Nymph fishing like a European
Recently, I attended a presentation hosted by the Tahoe Truckee Flyfishers on the Truckee River. Andy Burk of the Reno Fly Shop, a world renown fly fisherman, tier and author of numerous articles in fly fishing publications, did a presentation on Czech nymphing. He was assisted by two great anglers from their Truckee store, Truckee River Outfitters’ Dan LeConte and Josh Biggelson.
There have been numerous articles about world fly fishing competitions, an ongoing team event in which the United States has participated. Each year the United States gets whipped by the Europeans.
This happens for a number of reasons. First, the Europeans are really big on tournament fishing. It is a way of life in their countries. As a result, they are more used to the format than the Americans who have no such competitions in this country.
Second, the rules, such as no use of split shot and no indicators, limit the anglers to fly selection that must also provide the weight. American anglers are not used to this process. European anglers fish flies on very heavy hooks in “teams” or a “gang” of three.
In these world competitions, the Czech and Polish anglers have dominated. The reason for their success is the technique they employ that has come to be called Czech Nymphing.
So, what is the basis of its success?
First, the angler fishes very close. He or she will probably only have about three feet of fly line out of the tip. It is basically just like the normal short line nymphing employed on the Truckee River in that respect.
The biggest single difference is that you are using three flies that are heavily weighted. By heavily weighted, I mean very heavy. For example, the heaviest flies could employ the use of three tungsten beads and a wrapping of lead or non-toxic wire.
The heaviest fly is generally in the middle of the team of flies. What struck me was that some of the colors of the nymphs were really wild. Orange and pinks seem to leap out at me when I was taking a look at Burk’s fly box. For some reason these colors really work. That’s certainly not to say the more exact imitations of caddisflies and mayflies are not needed. By using three different flies, you give the fish quite a few options.
The size of the flies were pretty large, overall, and did not seem to put the fish off, according to Burk. Because no weight other than the flies are used, the flies must be heavy to get the flies down to the bottom where the fish are typically eating nymphs. The larger flies tend to add more weight.
Leaders are typically made of straight tippet material. Flourocarbon line is generally employed because it tends to sink faster. In most cases on the Truckee an angler can use a section of 4x tippet. The leader is generally just short of nine feet, the length of the typical rod used on the Truckee.
The flies are positioned 20 inches apart, with the heaviest fly typically in the middle position. The flies are tied on using droppers off the main line. These are usually accomplished by joining two sections of material with a double surgeon’s or blood knot and leaving a tag hanging off. The most exact fly imitation is usually on the point or at the end of the team of three.
The cast is nothing more than a lob of the weighted flies upstream. The flies are then allowed to follow the current downstream. The angler actually leads the team of three flies through likely looking holding water.
A fly line with a fluorescent tip (a strike indicator made out of a piece of fluorescent Dacron, or even Amnesia line, in front of the leader if you do not have a fly line with a colored tip) really helps in detecting a strike as the fly is drifting. But, typically, this technique allows the angler to actually feel the take. This is what makes it so effective and why the Czechs are seemingly such great nymph fishermen. An angler also spends more time actually fishing, since his flies stay in the water longer.
There is a downside to fishing this technique. First, you will lose a lot of flies, so be prepared to either tie a lot yourself, or buy them at your favorite store. Second, you will be tying lots of knots as you change flies and adjust your leader material.
You cannot argue with the success of this system. During the short presentation, both Dan and Josh landed several fish in a heavily fished section of the Truckee River.
Learn more about this technique and get out and give it a try.
Should you have any questions, be sure to stop by the Truckee River Outfitters store at 10200 Donner Pass Road in downtown Truckee. The staff there can help you get started.
There is also a wealth of information out there on the Internet about Czech nymphing. Quite of bit of it is not in English, but there are a few good ones from the United Kingdom.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.
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