March 27, 2013
Don't Pigeonhole the Nymph Game
Euro nymphing. Czech nymphing. High-sticking. Tight-line nymphing. We're fly fishers, and as our boxes of flies can attest, we love to attach names and labels to everything.
A recent product evolution in fly fishing has been the creation of highly specialized trout rods—rods for streamer fishing, rods for dry-fly fishing, and even highly specialized rods for specific disciplines inside the realm of nymphing. Most of these rods are inspired by or even in some cases designed by competitive fly fishers who participate in the annual World Fly Fishing Championships.
I don't fly fish to compete, and am not remotely interested in who wins the events. What does fascinate me though, are the flies and techniques that result from these events. If adopted correctly they can help me catch more fish on highly pressured waters at home, and for that I say "Viva la Fédération Internationale de Peche Sportive Mouche Sportive Mouche!"
U.S. fly fishers have not widely accepted the idea of competitive fly fishing, and Team USA has never finished with a medal. But the team members have brought back many of the techniques used by winning teams, and that's how we ended up with "Czech Nymphing" for fast turbulent water, and the French technique of using lightly weighted nymphs and very sensitive strike-indication methods for flat, shallow water. [See George Daniel's story "Nymphing Skinny Water" in the Feb-Mar 2012 issue for details on this technique. The Editor.]
North Americans often lump these various techniques into the broad classification of Euro nymphing, but it's important to realize that the best rod for working a heavy anchor fly through fast, bouldery water is likely different than the extremely delicate rod you'd need for using a curly indicator and #18 nymph at a distance of 40 feet.
I recently spent a week on the Bow River watching Fly Fisherman contributor Lance Egan demonstrate on camera a multitude of techniques for an upcoming two-part DVD series on nymphing. What impressed me most was not Lance's religious devotion to any single technique. It was his ability to use different subsurface techniques to catch fish in nearly any water type, and it wasn't all "Euro" stuff either. A few of the biggest fish came when he used a Thingamabobber (just like the rest of us) to suspend a heavy nymph rig in deep, fast water.
The lesson was that there is no Holy Grail of nymph fishing techniques, and the same goes for fly rods. If you're a versatile fly fisher like Lance Egan, then you need a jack-of-all-trades nymph rod that can handle a variety of tasks. If, however, you just want to throw a Ping-Pong-ball-size yarn indicator and two Kaufmann's Stones from a drift boat, you'll need something different altogether. Decide what kind of nymphing you're most likely to be engaged in and get the rod that's right for you.