What Makes European Nymphing so Effective ?


The main difference between European Nymphing and traditional setups are simple. There are small changes that make the system more efficient in getting the flies in the right zone quicker. With European Nymphing, there is no indicator (suspension device) that floats on the surface. Your indicator  is incorporated into the leader itself (sighter).  This serves two purposes. First it provides a visual clue by deviating or pausing during the drift. Secondly this in-line system will tell you what the flies are doing below the surface since the indicator/sighter will always point to where the flies are.  For example, you make a cast and hit a faster current that is sweeping away from your position in the stream, the indicator/sighter will point at the opposite bank and the flies will sweep high in the water column instead of sinking.

The next added benefit to fishing the Euro methods is you no longer have to fuss and fight with adding or removing weight (split/tungsten putty) to the leader.  You simply use a lighter or heavier fly with changing water conditions. Ideally you will carry the same patterns in several different weights by varying the bead size or adding a small amount of lead wire just behind the bead.  To make identifying simple, you can color code the head of the flies with different thread color in the beginning but eventually, you will be able to look at the bead size or feel the weight difference in your hand.

From an equipment standpoint, you will need to consider a longer fly rod, a fly line designed for Euro Nymphing, specialized leaders and flies.

Major Benefits of a Longer Fly Rod:

One of the most important tools you can have is a Euro Specific rod. It is hard to commit those hard earned dollars to such a specific nymphing method but you will soon realize it was worth every penny. There are several options from Sage, Redington, Cortland and Syndicate that will fit your price point.

  • Increased sensitivity/strike detection from super supple tips that fish under load (slightly bent) as well as light tippet protection which sinks way faster than larger diameter tippet.
  • Ability to cover more water with added reach of 10′ or longer rods and adjust your drift depth by raising or lowering instead of changing weight or moving indicator
  • Improved fish fighting ability and better angles when landing fish (better leverage and angle)

Euro Specific Fly Line:

The next and most overlooked piece of equipment is the fly line itself.  Your standard weight forward fly line works well for propelling your traditional nymph rig out into the river but then begins to cause issues during the drift.  Because Euro leaders are longer, very little fly line is out of the rod tip and fishing with the rod tip elevated, this traditional type of line wants to slide back toward the fly reel introducing slack into the system.  The solution to this in the beginning was spooling the reel with monofilament or fluorocarbon line which was light enough to maintain tension in the system to better transmit strikes.  The one issue with this setup was the line would twist over time from casting and wrap around the tip of the rod which created a multitude of issues including breaking the rod tip when setting the hook.  The solution to this was a 4 month collaboration between RIO and Steve Parrott creating the RIO Euro Nymphing Fly Line which is a modified double taper line that is 80′ long with the tip section measuring .023″ and the middle of the line .025″.  As you can see, there is not a ton of taper to the fly line over 40′ which makes the fly line act like an extension of the leader.  Casting this thin diameter line is not as hard as you may think because the weight of the flies will pull the leader/fly line through the guides with ease and there is very little slack in the line/leader system which will drastically increase sensitivity.

Most people get these basics above with the heavier flies and longer rods but really do not understand the actual concept of fishing these methods.  Most think you cast the heavily weighted flies upstream and then drag them back down stream at the speed of the current.  While this may work occasionally, it is the most common misconception about these techniques.  With some instruction or practice, most anglers will have that moment of awakening where they see the surface currents (foam, bubbles or debris) racing by while the sighter is slowly moving downstream.

What is this?  Hydrodynamics!

What is hydrodynamics you may ask?  Hydrodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with the motion of fluids and the forces acting on solid bodies immersed in fluids and in motion relative to them.  Whoa!!!!!  Too much technical information for fly fishing you might say but it is actually a very simple concept.  In the image below, you can see that the water in the middle of the river channel is a pretty straight flow with the fastest being at the surface and the slowest at the bottom of the river or stream. Why is this?  Simple, the uneven bottom of the river causes the water to deviate around rocks, depressions and other structures which provides cover and food delivery for fish in the heaviest of flows.  This is where the thin diameter tippet section of Euro leader slices through the faster flows and allows the flies to tumble in the slower bottom section without drag unlike a traditional tapered leader that is larger in diameter and gets caught up in the faster currents at the surface requiring you to mend.


Here you can see a cross-section diagram of a traditional vs Euro leader and how the hydrodynamics of the stream affect them. This is the real key to why Euro Nymphing is so successful!!!

Traditional Nymphing Setup

     Euro Nymphing Setup

There are those that think Euro Nymphing is snagging fish and not really fly fishing. That is simply not true. It is one of the purest forms to effectively deliver flies where the fish are residing in the river.  In fact Euro Nymphing is the method used in national fly fishing competitions. The bottom line is having fun on the river and this style of fishing is very interactive as you are not only feeling the takes through the rod but are able to control exactly what the flies are doing throughout the drift which will only make you a better angler as you will have a better understanding of the interaction of your flies in the current.

Give it a shot and decide for yourself!!