NIFT member Harry Blessing contributed this great article on Euro Nymphing.
This was my 29th annual NIFTY (Northern Illinois Fly Tyers) Club Trip. It was my 24th club trip to Gates Lodge on the AuSable River, six miles East of Grayling, near the top of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. I didn't make last year's club trip due to a heart problem.
Gates Lodge is on the banks of the AuSable in the middle of the Holy Water section. The Holy Water is the Main Stream of the AuSable River from Burton’s Landing, for eight river miles to Wakeley Bridge. This section is designated flies only, catch and release.
Euro Nymphing is a term that covers a group of techniques that are being used to win fly fishing contests in Europe and now in the United States. Oak Brook TU had a great Euro Nymphing presentation by Jason Hearle, Manager of the fishing department at the Yorktown Mall Orvis store. Jason has fished competitively in the U.S. and told us how he fishes. There are four general types of Euro Nymphing:
1. Czech Nymphing - Close Range Method
2. Polish Nymphing - Close Range Method
3. French Nymphing - Medium/Long Range Method Directly Upstream
4. Spanish Nymphing - Long Range Method - Up and Across
Detailed methods of the four types of Euro Nymphing are described in various online web sites if you wish to learn more so I won't cover them here.
Fishing was just OK for me and a little better for the other NIFTY members, who mostly fished dry flies. The weather was increasingly nice each day and evening.
Wading was difficult because the water level was high. The level dropped increasingly lower each day. On Sunday it was up to the top of the logs at the foot of the canoe landing just downstream from Gates. By Tuesday it was five inches lower and just an inch from the bottom of the logs. This was still a couple of inches above usual for mid June.
I didn't fish during the daytime so I could save my energy to fish the fast water each evening from twilight until dark. During the day you catch mostly brookies but the AuSable browns are mostly on the night shift.
The first day I exhausted myself pushing upstream in heavy current from the canoe landing to Gates. It was extremely difficult to Euro Nymph that evening. By the time I got up to the bush line on the far side I was exhausted and it was difficult to maintain my footing while casting in the heavy current so the evening was wasted.
The next few evenings I turned and lob-cast upstream and to the side while wading down and let my fly's roll downstream. I could feel my heavy tungsten bead point fly rolling on the bottom.
There were occasional rises nearby and I would have done OK fishing a dry fly. But I wanted to learn Euro Nymphing. Each evening this required wading slowly and planting my staff at every shuffle step to keep upright in the heavy current.
My rod was an Echo Shadow, 10 foot, 3 weight, soft tip, stiff butt, 4 piece, Euro Nymphing rod. The rod has a dull finished blank with dark single foot guides. Echo also makes 10' 6" 3-wt. and 11' 4-wt. Shadow Euro Nymphing rods. My line was an old double taper and the reel was an old Cortland Graphite LTD disc drag. The reel could have been a tad heavier as it balanced at two inches up from the grip. I also brought along a Winston 3, Sage 4 and Loomis 5, but never used them.
I fished a hair's ear nymph with a heavy silver tungsten bead on the end of a 9', 5x fluorocarbon Rio leader. The first two nights I fished a small tungsten bead caddis on a 6" 5x Rio dropper, 20" up from the heavy tungsten bead point fly. The last night I switched the dropper fly to a Chicago Leach but never got a fish on either dropper. I should have tied the dropper flies with a loop knot for a little more action. Rockford, MI fly fishing guru Carl Richards said the Chicago Leach was the best wet fly he ever fished. I wrote a fly tying article on this Uni Mohair fly for the current Illinois Smallmouth Alliance newsletter.
I used the Czech method of Nymphing and made a 14" Sighter (strike indicator) out of yellow backing with black stripes between the line and the leader and fished mostly with only the Sighter out of the rod tip. Occasionally I let out one to three yards of fly line if there was a good seam just out of reach. To make the Sighter, I wound the backing on a bamboo skewer and colored one fourth across the adjacent coils with a "Rub-A-Dub" permanent ink laundry marker from Office Max. In European contests they do not allow the use of a standard strike indicator and this is a way around the rule.
The second evening I caught a couple of 6" browns against a dock across from the tip of the island. The third evening I caught a couple of 10" and 12" browns downstream from the island at the end of Gates Lodge lawn and along and past the end of the bush line where it starts to widen. All fish were caught on the large tungsten bottom fly and I felt every one hit.
Because of dense roots I really couldn't cast too close to the far bank bush line which had been my original game plan. I've caught many fish there over the years on dries, my best being a nice 17" brown. I knew from past experience where there were several lunker structures and I also carefully cast in front of, in back and along side of them.
There are some big rocks in the narrows at the end of the bush line but it was difficult to work them sufficiently and keep my footing in the heavy current. One NIFTY member once tripped on a big rock in the narrows and banged up a knee pretty badly.
I would not have been able to wade in the heavy water without my Folstaff wading staff. I brought my inflatable vest, never put it on and later realized it was a bad decision not to wear it.
My conclusion is that Euro Nymphing is interesting, fun and intense, just the ticket for a fly fisherman with an aggressive Type-A Personality, but I'm more of a contemplative fly fisherman. Euro Nymphing may be better suited to a younger, stronger wader, especially in heavy water. I did catch a few and so I'll try it again under the right conditions and in the right type of water.