The French are masters at catching fish when the stream seems to be void. They are great anglers and it shows with 6 World Championships to their credit. I began to dig around to really see how they fly fish and the French nymphing methods that they used to rig their leaders. Their secret is pretty hush hush, but with some prodding, I was able to get them to open up some of their secrets to me.
French Nymphing Method
French nymphing uses super long leaders that are had tied and boiled to make them very supple. Their leaders will average 12 to 20 feet long depending on the conditions.
French nymphing rods are usually 10 to 14 feet in length to make fly fishing this long of a leader a lot easier.
They fish directly up stream, pulling the flies back toward them in the water column by raising the rod tip up and moving the rod back through the drift. I know this may seem totally against all that we have ever learned, but so is the entire European method.
When using the French nymphing method, the flies are almost always small offerings like the micronyphs or smaller Czech style nymphs that are light to medium in weight. The French developed an extremely effective coiled indicator/sighter sometimes refered to as a “Curly Q”. The coiled indicator will not effect cast because you are not casting that far and the benefits of strike detection is well worth an additional effort required to cast this set-up. You cast your flies up stream and begin your downward drift. Initially the indicator is slightly stretched, but still in coils, and when the fish takes the coils elongate and then you set the hook.
The main reason this French nymphing indicator is so effective is it allows a little give when the fish takes so there is no tension or resistance felt by the fish. When fishing the Czech or Polish method, we are always tight on the line and when the fish takes, it immediately feels resistance and will usually spit the hook before we can set it. The coiled indicator/sighter allows you that extra second or two before the fish feels resistance to get a good hook set and increase your chances of landing that fish. I know it sounds crazy, but seeing is believing.