Decoding Which European Nymphing Method to Fish

With the increasing popularity of European Nymphing Methods here in the United States, it can be somewhat confusing when trying to figure out which method to use here or there. We will try to simplify the process for you so you can dial in each of the 4 main European Nymphing Methods for all types of water you may encounter.

Czech Nymphing Method

The Czech Nymphing Method is becoming the common terminology here in the US when anglers think about these specific methods. Developed by the Polish in the early 80’s and refined by the Czech anglers in the late 80’s, this method is truly effective in the faster riffles and freestone streams we have here in the US.

This method is perfect for spring run-off, fast runs and riffles on Freestone streams as well as pocket water where you need to get the flies down fast! You will be amazed with a properly weighted system how many fish you can catch right under your rod tip in that fast water. It is effective in waters depths ranging from 18” up to 6’. When you get deeper than 6’, you are at a point where you need to lengthen the leader and begin loosing contact with the flies which will not allow you to detect takes or strikes effectively. Generally though, if the water is 6’ deep it is probably not moving that fast and is better suited for a more stealthier long line method like the Spanish, which we will cover shortly.

Below are some points to help determine if the Czech Method is right for the water you are fishing: 

  • Fast moving water that is not too deep
  • Pocket water where you need to get the flies down fast
  • Water that is broken or riffled that will allow you to fish right under the rod tip without spooking fish
  • This method works great in water depths ranging from 18” up to 6’
  • You are typically using heavily weighted flies and level tippet for the leader to aid in sinking.

Polish Nymphing Method

The Polish Nymphing Method was the original method developed by the Polish in the early 80’s that they used to win the regional competition between the teams from East Germany and the Czech Republic. It is fished the same way as the Czech Method but the rigging and indicator placement are slightly different.

Instead of a level piece of tippet attached to an indicator/sighter at the fly line, the Polish used a piece of butt section material in the 1X tippet size that was 20 to 24” long. Attached to this was a single tone or two tone monofilament indicator/sighter to aid in strike detection. From the sighter, they attached a piece of 3X tippet material long enough to make the transition into the final desired tippet size.

The other main difference is that the dropper tag is constructed from a piece of tippet material (same diameter as the desired leader size) and then attached to the main leader between two blood knots which allows it to spin around the leader freely as well as slide up and down between the two knots. The Czech method uses the parent line (line coming down from the indicator) as the tag and then we add a second piece of tippet material to the parent with a double surgeons knot or Orvis tippet knot.

The typical Polish leader will be as long as the rod you are fishing but actual fishing depths will be decreased as the indicator /sighter is 20 to 24” down in the leader, not right at the fly line.

Below are some points to help determine if the Polish Method is right for the water you are fishing:

  • Fast moving water that is not too deep
  • Pocket water where you need to get the flies down fast
  • Water that is broken or riffled that will allow you to fish right under the rod tip without spooking fish
  • This method works great in water depths ranging from 18” up to 4’
  • You are typically using heavily weighted flies with the modified tapered leader that will get to the bottom quickly
  • I like this method when fishing smaller streams and creeks because I feel that I can control the depth I am fishing a little better with the indicator/sighter placement down in the leader

French Nymphing Method

The French are 6 time World Champions for a reason, because they are innovative and can just flat out fish. The French are masters at the long leader technique where they capitalize on the opportunistic feeding tendencies of trout and grayling.

They will nymph using the traditional rigs but they typically like to use a long tapered butt section attached to a “coiled” type indicator that will detect the most subtle takes and allow the angler an extra second or two to react and set the hook.

Below the coil, they will run level tippet in either 5, 6, 7 or 8X depending on the conditions for the day. This section is usually 2 to 2 ½ times the depth of the water they are fishing and can be easily adjusted by changing the length.

Another main difference in the French Nymphing Method is the use of “Micro Nymphs” or smaller flies that are tied to imitate mayflies and other aquatic organisms. They typically range from a size 12 down to a size 20. They can have a tungsten bead on the head or just a weighted underbody. The real key is how these Micro Nymphs are fished.

With the long leaders that are sometime up to 24’, they cast the flies directly upstream or slightly off center, no more that 15 degrees and are not allowed to sink to the bottom. They will then physically pull the flies back downstream through the water column in effect, swimming them through the water. 9 times out of 10, the fish will take the flies as they are dropping and if not, they will turn and eat the flies once they start moving downstream.

What makes this method so effective is the fact that the fish never see the angler because he or she is always downstream and I have not seen too many feeding fish facing downstream. Another benefit is the smaller fly offering that enters the water with little or no disturbance at all, which really helps on super spooky fish.

The type of water where this method works best are shallow runs lacking riffles or surface disturbance. You can position yourself below the fish and cast 3 to 4 feet above them allowing you to start the drift virtually undetected. Small streams with shallow pockets tucked beside faster runs are also ideal for this method. You can lob the flies over the faster water and fish the slack or calm water without risk of spooking fish.

Below are some points to help determine if the French Method is right for the water you are fishing:

  • Slow moving, shallow water with feeding fish
  • Water that you cannot access from the traditional angles without spooking fish (fishing at a 45 degree angler upstream)
  • Soft, shallow pockets next to faster moving water that you do not want to wade out to and risk spooking fish
  • Water below those faster runs that tails out into a slick
  • This method works great in water depths ranging from 10” up to 36”
  • Flies are typically a smaller offering like “Micro Nymphs” that will land softer on the water and not spook fish.
  • Tippet sizes are often in the 6X to 8X range for stealth and the “coiled” indicator/sighter will help to reduce break-offs in the smaller tippet sizes.

Spanish Nymphing Method

The Spanish Nymphing Method was developed by the Spanish anglers fishing to Fario Brown trout in the mountainous regions of Spain that would spook when you closed the car door. They did not stand a chance at catching a fish unless they were 20 to 30 feet away from the run they wanted to fish.

The cure for this was a really long leader so they could keep their distance and still present the flies to fish in all types of water. In the faster runs and riffles, they would use a heavier fly offering to get the bugs down and when they were faced with a shallow, smoother run they would just drop the fly size to reduce the amount of disturbance when the flies hit the water.

The real pain of this method is casting a leader that is 25 to 30 feet long. It sounds like a challenge and it is, but with practice it can become a real asset in your fishing arsenal when the going gets tough.

The hardest part of this method is detecting a strike. You have to pay close attention to the mono indicator/sighter that you are hovering right at the waters surface for the slightest pause or change of direction. You then have to make a pretty exaggerated hook set due to the length of the leader and the amount of slack in the system.

This method is great for super spooky fish as we have mentioned but also works great when the water is running high or for a section of water that you cannot get to on the other side of the river. With the longer leaders, you can stand on one side and fish the other with relative ease.

Below are some points to help determine if the Spanish Method is right for the water you are fishing:

  • The fish are so spooky that they run when you close the car door!
  • Water that you cannot access due to depth or location in the river whether it is fast, riffled water or smoother tail outs that are just too deep to wade out into.
  • Heavily pressured water where the fish know you when they see you. They may stay in the run but damned if they will eat.
  • Deeper water below those faster runs that tails out into a slick and is just too deep for the Czech or Polish Methods
  • This method works great in water depths ranging from 2’ up to 8’
  • For faster water, you will use the same flies as the Czech or Polish and for the slower or shallow runs, you will have to adjust to the smaller offerings like Micro Nymphs
  • Tippet sizes can vary from 4 to 5X in the faster water to 6 or 7X in the slower, shallower water.

Decoding the water and determining the proper European Nymphing methods to fish will add yet another trick to your fish catching arsenal. The key is to play around with each method in different types of water in your local and see which works the best for you. I will usually have at least two if not three rods rigged on any given river so I can best fish the water that is presented to me.

Most anglers will not have 3 or 4 11’ rods to rig so do not be afraid to cut off that Czech rig and fish the French set-up when the conditions change. I would bet that your catch rate goes out the roof!!!