French and European Nymphing “Making the Switch?”

Brown trout caught while using French Nymphing techniqueWhat about you?  Ever think you might like to try French or European Nymphing fly fishing techniques on your home waters someday?  What do you think brought so many other fishermen to decide to do this?  Some reasons for going that route are extensive and variable.  But a couple of driving factors are they have seen or heard that it’s effective and excels at catching plenty of trout.   Many people contemplate it, but quickly get discouraged and do not  actually even get started.  Others don’t take the time to learn enough of what is involved to even know how to get started.

Have you considered it?  Do you still have questions about whether to test French and European Nymphing fly fishing techniques on your home waters or not?  To help you put things in focus, think about these three points in favor:

  • First,  Casting and Control.  These fly fishing techniques allow you to effectively cast and fish a team of flies much farther from you and fish them with far more control than more traditional nymphing methods.  In traditional nymphing methods the casting is more of an upstream lob or roll cast with heavy weighted flies likely causing a sore arm at the end of the day. Not with the Euro methods, they cast more like a dry fly.  Executing a cast consists of picking your team of nymphs off the water and false casting them back parallel with the river avoiding snags and overhanging limbs such a you would with a dry fly, then catapulting them forward and away from you to the target.  Once the cast is made, immediately the slack is picked up off the water with a few short hand retrievals and the rod is lifted and tilted downstream exposing the coiled or straight sighter (a.k.a indicator) from the water  in a manner that leads the flies through a stretch of water, yet allows them to drift slowly along the bottom.  This is where the good stuff happens!  When the flies have drifted to you, start your false cast and slingshot them forward again into place to repeat the process.  With very little time spent casting and false casting you can really cover some ground with French and European Nymphing techniques.
French Nymphing Coiled Sighter or Indicator

JW’s Own French Nymphing Indicator

  • Second Indicators and Depth Change.  These methods replace the cumbersome bobber style indicator with a much lighter “Coiled” or “Straight” sighter or indicator made of Hi-Vis monofilament (making it stick out like a sore thumb) incorporated with loop to loop knots into the leader.  This allows for great visibility, quick setup and tear down, and a very accurate indicator that flat out doesn’t miss much that goes on underneath the water, working like a spring it opens and closes detecting the slightest changes on bottom by quivering open and shut.  When a fish hits… the indicator is straightened completely in an abrupt manner!  Lots of versatility is gained here without having to physically adjust and manipulate football or other style indicators on your leader.  Nothing stinks more than changing your whole rig around to fish different depths of water,  up down with the indicator, adding more weight, “oops, I just cast my indicator off my line!!”   Ouch, we have all been there!  European styles of nymphing stand out in this department,  wasting very little time and allowing the angler to fish varying depths of water more effectively by simply lowering the indicator closer or actually in the water.    I will admit, as with all fishing methods, these techniques will not always be the answer.  Dry flies certainly have their place in any fly angler’s arsenal.  However, fishing moving water and current seams is where these tactics will truly shine. They will allow any fly angler to quickly and efficiently try a vast range of flies with the time he would normally spend rigging and adjusting with other nymphing methods.


  • ThirdThe weight is incorporated in the flies, so no more fumbling around putting and removing splitshot and moving it up and down the leader to get a good presentation of the fishing flies.. This means that The fly angler does all the weighting of the flies at home, in the fly tying vise by incorporating a bead or tungsten bead at the head of the fly or for lighter or dropper flies by making 8 to 10 wraps of lead or lead substitute wire around the shank of the hook or even both the bead and the lead substitute wire(which I prefer) before you finish the fly.  This eliminates a great deal of  fidgeting with weights on the stream, making fly changes quicker and less cumbersome. Then by choosing the appropriately weighted flies you  adjust the weight of your rig fine tuning the way it drifts along the bottom of the stream until it bumps along and doesn’t hang up.  With a little experience this becomes second nature just by looking at the flow of the river.

Brown trout landed on fishing fliesHere are some good solid reasons on the plus side.  And now I hope you will agree that they make the case of at least considering further experimentation with French or European nymphing techniques on your home waters.  All right, I am well aware there may be some sceptics who frame the old  “It’s just another fishing fad.” or, “It’s just what’s hot on the market right now”.    Good points, and most certainly valid to some degree with all the new rods and gear out there aimed at this niche.  However I have experienced first hand that it can certainly be economical, and exciting, while surprising results can be achieved with very little cost and effort.   With a little bit of patience, practice, and a few basic knots under your belt such as an overhand loop, bloodknot, and clinch knot, it is certainly possible to start catching fish with these leaner, stealthier, and certainly more interactive styles of nymphing  on your very first outing.  The best way to incorporate these techniques is to bring two rods, one set up to fish Dry Flies and when the bugs are not hatching or the fish aren’t biting pull out the Nymphing rod and sharpen your skills with these techniques, you may be pleasantly surprised as well as rewarded.

Perhaps now you will consider the benefits to you, and learn how to effectively incorporate French or European nymphing techniques where you live!  Stay tuned for the segment on leader construction, to get all you converts started!!


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