How to tie flies for Euro Nymphing

There are many factors to consider when tying your own flies. When it comes to flies for European nymphing, there’s a whole new set of criteria to think about. In this blog, I will outline some of the features and attributes that are important when learning how to tie flies for euro nymphing.

Euro-Style Nymphs are Purpose Built Flies

Under the umbrella of euro nymphs, you still have common sub-categories to mess around with; Imitations, attractor patterns, sparse flies that sink quickly, flies with natural materials that look “buggy”, and so on. As with many things in fly fishing, there aren’t any hard and fast rules you need to limit yourself to (unless you’re actually fishing in competitions with FIPS Mouche regulations). You can make things as simple or as complicated as you would like, but let’s get into what you should be thinking about when you’re at the vise tying.


Sink rate & weight are the primary factors that make a fly suitable for euro nymphing. In essence, any pattern that allows you to have a reasonable amount of contact to your flies without using split shot can be used. Main considerations for weight are based on desired depth and movement. These characteristics can be achieved by bead size, materials used, profile, etc. Here are a couple of the strengths of heavily weighted flies compared to the strengths of lightly weight flies.

Heavy FliesLighter Flies
– Provide better contact for the angler– Allow for more realistic movement in the water (as they are subject to microcurrents)
– Are better in very deep water and/or heavy currents– Are better in shallow water and/or slow currents
– Help keep your drift anchored when fishing in heavy wind– Can be fished as a dropper nymph under a dry fly
– Give the fish more weight to throw against *– Tend to hold a fish better (with a well made hook-set)

*When fishing barbless, it is possible for the fish to shake the fly out of their mouth if you allow too much slack. Their ability to gain leverage is affected by how much you weighted your fly. Think of how far you can throw a handful of feathers versus how far you can throw a rock… When you oversize your bead, you are giving the fish more leverage to work the fly out of their mouth, so be prepared to maintain proper tension to keep those barbless hooks seated.

If you’re looking for a great way to get your weight dialed in, check out the hook-based weight management system from Firehole Outdoors:

Firehole Outdoors Bug Bands

Firehole Stones Bug Bands are a slim specialty bead that is made of fully machined brass. As an integral part of the weight management system the Bug Band has several purposes. The most common use of the Bug Band will likely be the immediate addition of a hotspot behind the bead of your fly. Their size, shape, and construction also allow them to be added to any part of the fly, should you require intermediate hotspots, while maintaining the profile of the fly you are tying since varying sizes can be added anywhere in the fly profile. As a brass bead the weight of the bug band is roughly 20% of that of a comparably sized tungsten bead.
Fly Weight Color Coding System – One of the most advantageous purposes of the Bug Band is that they work very well as a fly weight color coding system in your fly box. Using the Additive Weight Calculations charts or the online calculator you can choose how to weight your flies and then select bug band colors to represent those weights in your fly box.

Features Include:

  • Add a hotspot behind the bead or anywhere on your fly
  • Color code flies by weight
  • Size shape construction also allow them to be added to any part of a fly for intermediate hotspots
  • Available in 5 sizes
  • Available in 13 colors
  • 36 pieces per package

Firehole Outdoors Tungsten Tear Drop Body

Firehole Tungsten Tear Drop Body – is a through hole, tear drop shaped tungsten body; differing from current offerings which sit on top of the hook. The tear drop itself slides onto a hook just like a slotted bead. The shape is designed to heavily weight the fly in the general thorax position of your fly and then quickly tapers for a body transition. The shape and method of attachment are both designed to center the weight on the hook and create a realistic fly profile. Firehole Tungsten Tear Drop Bodies are available in 6 sizes: All sizes are available in 28 piece packages.

Features Include:

  • Tungsten heavily weights your fly
  • Designed to center the weight on the hook
  • Creates a realistic profile
  • Through hole, tear drop shaped
  • Available in 6 sizes
  • 28 pieces per package


You have probably seen lots of euro nymphs tied on barbless jig hooks. You can absolutely just tie a heavy pattern on your go-to nymph hook, but here’s why barbless jigs are typically used;


  • Allows for better hook penetration
  • Is easier on the fish
  • Is easier on you when you hook yourself

Jig Hook

  • Helps keep you from hanging up on the bottom when fishing deep
  • Can accommodate a wide variety of bead sizes, which will help you build out a fly box that has the perfect weight for any fishing situation
  • Has a wide hook gape even when you want to put a large bead on to dredge deeper runs and pools

Listed below are some great hook options to check out:

Firehole Sticks 516 Barbless Jig Hook

Features Include:

  • Standard length hook
  • 1X Gape
  • 60 degree down eye
  • Heavy weight wire
  • Comes in a 36 pack

MFC Barbless Black Nickle Jig Hook

Features Include:

  • 60 degree angle
  • 2X Heavy
  • Manufactured from H80C high-carbon steel wire
  • Chemically sharpened needle point offers the best possible penetration
  • Coated with an anti-corrosive finish to prevent rusting
  • Comes in a 25 or 100 pack

Tiemco TMC 403 BLJ Specialty Jig Hook

Features Include:

  • 60 degree jig
  • Wide gape
  • Medium wire
  • Super fine barbless point
  • Black
  • Comes in a 25 Pack

Some alternate hook options for euro flies include:

Umpqua X-Series XT500 BN Jig Hook

If you’re looking for a barbed option (that can easily be pinched down) check out the XT500: A high quality, barbed jig hook for all of your nymph patterns. A 60 degree jig minimizes snagging and a 1x long shank gives the perfect amount of room for the most important nymph patterns. A low profile barb makes for excellent penetration and easy de-barbing. 60 Degree Jig, 1X Heavy, Micro Barb, Black Nickel.

Features Include:

  • 60 Degree Jig
  • 1X Heavy
  • Micro Barb
  • Black Nickel
  • Comes in a 25 pack

Umpqua Competition Series C260BL Barbless Nymph Hook

A down-eye nymph hook like the C260 BL will invert and ride hook-point up with a tungsten bead. Vary the profile of your nymphs and still have the benefits of a barbless hook with this great option: Competition fly anglers continuously create and master new techniques to increase their efficiency on the water. When every landed fish counts, the hooking and holding ability of their fly offerings demands a style of unique high performance hooks. With the Competition Series, Umpqua offers the very models the best fly fisherman in the world use and trust. Designed in cooperation with individual and team world champions, these high carbon steel fly hooks have large gapes for superior hooking, black nickel finish for increased stealth, and barbless extra-long needlepoints to hold fish with minimal impact. Competition Series: hook more, land more, just like the Pros.

Features Include:

  • Nymph Hook – Heavy Wire
  • Wide Gape
  • Extra Short Shank
  • Down Eye
  • XL Needle Point, Barbless
  • Comes in a 25 pack


If you choose to tie with jig hooks, you’ll want to pair it with a slotted tungsten bead. Tungsten is nice and heavy, and it’s non-toxic which is a big plus from an environmental standpoint. Like many things in fly tying, slotted tungsten beads come in a wide range of sizes and colors. Common colors for beads include gold, black nickel, copper, and silver. Uncommon colors can be very effective as well. Pink, rainbow, bright orange, and even options that are mottled can produce many fish. Color can be determined by matching a certain scheme with the rest of the fly, but personal preference is a fine way of choosing a bead. If you have a good fishy feeling about a color, go with it. Having confidence in the materials is often more important than what you end up choosing. Plus, confidence translates to fishing more effectively, and thus more fish to the net. If you’re unsure, you’ll fish differently (and the fish can tell). Here’s a few things to think about when deciding bead size;

If you’re fishing multiple nymphs (which is common in euro nymphing) you want to consider TOTAL rig weight, not just the weight of one fly. With that in mind, you should tie your favorite patterns in a variety of weights. This allows you to combine different patterns and weights in a way that works for the situation you’re in. For example, If you’re fishing a tailwater in the winter, you can use a very heavily weighted pattern as an anchor, then tie a very small and lightly weighted midge in tandem with the heavy fly. This rig allows you to have tension to your flies while presenting a good mix of food options to the fish.

The reason for fishing weighted flies is so you can dump split shot. The benefits of doing so could be an entire other article, so for now we will stick to what you need to tie these euro-bugs… To start tying patterns that will get you down to the fish, check out these options below!

Firehole Slotted Speckled Tungsten Beads NEW!

Simply put, these beads are badass. The color combinations have been sampled and tested by many tyers across the globe since 2018. Multiple color combinations, including what is believed to be the first offering of fluorescent speckled beads.

Features Include:

  • Available in 11 colors
  • Available in 6 sizes
  • Fluorescent colors available
  • Comes in a 28 pack

MFC Tungsten Jig Beads

Features Include:

  • Available in 7 colors
  • Available in 4 sizes
  • MFC quality
  • Comes in a 20 pack

Angler Sport Group Anodized Slotted Tungsten Beads

Features Include:

  • Available in 8 colors
  • Available in 5 sizes
  • Fits most hook brands
  • Comes in a 12 pack

Angler Sport Group Slotted Tungsten Beads

  • Available in 16 colors
  • Available in 5 sizes
  • Fits most hook brands
  • Comes in a 12 pack

Firehole Outdoors Stones Slotted Tungsten Beads

Features Include:

  • Available in an astounding 23 colors
  • Available in 6 sizes
  • The 1.5mm slotted stones are available in 4 plated colors and unfinished (Birthday Suit)
  • Comes in a 28 pack

Hareline Mottled Tactical Slotted Tungsten Beads

Features Include:

  • Available in 9 colors
  • Available in 7 sizes
  • Mottled appearance for natural effect
  • Comes in a 20 pack

Flashy vs. Natural

If you’re interested in euro nymphing, chances are you’ve seen boxes full of bright flies with flashy hot spots, hot colored beads, UV this, Fluorescent that, and so on.

While it is true that certain colors and hot spots can get a fish’s attention, it’s ultimately how the fly is fished that will seal the deal (or not). Using a bright bead, hot tag, ice dub collar, or any kind of flash can be a great way to get fish to take a look at your rig. These types of attractors also make great searching patterns when you aren’t sure what the fish may be eating or where they may be holding. See example below:

On the other hand, if you have a good idea of what bugs are around, putting on a fly that gives a good impression of those naturals is a good way to up your chances at a regularly feeding fish. See an example of a more natural euro bug below:

Common Materials

A lot of popular euro patterns have certain characteristics; slim bodies that sink fast, sparse tailing materials (or no tail at all), a bit of flash and/or a hot spot, durability, and simplicity. Below are some common materials used for euro bugs that will prove invaluable in your tying kit:

Hareline Ice Dub

Features Include:

  • The perfect material for adding a hot-spot collar on any pattern (especially the UV colors)
  • Dubs easily
  • Extremely wide color variety
  • Quality material

Also available in an assortment of 12 packed in user-friendly dispenser: Hareline Ice Dub 12 Color Dubbing Dispenser Synthetic Fly Tying Material

Whiting Farms Coq De Leon Tailing Pack

Features Include:

  • Perfect tails for euro nymphs
  • Unique speckling and extremely durable fibers
  • Available in a wide variety of natural colors
  • Thin fibers allow flies to sink quickly

Veevus Holographic Tinsel

Features Include:

  • Available in multiple colors
  • Great for perdigons and flashy-bodied flies
  • Works well as a hot spot
  • Looks great covered in UV resin (see below)

Solarez Roadie Kit with Flashlight

Features Include:

  • All three of Solarez’s fly-tie UV resins
  • Perfect for thread frenchies, perdigons, or any resin-body fly
  • Adds durability and increases sink rate
  • This kit comes with a small but powerful flashlight

Hareline Synthetic Quill Body Wrap

Features Include:

  • Easy to add the effect of a quill to any fly (perfect for segmented bodies on simple nymphs and patterns like Devin Olsen’s Quilldigon)
  • Coat with UV for a great looking finish
  • Available in multiple colors

Additional Tips


Hook sizing on jig hooks can be fairly inconsistent. This, along with the frequent use of grossly oversized beads can make for some very disproportionate flies. It is not uncommon for a tyer to use a hook and bead larger than the actual size of pattern they are tying. Once again, there are no rules here, if something works for you, go for it. However, there are some general principles that can be helpful to follow:

  • Be conservative and deliberate with your thread wraps. When locking in materials, it truly only takes a couple of solid wraps to trap something in place. If you can be more intentional with the number wraps you use, you’ll be surprised at how much cleaner your flies look. Not only will the proportions of the fly be better, but the reduced bulk from the omission of useless wraps will make the fly thinner and thus sink faster.
  • A gradual taper towards the thorax will give your fly a natural profile and nice “buggy” look to it.
  • Always remember not to crowd the bead. You want to leave room for a nice ice dub collar, CDC soft hackle, or even a flashy wing case.


When it comes down to it, you can fish nearly any pattern with a euro rig. The best reason to fish patterns this way is to control where the flies are and how they are presented. With euro nymphing you are able to control speed and depth of your flies, all the way down to leading them under a concavity in a boulder where a large weary fish might be lurking. The best way to mess around with building yourself a euro nymph box is to experiment. Develop an “A-team” of confidence patterns that you feel good about. Ultimately, this box should have flashy and natural bugs, along with heavy and light versions of each. Make sure you’re always dynamic on the river and be sure to try different combinations with your two-nymph rig; Between the top fly and bottom fly you should vary which is attractor and which is imitation, which is heavy and which is light, which has a soft hackle with a lot of “bugginess” and which is thin and sparsely tied. Part of the fun is the experimentation that leads to your own unique rig. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously.

About the Author

Steve Beaulieu @stevenbeaulieu

Photographer & Angler in pursuit of wild things & places.

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