Many of the most common questions that I am asked about Euro Nymphing here at Big Sky Anglers have to do with rods, reels, and lines. In this post, I hope to explain my own preferences, and hopefully simplify the process of gearing up for those interested in getting into or expanding their practice of Euro Nymphing techniques.
Rods for Euro Nymphing
I use as long a rod as I can get away with, even on small streams and creeks. Long rods make it easier to hold line off the water and fish over varying currents, preventing drag. And, with no line on the water there is no need to mend, allowing for a softer drift without disturbing the water and the fish. A longer rod also allows me to fish longer leaders and be farther away from the fish. They also make casting 20-plus-foot leaders and thin Euro Nymphing lines easier.
Understanding the action of a rod is very important when selecting tackle for Euro Nymphing. Softer tip rods will cushion and protect thinner 6x and 7x tippets but are slower to set the hook when striking. This can be a factor when fishing at distances over 30 feet and on larger fish. Stiffer action rods can break thinner tippets and the angler needs to be aware of this when striking and playing fish.
Rods designed for euro nymphing and are usually rated from 3 to 5 wt . These line ratings, however, are slightly different from standard fly rods. Only the tip section will match that of a regular 3 wt or 4 wt fly rod, while the butt section will be stiffer, and closer to that found on a typical 5 wt or 6wt rod. This gives the rod the ability to protect light tippets, but still have more backbone when landing larger fish. When playing fish the angler should understand how to vary the angles and height of a fly rod to best take advantage of the rods design.
The Sage ESN is a medium action fly rod, designed specifically for Euro Nymphing techniques. The 10ft 6in 3wt model (3106-4) is my first choice for my own fishing. The blank recovery after casting is fast, even with heavy flies. The reduced weight of the ESN makes the rods very light in your hand and doesn’t cause as much fatigue. The ESN also has great shock absorption which helps hold smaller fish, while also preventing larger fish from breaking fine tippets. It has single foot guides that keep the wet, thin line and leaders away from the rod blank . With snake guides the wet line and leader will actually stick to the rod making casting difficult. This is a subtle, yet very important design element. The reel seat is non-reflective black and is down locking. This puts more weight at the butt end, helping balance the rod.
Reels for Euro Nymphing
To me, the most important feature of a reel for Euro Nymphing is a silky smooth drag. I like a large arbor reel with a disc drag, for my own fishing. I run all my fresh water reels with the lightest drag setting possible. The light disc drag setting protects very thin tippets when a strong fish runs and must be soft enough to release line when I lift the rod as I am netting a fish. I prefer this to a click and pall reel. Second, reels should help balance the rod for this style of “high stick” fishing. If you need to add a bit of weight to your own reel, sticky back lead foil can be used on the spool to add more weight. This is usually applied before the backing and fly line. Lastly, sunlight can reflect off of polished chrome reels, spooking wary fish. Non reflective black reels are my own preferred choice. With these factors in mind, I’ve been fishing a Sage Spectrum LT in the stealth finish lately, and have been very pleased with the performance in a variety of situations.
Lines for Euro Nymphing
It is critical to understand that Euro nymphing lines are a complete departure from typical weight forward and double taper flylines. Euro nymphing fly lines are not designed to load a fly rod! They don’t aid your casting. But, with the correct understanding and techniques they can be cast and fished at a good distance. Because these lines are so thin they have very little weight and don’t suffer all the draw backs of a conventional floating line for high stick and contact nymphing methods. They do not sag off of the rod tip, and provide a direct connection to the leader and fly.
I prefer to use lines with a braided core, like the RIO FIPS Euro Nymph line, because of the sensitivity it provides, and because braided core lines have less coil memory than mono core lines. I do choose to modify this, and all other lines that come with factory welded loops, by cutting off any welded loop on the front of my fresh water lines, and attaching my leader using a needle knot. I prefer this connection over all others for its smoothness and lack of added weight and bulk. I don’t not use or advocate a nail knot on any of river or lake lines.
Lastly, I would like to debunk a myth about Euro nymphing that is related to the line selection. I have heard and read many comments about Euro Nymphing lines not ever being more than a foot or so out the rod guides while fishing. I have heard it said that Euro methods are not suited for fishing at distance, nor is the casting accurate. This is simply false. In the right water and situations I and others successfully cast and fish 22 foot leaders and more than a rod length of fly line out the front of the rod, allowing for presentations as much as 50 or 60 feet away. Practice makes perfect. Euro techniques are very versatile, and can be fished 360 degrees in a river, with nymphs, soft hackles, small streamers and more.
About the Author: Quiet and humble, Robert’s demeanor betrays his level of experience and knowledge when it comes to fly fishing in general, and Euro Nymphing in particular. A native South African, Robert has traveled the world, fished in 17 countries, and guided in 4 countries, including in Chile with BSA co-owner Jonathan Heames. He has also traveled as an instructor of both fly casting and fly tying. Robert’s deep knowledge of Euro Nymphing stems in part from his background in competition angling. He has represented South Africa at 13 World and Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships, 11 times as the national team captain. Robert held the seat of President of the National body of fly fishing in South Africa for 6 years, and has since been named as an Honorary life President. This year, he was honored with Elite Pro status by SAGE fly rods. Despite his background, experience, and accolades, Robert remains humble and true to the roots of fly fishing. He loves being on the water, challenging himself to learn new things, and appreciates the beauty of an 8-inch cutthroat as much as the heft of an 8-pound brown. We are lucky to have him on the BSA staff and are thrilled to be able to share his knowledge