By John O’Bryan
During a particularly cold spell last winter, I spent close to a week doing nothing but watching videos and reading about Euro Nymphing. Okay, I did other things like eating and sleeping, but most of my free time was spent learning about this mysterious dark art. After that sleepless week I was sure I could fling a Euro Nymph to the far ends of the universe, but having never actually tried it, I wasn’t ready to drop a ton of money on something I didn’t really know how to use, or, if using it would catch me more fish.
Don’t get me wrong. I love spending money on fishing gear – Dream Crusher will be happy to recount all the ways in which I’ve spent our hard earned cash on things that go plunk in the river – but I also love a bargain and for some reason I just could not bring myself to spend that kind of money on a fly fishing set up that felt a little like gear fishing with a fly rod. I’m not opposed to gear fishing, and I will still pull plugs for steelhead on the Clearwater River every day of the week, but using a whippy stick and a dry fly is so much fun that I couldn’t see how Euro Nymphing could equal it. But, and it’s a big but, I really wanted to try it.
I started searching the dark recesses of the Interwebs to find an easy way to try this voodoo on the cheap and came across the Rio Euro Nymph Shorty. Aside from this sounding like the title of a bad B movie, it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The Shorty is a color-coded, Euro Nymphing leader that is attached to the end of a regular fly line via the welded loops.
I brought it to the river and found that it was super easy to use. Whenever I came across what looked like a good Euro Nymphing stretch of water I would remove my standard leader, attach the Shorty, Euro Nymph my face off and at the end of the run, or when I got tired of catching so many fish, I took the Shorty off, put my regular leader back on and was once again fishing dries. Simple.
Fishing with the Shorty gave me a good idea if Euro Nymphing was something I wanted to add to my fishing repertoire. I did find there were a few differences between this and an actual Euro Nymphing rig. A true Euro Nymphing rod runs between 10 and 11 feet and will cast differently than a standard 9-foot 5 weight with the Shorty attached. The casting is very different, period, and it did take several really bad casts to figure out what I was doing wrong, but after I did, I was able to make decent casts about 75 percent of the time.
Finding the bottom was also not as easy as I thought it was going to be. This may have had to do with the length of the rod, but once I figured out the technique, I was able to keep the fly close to the strike zone through at least some of the run.
I’ve bottom bounced for steelhead in Hells Cayon and Euro Nymphing has very much the same feel, only that I sensed rather than felt the bottom. Whenever there was a hesitation in the line, I set the hook and had a fish or sometimes the river bottom. It really was exciting when the tug turned out to be a fish and not the bottom, but if I caught too many bottoms – you know what I mean – I would switch to a lighter nymph and wouldn’t hang up as much.
This was no magic wandoo that I waved over the waters and fish suddenly jumped into my net. I still had to know which bugs the fish were eating, I still had to put the fly in the strike zone, and they still had to want it to eat it. When all those things converged at the same time, then I caught fish with a vengeance. If not, then I got nothing but a sore arm. Which brings me to my last point: Euro Nymphing will wear out your casting arm so either get swole before you hit the river or bring plenty of ibuprofen.
The Rio Shorty is something like 40 bucks and worked so well that I have started searching for just the right Euro Nymphing set up. However, PLEASE don’t tell Dream Crusher I’m even thinking about doing this or I’ll be sleeping in the garage again. I do love my fishing stuff, but it just doesn’t keep me all that warm when I snuggle up to it in the winter.
Bio: I am a husband, father, grandfather, photographer, and fisherman… in that order. I grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, and Fall River Mills, California which is arguably two of the fishiest places in the world. I currently live in Northern, Idaho where I chase steelhead on the Clearwater and the Snake and trout on St. Joe and Kelly Creek.