Only a few years back, the mere mention of European style nymphing (let alone Czech nymphing) amongst a sect of American dry fly purists would be met with an inaudible profanity followed by a hardy wad of tobacco-stained saliva. However, most of those same anglers now find themselves hip-deep with a straight arm, scanning underwater feed-ways for a hungry fish.
In this guide, we will break down all the elements you need to know in order to perfect the Czech style of Euro-nymphing. Below you’ll find helpful tips about Czech nymphing, what flies you’ll need, proper fishing methods, and much more, and soon enough, you’ll be nymphing like a pro.
What is Czech nymphing?
Bringing a competitive mindset to casual fishing
The history of the Czech style of European nymphing dates back to 1984 on the Dunajec River in Poland when Poland and Czechoslovakia were engaged in a fly fishing tournament. Due to a lack of accessibility to materials such as fly line, many of the Polish fishermen were implementing a short line fishing method, where they relied solely on nylon line. It was here where a Polish Angler by the last name of Jelenski showed the Czech competitors two basic caddis larvae fly patterns (Hydropsyche, and Rhycophylia).
From here, Czech competitors implemented their new pattern and style to take second place (behind Poland) at the world championship on the San River, only to take first place the next year (1986), in the Freshwater Club World Championships in Liege. Only a few months later, the same angler by the name of Slavoj Svobada took first again at the Champion of Czechoslovakia, and then again to win the World Trophy on the Ourth River.
As years went on, the short line Czech style brought many more individuals to first-place victories. Eventually, an emphasis on further developing these fly patterns came about when a focus on creating these flies with a “shellback” came to prominence. Flies were cased in dried catfish or eel skin and later titled a “Bobesh”. From there, massive advancements were made over the span of many years.
Eventually, lead wire, tungsten bead, and specialized chemically sharpened hooks took the place of the original flies tied with old sponge and raincoat. Special rubber backs and an upgrade to ice dubbin allowed the flies to evolve to what we see them as today; meticulously crafted, attractive specimens that almost look to pretty to fish with. Furthermore, flies were not the only elements subject to change. Along the way, line indicators, thinner diameter nylon, and craft-specific nymphing rods began to come into popularity, only further propelling the Czech style into popularity.
Because of the magnificent success, these flies bring, along with a dedication towards always improving, Czech style nymphs have become a staple to any anglers fly box across the world, and paired with the tight line, short cast style, will continue to bring fish to those same anglers nets.
Czech Nymphing today…
Czech nymphing hasn’t deviated too far from its roots since its introduction to the world in 1984, and in basic terms can be classified by the act of short distance fishing where the fly’s float path doesn’t stray far from under the tip of the rod. By keeping an outstretched arm, often times the actual fly line doesn’t even touch the water, as the line is to be kept close and tight in order to detect strikes.
A Czech nymph rig can be set up with either 2 or 3 flies depending on the conditions of the water. These flies are classified as either Sedges or Bobeshes. Sedges often imitate sedge larvae ( Hydropsyche) and are tied with green or yellow bodies with dark thorax’s. Bobeshes on the other hand, are tied to imitate the larval stages of a caddis or other members of the underwater insect community, all with a thicker body and legs extending from the thorax.
Where and When to Czech nymph
Find your lane
Like all other forms of nymphing, and fishing in general, the best place to catch fish is moving water. More specifically, the seams and pockets created by moving water. As two currents meet, small pockets of slower water form beneath the surface. These areas act as a place for fish to hang out and conserve energy, as well as a direct feeding lane where fish await debris and insects as they wash down the currents of the river or stream.
With this in mind, the best place to float your fly would be in or around these lanes and pools. Fish often expect their food to be brought right to them, and will often gulp up an oncoming snack without a second thought. Not to mention, fish are less inclined to move in the hotter months of summer, and colder months of winter, so if you’re getting you fly right in front of them, they are 90% more likely to take it.
During its introduction to the fly fishing community, there was common misconception that Czech nymphing was a style of fishing solely used to fish icey Europen waters amidst cold winters; and furthermore, only to catch Grayling. Thankfully, this is but a myth and was dispelled rather quickly. In reality, Czech nymphing can be performed in any circumstance where the angler has access to moving water, and can correctly fish it.
Whether it be winter, summer, spring, or fall; this style can be implemented and is a practical alternative for when there seems to be no fish rising. As stated many times, fish do about 90% of their feeding underwater, so by refusing such a method, you’re bound to catch only a fraction of what you could be catching.
The key times to nymph would be when there is low visibility. Considering you will be so close to the pool you are trying to fish, you will be a clearer presence. You’ll have more luck on days with overcast, or sometimes rain, as your hovering rod and close proximity will be less easy to detect (by sight at least).
Czech Nymphing Method
Fish it tight, fish it right
When it comes to Czech Nymphing, the technique involved is just like any other sort of tight line nymphing. The basic idea of it is that you want your flies to simulate shrimp, larvae, etc. bouncing around in the current. By implementing a dropper system, this can be achieved with a few roll-casts, or simply taking one precise cast and splashing the flies into the water.
When beginning your drift, cast approximately 45 degrees upstream. Remember, Czech nymphing dictates there should be little to NO fly line touching the water, this allows a smooth drift, while also keeping your line tight to indicate any strikes.
Once the fly hits the water, remember to keep your arm extended. This allows you to better control your line, as well as get as far away from shore as possible. Now with your flies submerged, they begin their drift downstream. An easy trick to remember is to try to keep the tip of the rod almost directly over where the flies are drifting. You should be able to draw an almost completely vertical line from the tip to the flies throughout most of the drift.
Once you begin to reach the end of your drift, let the flies swing in the current before you pull the line out to recast. A common mistake many anglers make is pulling the line out too early. Often times the end of the drift is where the fish will make a split-second decision and grab at your fly, by removing them too quickly, you’re eliminating that opportunity, and most likely losing a lot of fish.
Throughout your whole drift remember two things…
- Watch your indicator: Traditionally, Czech nymphing is done using a leader strike indicator, or a colored extension of nylon that points out irregularities in movement. If you catch a glimpse of your indicator moving in an abnormal manner, it’s probably because a fish has your fly! When that moment comes, stay calm and give a strong, but not violent, set. If your eyes are elsewhere during a take, there’s a good chance you could miss it.
- Keep that line TIGHT: Everyone knows slack is an angler’s worst enemy. In Czechnymphing, this is truer than ever. By keeping your line tight, you are doing the following…
- Allowing yourself to feel if there is a strike or twitch of the line (in case an indicator fails to do so).
- Allowing for the indicator the function properly and act independent from the pushes and pulls of the current.
- Creating a clear and natural-looking drift
- Keeping excess line out of the water, which may spook fish examining the nymphs for authenticity.
Czech Nymphing Flies
Beware the Bobesh
In reference to the history portion of this guide, the traditional Czech nymph (or Bobish) was created as a competition fly. One of the main reasons these nymphs were so favored was due to the way they functioned in their setup, as well as their weight. In said competitions, weighted leader or split shot was prohibited, so anglers had to get crafty and implemented tungsten beads in order to get their flies down in the fast currents.
These flies are tied on a dropper system stemming from a monofilament, or fluorocarbon (preferable) leader. 3 flies can be tied to the rig, but depending on water conditions, sometimes 2 will work better. In reference to the diagram below, these nymphs are rigged as such:
- Leader indicator is connected to fluorocarbon leader
- From the leader, 4 ft-8ft. of leader lead to the first tag end (created by a surgeons knot). Here is where your first nymph will sit.
- Next, travel 20″ to the next tag end and attach your heaviest fly.
- Another 20″ from there, tie on your final fly. This will be your lightest fly.
The reason for the specific placement of the flies is what makes Czech nymphing so effective. Once the flies hit the water, the middle nymph will sink the fastest, and drag along the bottom as it is swept through the current. The remaining 2 flies will float above it in a “V” shape, advertising 2-3 flies on various levels, ensuring at least one is seen by a hungry fish.
Which Nymphs to use…
The beauty of fly tying is that each tier makes their flies a little different from the next. However, because of this, there is no exact defined list of which flies are THE Czech nymphs. However, the broad definition would state that; if the fly is tied with a weighted head, tied on a grub style hook, and imitates a freshwater shrimp, caddis, or larvae…it’s a Czech nymph.
Here are just a few examples of some variations of these flies:
Original Ryacophila (olive) Tungsten CZ Caddis Hot spot Ryacophila
Frenchie style Czech Nymph Woven Brown Peach Vladi Polish Woven Nymph
What Equipment to Use
The best rod to use is something long, that way you can get as far from the shore as possible, without losing that tight drift. Look for a 10-11′ rod, generally with a low weight (about 3-5 is best). You want a nice low weight in order to feel the vibrations in the line in order to detect a fish taking your fly/ making sure your bumping bottom.
Flylords Recommendation: Thomas and Thomas Contact rod (11′, 3 weight)
In order to combat the long rod, a larger reel with sensitive drag is recommended in order to balance your rig out.
Flylords Recommendation: Abel Model SDF Reel
In Czech nymphing, your leader is one of the most important elements in your loadout. With flimsy, or oversized line, fish can get spooked, or much worse, snap off. Considering your fly line will almost never even touch the water, it’s up to your leader to be the workhorse here. Its generally suggested you go with a 4x-5x leader, as it will stand strong, but not be too noticeable. Also, when it comes to material, stick to fluorocarbon as it will make your line sink much better than Mono.
Flylords Recommendation: Scientific Angler’s Fluorocarbon Leaders
Okay…let’s all agree to stay away from bobbers for this one. There are a lot of good leader indicators out there, and when it comes down to it, it’s all going to depend on what is easiest for YOU to see. They’re not very expensive, so buy a few and find your favorite.
Flylords recommendation: Umpqua Indicator Coil
Now that you’ve got all you need to know about Czech nymphing, get out there and catch some fish!
This article was written by Flylords team member Wills Donaldson