Monday, December 9, 2013

Euro Nymphing 101: Part 2


            For this post I’ll take you through one way to rig a Euro nymph leader and some basic concepts of how to use it.

            To begin, below is a slide of a typical Euro leader. The flies are usually tungsten beaded nymphs with weight and size adjusted for depth or imitation. However you can clip off the top nymph for a single fly rig or tie a dry on the tag for a dry dropper rig. The sighter is a section of bright colored monofilament that allows visual signaling of takes instead of a typical strike indicator. Common materials are Stren Hi vis, Amnesia, or sighter specific colored mono from Cortland and Umpqua.


            Euro nymphing can be done upstream or across the river and in most water types. Slow flats or pools are often fished better by other techniques however.

            When fishing upstream, cast above your intended holding lie far enough to allow nymphs to sink to the depth of the fish. The sighter can either be greased and floated or held off the water to drift through small pockets. Allow the rig to drift with the speed of the current where your flies are. This is often slower than the speed of the current at the surface so water current will likely move faster than your sighter. Stop your rod high to avoid large amounts of leader on the water, which causes drag. Slack should be picked up either through stripping line or  raising the rod. You should catch a fish or tick bottom every few casts unless a hatch has fish suspended in the column necessitating a mid column presentation. I pick up the cast when the leader nears a vertical angle under the rod tip if I haven’t had a sighter take prior to this point in the drift. I usually fish upstream wherever I feel I will spook fish if I approach them from across current. This often coincides with skinny pockets or riffles but can also be smoother water in pools or flats. Any hesitation or jump in the sighter signals a take or your flies ticking bottom and a direct hook set should be quickly applied. You will find you need less distance and effort on your hook sets than you would indicator nymphing because there is very little slack in the system and a small movement of the rod will put you in touch with the fish.

            When fishing across the stream, again cast above your intended target with a high stop of the rod. Raise the rod vertically until the leader approaches a near vertical angle below the rod tip. If you stopped high enough (shoulder height or above) than you may not need to raise the rod any further at the beginning of the drift. Begin moving the rod downstream at the speed of the current the flies are in. Again, this speed will often be slower than the surface current. If you move your rod faster than the current the leader will take on a horizontal angle. A horizontal leader signals you are leading your flies faster than the current and inducing downstream drag. This occasionally can be useful to hold your flies off the bottom in a shallow piece of the drift or to induce a take from fish that don’t take a dead drift for some reason. A near vertical dead drift angle is usually my first choice however. At the end of the drift, if you are in a run or pool that provides a long enough drift, allow the flies to swing and this can induce a take, especially during hatch times. Takes are again indicated by any slight hesitation, jump, or even angle change in the sighter and they are usually much easier for novice anglers to spot when fishing across current than when Euro nymphing upstream. If you set the hook and no fish appears, make your hook set into a backcast and make your forward cast in a slightly elliptical movement coming over the top of your backcast. This will swing your flies over your rod tip on the forward stroke, which avoids a collision with your rod.

            Whether casting upstream or across, you must wait until you feel the nymphs tighten in a quick but subtle“hit” behind you before coming forward. It takes more time than when casting fly line because line speed is slower. Most anglers, even experienced ones, struggle with this and I have talked to many veterans of our sport who have given up on Euro nymphing because they can’t get the hang of the casting the rig. Most casting issues can be avoided by shortening and quickening the casting strokes, stopping the rod high on both strokes, and waiting to feel nymphs turn over behind you. If you struggle with waiting in the back, watch your flies fully turn over and drop on the forward cast. Keep track of this time mentally. If you have a backcast with the same energy and shape as the forward cast, it will require the same mentally tracked time to turn over in back.

            Adjusting for depth with a Euro rig is summarized in the slide below. When indicator nymphing split shot are added or removed and the indicator’s position on the leader is changed to adjust for depth. When Euro nymphing, depth adjustments are made by changing flies, leader length, leader angle and elevation, and managing leader angle of entry through your casting stroke. This might sound complicated but but is actually much easier and more versatile than indicator rig adjustments. The simple array of options to adjust for depth make it possible to fish depths from inches to many feet with little to no manual change to the leader.


For some quick video examples of Euro nymphing click here or here.  However, don't pattern your casting after these anglers. Both stop their rod too low on the forward stroke and the first angler has far too long and exaggerated a stroke for such short casts.

In the next post (part 3) I'll outline why I think Euro nymphing is much more effective in most water types than the slack line indicator/suspension rigs so prevalent in American fly fishing at present.


  1. Just found the blog and am new to comp/Euro techniques. Learned a lot after being a controller at the 2011 US Nationals in North Carolina and finally decided to jump in and start learning these techniques. Any further info/tips/resources would be appreciated.
    Jed Green

  2. Thanks Jed. I'll do my best to keep adding useful content. For Euro techniques, George Daniel's book Dynamic Nymphing still represents the best source for help. If don't have it, check it out. If you do, read it again with a fine tooth comb. Happy fishing!

  3. I went through a stage where I only fished Fips Mouche rules as I thought about giving some contests out. I still try to euro nymph whenever possible but I like to keep 3 flies in a row tied to the bend of hook.
    Great post by the way!

  4. Devin:
    Thank you for an awesome and informative post. Quick question regarding the leader rig: What strength/weight would you recommend for the sighter material following the 15 lb. Maxima? I was looking at the 2x (10.7 lb.) Umpqua bi-color indicator tippet but see that it is also offered in lighter weights. What would you recommend, or is their another option available that you like better? Second, I have been eyeing the Sage ESN 10ft. 3wt. rod. Do you have a recommendation for a fly line (including weight) that matches up well with this rod? Thank you in advance, Brent.