Spanish Nymphing vs US Nymphing Styles

Since the 1980’s nymph fishing in Europe has evolved into a number of highly specialized methods that are quite different from techniques favored in the US. These new methods have become very popular with many of the best stream fishermen in the world largely due to International competition. Spanish Nymphing is a technique that all members of Fly Fishing Team USA use extensively. It is a sure effective method when fishing the slower runs or the bottom section of a riffle.

This technique was discovered by Team USA prior to the 2002 World Fly Fishing Championship in Spain. The trout fishing in the Pyrenees takes place on pristine mountain streams, and the Fario Brown trout which is a native, wild fish that has been targeted for hundreds of years. They average somewhere between 6 to 10 inches, and are without a doubt the most elusive, sly, and darn near impossible fish to go after.

The main differences between Spanish Nymphing and the Eastern European styles lie in the overall length of the leader and the distance from angler to trout during the presentation. Spanish Nymphing is a “far more visual technique compared to the feel you get with polish nymphing or Czech nymphing methods.”

Rod Selection – Spanish Nymphing

Rods are typically 10 to 12-feet in length with a medium or slow action. In this game lighter is better so these rods are designed for 3 to 5-weight lines. A Sage Z-Axis 10’ 4 weight or a Winston WT 10′ 4 weight are the perfect rods for this situation.

Leader Selection – Spanish Nymphing

Leaders range from 15 to 30 feet. The 30’ leader is one the extreme side, but has its purpose in certain situations. The leaders themselves are extremely light. The traditional technique calls for a 8 to 12 foot section of 1X to 3X tippet material nail knotted to the fly line followed by a 1 to 2 foot section of 6 to 8lb Hi-Vis indicator material. Next the leader is built down with 3 to 8 foot section of 4X then you will add your droppers with either 5X, 6X or 7X. Use blood knots or triple surgeon knots leaving tag ends of about four inches to tie on dropper nymphs. Like Polish or Czech leaders, the Spanish system is set up to use two or three flies. Longer leaders simply use longer sections of the initial tippet material. To make it simple, buy a 12-foot 3X tapered and attach the sections described above to bring it out to 15 to 18-feet. This setup will work well, but eventually you will want to construct your own leaders by hand.

Strike Indicators – Spanish Nymphing

Strike indicators may be incorporated into the leader section by tying in a 2-foot section of bright colored monofilament (like Hi-Vis gold Stren). Ideally this indicator should be 1 to 2-feet above the surface of the water or looking at it from the opposite direction the line below the indicator should be 2-feet longer than the depth of the run being fished.

Fly Selection & Presentation

The proper selection of flies is essential to casting and presentation. The weight of the anchor or point fly (last fly on the leader) is critical. Your objective is to have this fly bouncing along the bottom so that it does not hang up. Proper weight is far more important than the pattern or the size. Tungsten bead heads are preferred. The middle fly (assuming a three fly rig) and the top fly should move through the water column in a near vertical manner. Choice is dependent on the prevalent insect life in a given river. This method works better if you just use two flies and run the super heavy one on the point. A Vladi Polish Woven Nymph is a great choice for the point fly with a lighter fly up in the water column

Following an upstream cast (lob may be a better description because if you try to backcast this you will be in trouble) you retrieve all the excess leader and fly line as you lift the rod. This can be accomplished by stripping in line and using a hand-twist retrieve (figure 8) to stay in constant contact with your team of flies. In general, your line and leader will be 20 feet from your rod tip. The indicator segment will be just above or at the water line. WATCH THE COLORED MONOFILAMENT for any changes in direction, movement, or pauses, and respond with a quick but gentle strike. It’s important to understand that Spanish Nymphing is different than the tight line approach that many of us are familiar with where we are slightly leading the flies as opposed to letting them simply bounce along the bottom at their own pace.

When you have made your cast and the flies are drifting downstream, you will see a reverse “C” in the line/leader. You can also lead the flies in situations where you may potentially hang up or need to move them out of a back eddy. Just keep the rod moving downstream a little quicker than the fly line/leader.

Right after you cast, you will start with the rod tip at about a 45 degree angle to the water surface and gently raise the rod as the flies drift downstream, taking in any excess line by stripping in or with a hand retrieve so you keep the indicator section right above the surface of the water. When the flies are directly in front of you, your rod tip should be at its maximum height. As the flies reach the end of the drift, slowly lower the rod tip and transition into a subtle swing. Let the flies dangle in the current for 10 or 15 seconds and give a little hand retrieve or short little strips before repeating the sequence.

There are a few things you can do to make the process easier.

  • Initially try to keep your leaders short – 12 feet will be a lot easier to control
  • Pay close attention to the anchor fly weight. If it hangs on the bottom every time, it’s too heavy
  • Pick out something drifting on the surface like bubbles and keep the rod tip moving at the same or a slightly faster speed.
  • You can gain distance by shooting the line upstream – 40-feet is probably the maximum distance for this technique.
  • Keep as much line as you can off the water (you want the indicator section right at the water’s surface)
    Stay low in the river and approach slowly.

Because it was initially developed for competition angling, Spanish nymphing in its true form is multifaceted, technical, and requires considerable practice. It’s worth the effort and will significantly improve your catch rate on difficult and heavily fished waters. There are no hard and fast rules to this, so make adjustment to the technique to work for you and the type of water you fish.

How to Construct a Spanish Nymphing Leader