The Q&A series on Troutbitten is an effort to answer some of the most common questions I receive. Here’s the latest . . .
This question came through the comments section of the website. There was no name attached.
I’m a competitive angler living in Tennessee. But I’ve traveled for two years now, around the country and even overseas, matching my fishing skills against the best fishermen in the world.
All of them are euro nymphers, because it just works to catch the most fish.
So my question . . . What do you have against euro nymphing?
I’ve listened to a handful of your podcasts and seen a few videos where you talk about euro nymphing compared to your mono rig system. I don’t see the difference. And if there is a difference, I’m sure euro nymphing would win.
Let’s take a deep breath first. I hope not to bring controversy with my answer. But I’ll answer you honestly, because I’ve received similar questions over the years.
The framing of your question betrays a misunderstanding of my thoughts on euro nymphing. That’s understandable. Because after 1200+ articles, 100+ podcasts and 60+ videos, no one is expected to digest it all. I think it’s easy to miss some important tie-ins and not quite understand the nuances. So this is a good chance for me to clear things up. Thanks for your question.
I’ll be blunt, brief and honest in my reply. Hopefully, I can bring a few things into the light.
You probably realize the backlash out there against euro nymphing. You’ve probably seen the negativity around the term and the tactics. While it’s one of the most popular methods and topics in fly fishing, it’s also one of the most polarizing. You’ve surely encountered that negativity yourself, and maybe it’s part of the frustration apparent in your question.
So then, I’d like to acknowledge the objections of many anglers to euro nymphing in my response. I feel that I have a good read on the topic, because I’m right in the middle of it. I see this objectively, from all sides.
I’ll also link to many resources across Troutbitten where I’ve gone through much of this discussion in different ways.
Here we go . . .
A Daily Technique
I fish with euro nymphing tactics almost every day I’m on the water. Euro nymphing is . . . tight line nymphing with nothing attached to the leader but the flies themselves. No added split shot, no added suspender. That’s a fair definition.
There are great advantages to fishing this way, and I choose a euro nymphing method often. There are also major disadvantages to fishing this way, so I fish other nymphing methods just as often.
As soon as I add a yarn indy or a bobber, I’m not euro nymphing. And when I choose split shot or drop shot for the weight, that’s not euro nymphing either. Likewise, when I fish streamers on a tight line, it’s not “euro-streamer fishing,” because that makes no sense.
We do much more with these tight line rigs than just euro nymphing. And the limitation of the term and the euro nymphing system tends to hold anglers back. For decades I’ve called the tool I use a Mono Rig.
Why not call it a “euro rig?”
Because “euro rig” is a bad way to describe a general tight line system . . .
It’s a Flawed Name
The term euro nymphing caught on because the industry liked it. It was a good label for a bunch of new gear and another way to specialize a part of fly fishing. That’s both good and bad.
But, let’s be honest, anglers liked the name too. My friend, Trevor, once said this about euro nymphing on our podcast: “This is how you can be a nymph man and still be elite!”
“Euro nymphing” gave cover to all the high stick junkies and Mono Rig knuckle draggers out there. Suddenly, something they’d been doing for ages had a name that came with some respect. This wasn’t backwoods chuck and duck, this was . . . European.
But there was bound to be opposition to any tactic or term that harbored a hint of elitism.
Am I making too much of the name? Maybe. But the term is also confusing. Euro nymphing was coined to encompass the tactics of Czech, Polish, French and Spanish nymphing. Anglers finally realized that no one was out there doing just one of those things with a fly rod, so euro nymphing made a nice umbrella.
That’s all fine until you attach an indy to the same rig. What is it now?
And I can’t streamer fish with my euro nymphing rig, can I? Yes, it’s a deadly way to fish steamers, but should we call it euro-streamering then? That sounds silly, so the term “euro rig” caught on.
But what the hell is European about fishing with a long length of monofilament instead of fly line? Nothing at all.
That brings us to another resistance from anglers to the term euro nymphing. Fishermen across the world were fishing tight line rigs for a very long time before the term euro nymphing was first minted and printed. And people get defensive about assigning regionality to a technique.
“I did it first.”
“No, she did it.”
“Bullshit. It was my Spanish angler friends who did it first.”
Who cares? The truth is, most of us don’t care who did what first, and we realize there’s no way to accurately nail it down anyway.
The terms tight line or Mono Rig are preferred by many of us, for two reasons: They describe the rig without limitation, and they don’t credit a region within the term. Essentially, they remain neutral and wide open to whatever adaptations an angler might dream up next.
“Euro rig” is just a bad way to describe a tight line system.
The Comp Thing
This one is gonna hurt a bit . . .
Euro nymphing is inexorably linked with competition fishing. That’s how it was introduced to fly fishers at large. The most visible educators of euro nymphing, selected by editors and publishers in our industry, are (almost) all competition anglers.
Add in the recurring assertion that competition anglers are the best fishermen in the world, and you’re sure to encounter resistance from many corners of the fly fishing public. Objectively, that resistance should be expected.
As a guest on a recent podcast, George Daniel reminded the host that comp anglers who medal are the best competition anglers in the world. He simply pointed out the difference in the skillsets. These are the best anglers in the world . . . who choose to compete. The selection process for the national team has been notoriously unfair over the years, favoring those who’ve previously competed and been part of the team. Also, these are the anglers who have the funds, the time, the resources and the desire to enter competitions in the first place.
Hopefully, my comments here will not be misconstrued. I mean what I wrote above. I also believe that most if not all who regularly make it to the top of a leader board in fly fishing competitions are excellent anglers. They are experts in a field. Are they the best anglers in the world? Probably not. But to George’s point, they are the best competitive anglers in the world.
Sadly, the link between competition angling and euro nymphing trickles over to all types of tight line fishing and even nymphing in general. I do not compete, and I’ve previously stated that I don’t think competition is good for our sport. But I run into opposition and even antagonism against some of the nymphing tactics I write and talk about, because some readers put all of this into the competition basket.
That’s alright. You and I must both acknowledge and expect the negativity we will receive (for different but also similar reasons).
It’s Not Fly Fishing
Euro nymphing most definitely is fly fishing, but you’ll never convince a certain population of anglers who resist that notion.
Inevitably, this sentiment comes from those who misunderstand the techniques. There is a pure elegance in euro nymphing that matches a fly line pushing a Royal Wulff to the target. Contact and control, in the hands of someone who can make the most of it is a downright fun way to fish. These rigs paired with good technique give a skilled angler awareness about where the nymph is and authority over where it goes next.
Many anglers who say “that’s not fly fishing” have never seen what the system can do. They think it’s nothing more than lobbing and slinging weights around. But as I say so often, the standout advantages of these rigs happen when we learn to cast them like a fly line.
I’ll add in my personal objection to the move, across the euro nymphing world, to micro rigs. I’m baffled by the swift change, seemingly en masse and all at once, by almost every educator and proponent of tight line or euro nymphing. I use micro mono rigs, and I like them — sometimes. I’ve used these leaders for many years. But they are not the answer to everything. They are simply another tool that I’m glad has gained acceptance. But starting a new angler on a micro rig is a mistake. Technique and casting suffers, as new anglers never learn a fundamental concept of fly fishing — using a line or leader to push things to a target instead of relying on weight to pull the leader to the target. Lacking that knowledge and skill hurts all anglers, sooner or later.
More Than You
I have one more point about euro nymphing or tight line tactics and the Mono Rig in general.
Some people don’t like when you catch more fish than they do. Tight line and euro nymphing is supremely effective. A good angler uses these tools to eliminate drag and present nymphs precisely how a trout wants to see them. So numbers of trout find the net, and jealousy follows.
Euro nymphing gets blamed for anglers raping the river and damaging trout populations. I believe none of this is founded or fair. It’s up to each angler, regardless of the tactic employed, to learn fish handling skills and use them. Catch and release trout safely. That’s the best message. Instead of blaming a method, be happy for anglers when they catch trout, and help educate others about catch-and-release.
It Is What It Is
I hope my answers here effectively outline what I believe.
I don’t have anything against euro nymphing as a tactic. I use it often, but won’t be limited to it.
I don’t like the term euro nymphing because of the connotations and the limitations associated with it.
That said, I don’t think we can change it. Just like the rest of language, we are stuck within a framework for communicating that precedes us. We can only do our best to define and work through this system accurately.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
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