Old Dogs / New Tricks or My Venture Into Tight Line Nymphing

Letort

Letort

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I have been fly fishing for a very long time (50 years). Don't think I have been reluctant to change, as I have embraced the new materials in both rod and fly tying. And about 20 years ago, I took a class from Herb Weigle who owned Cold Spring Anglers in Carlisle on tight line nymphing, which is more currently known as Euro nymphing.

Picked up a 10' 2 wt, tied up some hares ear, PT and green weenies with heavy beadheads and hit a stream that I knew to hold some fish. I was able to find a formula online for a 12' leader and had that set up and ready to go. Watched YouTube videos on casting and thought it didn't look too hard.

Bottom line, I caught more fish and generally speaking, larger fish, than I would of with my usual setup of either a dry / dropper or New Zealand wool strike indicator on this stream. I think because the euro nymph spends its time at the bottom of the water channel, it gets in the strike zone more often than with an indicator. The takes were pretty subtle, and most of the strikes were picked up by my 6th sense from years of experience. I do not believe I would teach someone euro nymphing if they do not have other fly fishing fundamentals down.

That said, my casting was not good and was nothing like the video. I was able to chuck it forward most of the time, but I certainly couldn't drop it on a dime. Need a lot more work in this area. Most of my other commonly used rods are 8'-8' 6", so the 10' felt like driving U-Haul through narrow city streets.

All in, I loved the experience and I can see the applicability of this set up for many fishing applications going forward. It will never replace the joy of a good dry fly outing, but unfortunately, those days are few and far between,

Those of you that have tried it, what was your experience?
 
I started tight-line nymphing about 20 or 25 years ago. I didn't know that's what it was called, I just worked out a system where I used a couple little dots of strike putty as my indicator and how to mend and suspend line so that the indicator putty and tippet were the only things on/in the water. I remember thinking early on: "if I could only find a light rod of 10' or even 11', that would make life so much easier". A few years later euro rods started to appear. I bought one as soon as I could. And I was right, just an extra foot makes a huge difference and an extra 2 foot is the bomb. I followed along as the comp guys started using lighter fly lines and eventually mono rigs, which is what I use almost exclusively now. I occasionally add a bobber for very specific situations, but generally use a mono rig with a light (1x) indi section.
Totally with you on dry fly fishing, though. Fishing dries to consistent risers beats blind prospecting with a nymph, hands down.
But I have enough confidence in my nymphing that on most rivers, it takes an actual hatch to get me to switch to a dry.
 
I always say if your not catching fish your not fishing deep enough. Turns out trout ain’t so hard to catch after all so why would you want to someone to be proficient at a less effective method to catch fish? Fishing deep and detecting the strike is the true art that needs mastering.
 
I switched over to tightline/Euro tactics a few years ago and it completely changed my time on the stream. I reworked all of my working fly boxes to Euro style flies (built weight into the flies) and haven't used split shot since. It really has simplified my tying and time on the water and overall made fishing a lot more productive. it's to the point that I rarely fish any other style anymore, which is not a good thing. It's hard to beat topwater dry fly takes or the smash of a terrestrial take. For me, tightline fishing requires focus and concentration, which translates into leaving reality behind when I'm fishing. YMMV.
 
Been tight lining for maybe 10 years now. I use a mono rig and drop shot setup. That seems to result in losing fewer nymphs. Or the whole rig. You’re right, many takes can be very subtle. Most important to watch your leader sighter. And get that nymph down.
Like most others above, I’d rather fish dries. Even if it means less fish. At least it usually means less fish for me. 😳
 
You make some very good points Letort. I started working at the Yellowbreeches shop about 40 plus years ago and guys were tight line nymping then. Other then naming it Euro nymphing I do not see a whole lot of difference.
Herb and Cathy wre a very interseting pair. Catchy was always smilling and very delightfull but Herb well was not always as pleasant. Do not get me wrong I never had a problem with either of them but they had different personalaity. I never kept up with them and have no idea where they are currently.
 
I started "tight lining" garden worms on my spinning rod when I was ten years old so I beat all you guys.
 
I was "tight lining" with nymphs in 1970. Are you sure you beat me?
Born 1960, so was fishing like that in 1970 but with bait not nymphs. You beat me.
Presenting bait or artificials like that is nothing new. Like everything it has become more technical and been named and of course marketed. Throwing a nymph out and fishing it on a tight line or with indicator or whatever is just a matter of a way of presenting it. Flyfishermen tend to overthink things sometimes.
 

Like many here I have been tight lining nymphs for a number of years. A few years ago I picked up a light 10' 3/4 euro style rod. My system is fairly bare bones, super cheap fly line and a sighter leader ala George Daniels. It is deadly on streams with a lot of pocket water and fast runs but not a tool I use all the time. Had to balance it with a fairly heavy reel (Medalist) and then wrapped a little lead (solder) around the butt and taped. Also have to keep telling myself not to extend my arm.
 
No doubt "tight-line" aka "Euro nymphing" techniques has been around for a long time. The "Euro" guys have just taken it to the next level with specialized tackle, rigs, flies as well as refining and specializing techniques to meet conditions. But Old Dogs can learn some new tricks if they just pay attention and try some new things. Also the Euro guys can learn from some of the old guys, especially since Euro fishing is rooted in tournament FFing which have certain rules not applicable to general fly-fishing. Just sayin'.....
 
Nymph fishing was invented around 1900. Strike indicators started getting popular around the mid-1970s.

So, from about 1900 to about 1975, people nymph fished without indicators. It wasn't called "Euro nymphing" it was just called nymph fishing.

Tight line nymphing was part of that, but only a part. There are all kinds of "slack line" nymphing techniques too, for lack of a better term, where you fish with more line out. Using reach casts, mending, etc. to get a good drift.
 
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I agree that the Fips-Mouche comps have arbitrary rules, but if you've ever fished with some of the comp regulars (I have), they can kick my fishin' a**. Even if I fish however I want and they fish by the comp rules. It pushes them to get better.
 
Really my biggest pet peeve with comp rules is the ban on split shot. They can make whatever rules they want, but the problem is the average joe fly angler ends up thinking that there is something wrong with using shot because the comp guys don't use it.

They don't use split shot and pro ball players don't use aluminum or carbon composite bats.

Hi tech bats make hitting the ball a country mile easier and split shot makes nymph fishing easier.

Just because a pro player can still out hit you or I any day of the week with a wood bat doesn't mean he would pass up using a better bat if it were allowed.
 
Really my biggest pet peeve with comp rules is the ban on split shot. They can make whatever rules they want, but the problem is the average joe fly angler ends up thinking that there is something wrong with using shot because the comp guys don't use it.

They don't use split shot and pro ball players don't use aluminum or carbon composite bats.

Hi tech bats make hitting the ball a country mile easier and split shot makes nymph fishing easier.

Just because a pro player can still out hit you or I any day of the week with a wood bat doesn't mean he would pass up using a better bat if it were allowed.

They don’t need split shot when they have the (probably free) supplies on hand to tie every nymph in sizes 6-24 in two different sizes of beads/size from 4.5 mm on down to 1.5.

Us average joes can just add shot, but I do think they fish way better when the weight is in the correct location.
 
They don’t need split shot when they have the (probably free) supplies on hand to tie every nymph in sizes 6-24 in two different sizes of beads/size from 4.5 mm on down to 1.5.

Us average joes can just add shot, but I do think they fish way better when the weight is in the correct location.
Is the correct location on the leader or the fly? I think there are applications for both.

However, don't lose sight of WHY they have so many different weights/sizes of flies. That's their ONLY option for adjusting weight.

That takes us to "anchor flies." I recall a period of time when social media was full of fly pictures from guys who were so proud of their overly sophisticated, overly heavy "anchor flies." The reality is that they are sacrificial flies whose primary purpose is to take the place of shot. For example, you want to fish a small, light fly at a specific height above the bottom with a drop-shot arrangement... ...but you aren't allowed to use shot. Hmmmmm, if only there was something that could take the place of shot and be within the rules...
 
I was fortunate to meet 2 anglers from the international Spanish fly fishing team and pick their brain about setups/techniques. The term “euro” or tightline nymphing is very broad, just like saying indicator nymphing. Tons of different techniques, leader setups, fly selections etc. I never understood phrases like “switched over to euro” when talking about Nymphing. You shouldn’t limit yourself to any technique! There are just some situations where my Spanish leader isn’t the best for a certain type of water and that’s where learning multiple techniques comes into handy. I would say the Spanish leader is much more versatile and adaptive to most water types but point blank there are some water types/ situations where the foam indicator/ split shot/ fly rig shines tremendously.
 
Is the correct location on the leader or the fly? I think there are applications for both.

However, don't lose sight of WHY they have so many different weights/sizes of flies. That's their ONLY option for adjusting weight.

That takes us to "anchor flies." I recall a period of time when social media was full of fly pictures from guys who were so proud of their overly sophisticated, overly heavy "anchor flies." The reality is that they are sacrificial flies whose primary purpose is to take the place of shot. For example, you want to fish a small, light fly at a specific height above the bottom with a drop-shot arrangement... ...but you aren't allowed to use shot. Hmmmmm, if only there was something that could take the place of shot and be within the rules...
I would note that leader/tippet diameter as well tracking angles impact sink rate tremendously. But that gets us into would comp guys use split shot if they were allowed? Absolutely they would but just only as often as they do when fishing for fun (not too often). Tracking a light leader setup, those little ticks, pauses, twitches are the only way to detect strikes 8/10 times. Adding shot would just take away from the contact your leader has to the fly. Always made me wonder about how many strikes go undetected with an indicator setup. Fish need to grab the fly and hold it until the indicator dips as well as holding on to all the weight of the shot/ drag the indicator is pulling underwater before you can even set the hook. Those types of takes are the ones you feel on a euro setup, which is only maybe 20% of the time. During my pa days most of my bread and butter weights are 2.3, 2.8mm, little heavier in NW Montana but those real heavy bomb flies you’re talking about has more to do with leader setup than water type I would say. But at the end of the day fishing is about having fun and some people enjoy different fishing techniques more than others, after all we all enjoy a niche called fly fishing in the fishing community as it is ! Cheers
 
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