What Is Czech Nymphing
A Czech Nymph refers to two things, firstly it refers to the type of fly – A heavy fly, normally imitating caddis larvae or shrimp, tied on a curved hook (usually 8’s, 10’s or 12’s). And secondly, the term refers to the method of fishing. Czech nymphing utilises a very different technique from most other forms of fly fishing with a different casting technique and also a very different mindset.
Czech nymphing is ALL about getting flies down deep to the stream bed feeding zone. It allows the angler to fly fish sections of the river where other methods will not get deep enough. Czech nymphing is very effective and catches lots of fish!
A Brief History
Czech nymphing started amongst a small and secretive group of Eastern European anglers using short lines and heavy nymphs to great success. The method came to worldwide attention through a series of world championship wins from the Czech river fly fishing team. Any method which catches lots of fish is sure to prick up the ears of fly anglers, the technique soon spread rapidly, the flies evolved to from straight heavy nymphs to the slim curved patterns we know today.
When And Where
At the end of the day, this is down to the individual angler. That said, Czech nymphing really requires a good moving current so the flies run down the steam effectively. For me, I generally use the Czech nymph when the water is either too deep or quick (or both) for traditional upstream nymphing to work. In other words, fishing a traditional upstream nymph will no get my flies down to the feeding zone near the bottom. Fast runs, deep glides, riffles, on the seams of current and back eddies and over holes and pits in the river bed are all classic location where Czech nymphing is successful.
Tackle & Equipment
If you are just planning to have a dabble, your standard river fly fishing set up of a 9 foot #4 or #5 rod and line will be ok. If you are going to do a lot of Czech nymphing then a specialist setup is a must and will make the hookup of and playing of fish at close range much easier. Specialist setups tend to be a medium/softish action #3 weight in a 10 or 11 foot length. The advantage of these rods is the extra reach they allow which helps control the fly and also the action which helps set the hook and plays the fish better at close range.
Nothing fancy required here, just parallel leader or tippet materials straight of the spool (not a tapered leader). Leader length is best being around a rods length and you will need to judge your breaking strain according to the size of fish, current strength and snags. I tend to use 5x for Czech nymphing.
Czech Nymphing Essentials
Here are a few essential Czech nymphs I wouldn’t be without!
Casting & Technique
On the face of it, Czech nymphing looks very simple, but like all fly fishing methods, a degree of finesse and skill is required to do it well. Use a short fly line of around 2-3 feet. Keep most of the fly line off the water, allowing on the last inch or two to float on the surface.
The cast is a lob, using the weight of the flies and not loading the road in the sense that a normal fly cast does. Cast up and across at an angle of around 45 degrees, normally the flies will travel downstream just outside of the rod tip, your flies should travel in a downstream direction and shouldn’t swing. Keep the rod tip in front of your line and flies as if you are almost leading the flies down the river with the tip of your rod, the fly line should be tightish but should not be lifting the flies. As the flies travel down beneath your position they will start to swing a little, you can let them swing and lift a little if you wish or just lift them and recast. You will need to lift your flies out of the water before recasting or the weight of the flies underwater will make casting very difficult.
Check out the video below to see me using a team of 3 Czech Nymphs and you will get a better idea of the method
When To Strike
There are a couple of schools of thought here, some people like to keep a tight line and feel the take, others (me included) will watch some sort of indicator and strike at the first sign of a stop in the fly line. I really believe in the second method of watching for a stop. The reason is that some fish (grayling particular) can be so quick ad taking and spitting the fly, you never get to feel the take. Watch your indicator, strike at every stop, slow down or unnatural movement. Never assume it’s just a rock, always treat every stop as a fish and strike.
There are loads of indicators out there from yarn through to coloured mono or stick-on foam. My preference is to keep it slimline and simple by using a hi-viz braided loop connector and just greasing it up with some Mucilin grease. Use an indicator you are comfortable with and more importantly that you enjoy using!
Fly Choice & Placement
Fishing a team of three
Most people place their heaviest fly on the middle dropper, this is so it pulls the other two flies down towards the bottom to get maximum depth. Keep your droppers short (no more than 6 inches) and they should be spaced around 20 inches apart.
The sacrificial jig
Another method is to fish a very heavy point fly tied on a jig hook – this allows the fly to almost bounce down the river bed, acting more as weight than a fly (which is why it’s sometimes referred to as sacrificial). Around 10 inches above this fly you will have a more standard Czech nymph pattern which will tumble down just off the bottom, you could also tie another dropper above that so you are fishing with 3 flies. This method almost guarantees a deep presentation but can be a little clunky to cast.
There’s nothing wrong with fishing just a single Czech nymph, in most situations you will need something very heavy in order to get the fly deep enough, I have also had great success fishing with a standard Czech nymph with a couple of number 4 split shot around six inches above the fly.