Euro Nymphing Basics

Frenchies in a variety of color combinations


For some anglers, euro nymphing might just be another hipster fad like tenkara, but if you enjoy catching trout in numbers, it’s a good technique to add to your angling arsenal. 

This technique is about numbers, which is why it’s taken over the competition circuit. The theory is you’re fishing more in a fish’s strike-zone.

It’s best done on higher gradient, swift rivers with pocket water. The technique is arguably better than indicator fishing this type of water given that fast surface water and slower subsurface water can cause an indicator to drag flies. Generally, the flies you’ll use euro nymphing also plunge quicker in faster currents, causing the flies to spend more time in the strike-zone where fish are feeding.

There are several “styles” of euro nymphing, but they all include fishing a tight line — as opposed to using an indicator — to suspend the flies in the water column. It’s more about “feeling” your flies than watching a bobber.


When casting, instead of using line weight you’re using the fly’s weight. Lob them upstream, or use a “tuck cast,” and lead the flies past you. At all times you’ll want to keep the line/leader with minimal to no slack. You’ll be able to feel the flies skip along the bottom but be cautious as it could just as likely be a fish, so hook set on everything. You can adjust where the flies are in the water column by controlling your line and height of the rod tip.

Here’s a helpful video from Orvis:



Rod length is important, since it helps you reach runs and pockets, and allows easier detection of subtle takes. Faster action rods also help handle the heavy tungsten beaded nymphs you’ll be tossing. That said, starting out with a 9 foot 3wt or 4wt is okay, but as you use this technique more you’ll realize the necessity of a 10-11ft 3wt, fast action rod designed for euro nymphing.

Rod: Euro rods also commonly come in 2wt and 4wt sizes in addition to 3 weights. They’re fast action but are constructed with sensitive tips to feel subtle feeding from trout, and often have a fighting butt.

I use an Echo Shadow II, which has a kit allowing for the rod to be extended, along with a removable fighting butt and weights to get the rod/reel balance right. It’s a great setup that allows for versatility. Check one out in the fly shop. We also carry Orvis, which makes euro rods in the Clearwater, Recon, and H3 — all great rods.

Reel: The most important considerations for reel selection are weight and arbor size. Drag isn’t so much of a concern with this fishing technique. It’s not uncommon to see the pros fishing 4/5/6 large arbor reels on 3 weight rods. Larger reels balance out the rod better, and larger arbors help reduce line coil. For example, the first reel I used for euro nymphing was a Orvis Battenkill II disc. This reel balanced perfectly with my 10 foot, 3 weight nymphing rod, but the mid arbor reel size caused too much coiling for my taste, and after one outing I switched to using a large arbor reel.

Line: Most competition nymph lines on the market right now are made to work on a range of rod weights. They are thin and “level tapered” with minimal weight. Often the tips are high-vis with a bright color to help with strike detection.

Leader: Leaders might be the most complicated part of euro nymphing. There are a zillion ways to make a euro leader. Don’t be intimidated, though, there are products on the market to help simplify things. 

Most anglers use some combination of 20lb to 15lb maxima, then white leader, followed by sighter material. The tippet goes next.

I just slap on however much 4x/5x/6x tippet I think I need onto the pre-made RIO leader, and that saves a bunch of time and stress.

I go with 2-3 feet of tippet, a tippet ring, then 20 inches of tippet to my anchor fly. Off that tippet ring leave a 6 inch tag for a smaller nymph.

Fly Selection: Flies are one of the simpler parts of the technique. A good general rule of thumb is big and flashy for the anchor fly and match the hatch for the smaller fly.

In my fly box I always have frenchies in sizes 12, 14, 16, and in colors olive, chartreuse, shrimp pink, pink, orange, and purple. Tungsten surveyors, rainbow warriors, squirmy wormies, and mini leeches are also must-have.

Some swear that the contrast of the fly’s natural body color to a bright-colored collar is what does the trick, acting as an attractor of sorts.

These flies are fished hook up, so despite the weight they won’t catch on the river bottom as often. The weight of these flies also mean you can leave your split shot in the truck.


Fish the river in a grid system, bank-to-bank (see video below). You’ll be fishing near the bottom, but tight-lining and line control will allow you to adjust the flies depth in the water column.


You can arguably fish more types of water euro nymphing compared to indicator fishing. This technique is great for pocket water, where trout often hold but indicators get easily swept away. Where this technique isn’t well-suited for is very slow, deep pools or still water where the water can’t carry the weight of the fly.

Riffles, runs, pools, and eddies, should all be fished thoroughly, starting with the water closest to you and working outwards. You can cast upstream, across, or downstream, and work the water depending on the circumstances. (Fishing upstream is best for spookier fish.)

Reading water goes hand-in-hand with fly selection. Use smaller, lighter flies in slower, shallower water and heavier flies in faster, deeper water.


If euro nymphing techniques are something you’d like to add to your arsenal, don’t hesitate to talk with the guys in the fly shop. Right now we’re running 10% off the purchase of a euro rod, euro line, and reel. The rods we have in stock range in price from beginner to advanced.

Now is a good time to add a euro setup to your quiver for spring.

By Derek Draplin