lies in the winter time.
4) Length of tippet from tippet ring to dropper tag knot
(water depth and type has a big impact on tippet length and fly weight)
How much tippet should I run off my tippet ring? There is much discussion about this, and it varies from situation to situation.The shorter the amount of tippet you run from your ring to your flies, the better control over the drift you will have. What has worked for me is running depth or slightly shorter than depth to my heavier fly. I fish my files anywhere from 20” to 30” inches apart depending on water depth and how I want them to present.
5) Alternative Rigs
(Using dry dropper rigs on a euro leader proved effective in targeting this slow pool. Pictured is aspiring soundcloud rapper Finn M)
Sometimes an up and across or upstream euro nymphing approach may not be the best route. Wind will especially become a hindrance when fishing up and across. During these situations I will fish dry/dropper on my euro nymphing leader or run a steamer. In a case where I run into a pod of risers, I will replace my nymph rig with a light dry dropper setup. A perfect example of this was the other day when I was guiding locally on the Rio Grande outside of Taos, New Mexico. After a successful day targeting deep runs and pools with heavy nymphs, we bumped a pod of risers before our hike out of the gorge. We were able to hook fish on both the dry fly and the lightly weighted midge fished inches under the surface. Be flexible and seize the opportunity when the fish corporate.
Remember to have fun and try to match your rig to the water and not your water to the rig. While these tips might not help “boost your instagram feed to the max”, I hope they will help you make a little more sense of “nymphing”, as they say in Europe.