Czech Nymphing on the Kennebec River

In the shop we have a library of over 100 rental video tapes that cover a variety of fly fishing topics. The latest tapes are a series done by Oliver Edwards and each is a great tape. One I especially like is about the original Pheasant Tail nymph. Oliver Edwards ties the nymph just as Frank Sawyer did and uses only two materials: pheasant tail and copper wire, no thread. While it peaked my interest that tape wasn’t the most enlightening one no, the one on Czech Nymphing was the one that was enlightening. I’ve heard the term often and knew it was short line nymphing but didn’t know what was supposed to be so special about it.
Here are some the highlights of Chez Nymphing that I got from the tape and a couple of other sources.
Czech Nymphing came to fame as a result of competitive angling. The first great success of the short line nymph technique was recorded at the World Championships in Belgium in 1986, where it brought a gold medal and the World Champion trophy for Slavoj Svoboda.
Since then it has caught on slowly and has been something of a low level buzz phrase. Low level because it was kept a secret by the competitors using the technique. Certainly people saw the method and general techniques used during the competitions but as always the devil is in the details. So first, here are the easy to observe things you need to know about Czech Nymphing and then some of those devilish details.
Rod length, 9 to 10 feet in length. Amount of fly line used, next to none – maybe three feet beyond the tip top. Length of cast, whatever your leader length is plus three feet of fly line. Type of flies used, subsurface, nymphs of some sort. The water type Czech Nymphing is used on, mostly fast, broken surface water, not to deep. No strike indicators.
Most of these points I was aware of and are things you would pick-up just watching someone Czech Nymphing. Those little details that go beyond the obvious are what make the method so deadly and here are a couple of those.
One is the construction of the leader, it isn’t tapered. It seems Czech Nymphing shares one common goal with many other nymphing techniques and that is to get your flies down on the bottom. The wider the butt section of a leader the slower it sinks. So since you aren’t casting a fly great distance and relying on the leader to roll out and present your fly a level leader, with its’ sinking qualities, is just fine. The smaller the better – you just have to balance the need for strength during hook-ups, to fish or bottom, against the sink rate.
Another little detail is the fly type itself. The fly used during the 1986 competition was a Hare’s Ear. Hare’s Ear flies and other very effective flies have been replaced by a new breed of fly that is more streamline and sinks faster, using less weight. The faster sink rate is achieved by using smooth shellbacks and softer materials than spiky Hare’s Ear guard hairs. And, if one fast sinking fly is good, three are better. Three seems to have become the standard and only in especially difficult conditions do you see competition anglers using fewer than three flies.
Weight is another issue, generally they want the most weight possible while maintaining a narrow profile. Most Czech Nymphing patterns are weighted with lead foil or similar, slim but, heavy materials. And when you select your three flies the heaviest one goes in the middle. If the heavy one goes on the end, or point, the other two are apt to ride to high. By putting the heavy one in the middle the other two are held closer to the bottom.
So there you have it. The general easy to observe points and those “devil in the details” items the competition people were so hesitant to share. Now all you need to do is try it the next time you get a chance to go fishing.
Here’s an outline of the routine. Get out the longest rod you have. Don’t worry much about the line weight as you won’t be casting in the traditional manner. Use the softest rod you have as close in strikes and fast runs demand a forgiving rod. Tip Flex rod break tippets more often than softer rods – it’s just a fact of life.
Rig your reel, thread your line through the guides and pull out 3 feet of line beyond the tip top. Set the rod, reel and line aside. Pick your three flies. Tie about 20 inches of tippet onto the eye of one fly, tie the other end of that tippet to the bend of the heaviest of the three flies. Tie 20 inches of tippet to the eye of the heaviest fly and tie the other end of that tippet to the bend of the third fly. What you’ll end up with is three flies spaced at 20 inches with an overall leader section length of about 40 inches or just over three feet. Now you’ve got hook those flies to the fly line.
You will use the same diameter tippet or leader material to hook the flies to the fly line that you used to tie the three flies together. You just have to determine the length to use and that depends on the fly rod you selected. The perfect leader length is just slightly shorter than the rod. So if you selected a 9 foot rod and you’ve got three feet of tippet material connecting you flies you only need a 6 foot length to finish your leader.
Tie one end of a six foot section of tippet material to the eye of the third fly and the other end to the fly line and you are in business. A braided loop connection with the a brightly colored sleeve is a good way to connect the leader and line because even though you don’t use a formal strike indicator some bright spot on you line makes detecting a take easier. And with that you are all set – fish on. Fish slow and easy as you will be fishing close. Even in broken water fast clumsy movement will spook fish.