Originally referred to as Czech, Spanish, or French nymphing, this style of nymph fishing was born out of the competitive fishing culture of Europe. Competitive fishing is much more prevalent in Europe than it is in the United States. In competition, anglers are not allowed to use indicators or weight attached to the leader. Because of this, the Euro-nymphing technique was born, which is not only handy for catching large or finicky trout but is also a lot of fun.
A trout's diet is mostly subsurface. If you want to catch a lot of fish, this is where you should be fishing. There are many methods to fish subsurface including wet flies, swung flies, streamers, and nymphs. Wet flies, swung flies, and streamers require the fish to move from their lie to take the fly. With a nymph, you can get a fly down to where the fish are more likely to eat it.
To get started, you are going to need a fly rod and reel, a Euro-nymphing leader, and some flies. Euro-nymphing rods tend to be longer than the average fly rod, usually between 10 and 12 feet, but you do not need a long rod to Euro-nymph. The longer rods make it easier to cover more water and stay farther away from the fish.
Most of the confusion about Euro-nymphing is over the leader and flies. The setup feels a little complicated at first, but once you learn the terms, it's straightforward. It consists of a long tapered leader, a sighter, and two to three flies. The anchor fly, or the last fly, is usually the heaviest. It should be a large attractor style pattern that can mimic a lot of different bugs. Remember this fly is going to be banging against the rocks, so you want something durable. Twelve to twenty inches up from the anchor fly another nymph is attached to the leader; if desired, another nymph can be attached another twelve to twenty inches above the second fly. Two common methods for attaching the top flies consist of using the tag end of the knot used to connect your tippet, or a uni-knot connecting a short piece of tippet to the leader.
From the last fly, attach another twelve to twenty inches of tippet and connect this to your sighter. The sighter is a very simple strike indicator consisting of two-toned leader material or two pieces of mono connected with a large blood knot. The sighter is then attached to a tapered leader, and the leader connected to your fly line.
Fishing a Euro-nymph Rig
When Euro-nymphing, there is no false casting. Pick the flies up and get them right back in the water using a simple change of direction cast. Cast the flies about a rod length away and about 45 degrees upstream of where you want to fish. Once the flies hit the water set your rod tip high in the air directly over the nymphs and slightly downstream. Make sure that about six inches of your sighter is out of the water to help detect a strike. As the flies head down river with the current, move the rod tip just ahead of the flies. Be sure to keep the rod tip steady and the sighter out of the water. If you can't feel the flies on the bottom, lower the rod tip until you feel the bottom again. If at any point during the drift the flies stop, or the sighter moves, set the hook. Once the flies have reached a rod's length away from you downstream pick them up and cast again.
Faster, noisy water is excellent for Euro-nymphing. Look for current seams, deep pools, and underwater trenches. Remember, it's hard to fish more than a rod's length away. Divide a fishing location into a grid in your mind and cover the water closest to you first, casting farther and moving closer to the holding water.
Watching the sighter and setting the drift up takes a little practice, but learning how to Euro-nymph will make you a much better trout angler and is well worth the effort.