You really can teach an old dog new tricks....Local angler Alex Hernandez takes us through his recent journey into the world of Euro nymping.
The past year has been one of discovery for me, as I’ve dove headfirst down the rabbit hole of a broad spectrum of techniques broadly known as ‘Euro Nymphing’. In the process, I’ve not only found greater success on the river, but deepened my understanding of fish behavior, and gained confidence in the quality and consistency of my presentations.
While the tactics, rigging, leader styles, and flies used can vary greatly, ‘Euro’ or ‘Tight Line’ nymphing maintains a singular goal: to attain a highly realistic, drag free drift with superior strike detection. In broad strokes, the equipment differs from suspension or ‘indicator’ nymphing in a few key ways:
In pursuit of the most natural, drag free drift possible, split shot is omitted altogether, in favor of variably weighted, often tungsten headed, fly patterns. The use of flies tied on jig hooks, while not necessary for success, can greatly decrease the amount of time spent hooked up to the bottom, and allow for greater confidence while exploring bottom contours.
While fishing a multi-fly indicator nymphing rig, classical wisdom often states to attach the heaviest, or ‘anchor’ fly first, with smaller or lighter flies further down the rig. In tightline technique, where any slack in your rig can mean the difference between a missed strike and a successful hook set, this is inverted. Use your heaviest fly in the ‘point’ position, to keep even tension on your line. Having the heaviest weight at the end of your rig will also aid in the unique casting technique necessary to present these weighted flies.
The success of the technique relies upon keeping your line off of the water surface, and in direct tension with the point fly on your rig. While precise leader materials, lengths, and formulas are highly personal and the subject of much debate, a successful tight line rig generally consists of a generous length (20-30’) of thin level line, monofilament, or braid, attached to the terminus of your fly line, or backing. These unconventional lines are used to reduce the amount of sag in the rig. To aid in strike detection and line visibility, most folks then include a length of highly visible monofilament, or specialized ‘indicator mono’, in their rig, followed by 4-7’ of fluorocarbon tippet before attaching flies.
The long, unconventional leaders used in this technique all but exclude the possibility of using a traditional fly cast for presentations. Instead of relying upon the weight of the fly line to carry the flies, casting must be modified to allow the weight of your fly rig to carry line forward, or utilize an oval cast, to build momentum in your rig under tension and propel it outward.
While it is possible to practice this technique with a conventional 9’ 5wt rod, having the right tool for the job will make your time on the river much more enjoyable and successful. Tight line rods generally share a few key characteristics.
Length: Generally starting at 10’, longer rods allow for enhanced line management, longer drifts, and, of course, longer reach. You can’t always wade further, but you can always back up!
Action: These specialized rods have extremely sensitive tip sections, which both aid in casting, and provide excellent tippet protection. On the best rods, the taper transitions into a much beefier mid and butt section, allowing for the ability to confidently fight larger fish.
Weight: With presentation techniques that often necessitate having an arm fully outstretched for long periods of time, rod weight and balance can mean the difference between tapping out early, or catching ‘one last fish’. Matching your reel choice to properly balance the rod in hand is also key for reducing arm fatigue.
Once flies are in the water, it is critical to maintain line control and tension throughout the rig. This generally involves ‘leading’ your rig downstream. Proper, consistent tension allows for near immediate detection of even the most subtle strikes, as ‘jumps’ in your line or sighter are telegraphed directly from the subsurface flies.
Having the right tool for the job can be a revelation, and while despite measuring in a whopping 11’ 3”, probably the most immediately striking feature of this rod is its light weight and incredible balance in hand. T&T’s proprietary new StratoTherm resin, coupled with unique single footed titanium guides, allow for an extremely sensitive and svelte rod, with a surprisingly beefy butt section for fighting even the largest trout. The unpainted finish further helps to reduce swing weight. Don’t be fooled by it’s ‘3wt’ designation and ability to launch tiny nymphs 40+ feet with pinpoint accuracy. This rod has no trouble controlling and landing even 20”+ salmon in fast current.
Thomas and Thomas is known for exceptional build quality, and this rod is no exception. From the best cork, to highest quality guides available, every inch of this rod is as good as it gets. Epoxy work and thread wraps are flawless, and the understated gray and olive finish lends to a overall ‘stealth’ look and feel. Exceedingly comfortable and balanced when paired with a properly weighted large arbor reel, like a Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 4+, or a reddington Rise 2 7/8W.
That extra 15” of length definitely comes in handy on the river. I’ve found myself able to successfully fish a multitude of previously out of reach drifts on my favorite rivers. Even in relatively tight quarters, I’ve found the advantages of the extra length far outweigh any drawbacks.
I can’t think of another situation I’ve encountered in my fly fishing journey where having the right equipment for the job has made such an immediate and quantifiable impact in my success and enjoyment on the river.
If you’ve been toeing the waters of this exciting technique, and are ready to up your game in the best way possible, this is the rod for you.
Words By: Alex Hernandez
Photos By: Alex Hernandez + Zach St. Armand