Fly Lines for Euro Nymphing
Posted on 17 December 2019
A fly line is probably one of the most, if not the most, important component of a traditional fly fishing setup. Many anglers would agree that more money spent on a line is a better use of your resources than almost any other piece of tackle. In some cases, having multiple fly lines for different applications is well worth it. For Euro nymphing, this concept changes a bit. The effectiveness of a Euro nymphing setup relies on using a very long leader that inhibits as much drag in your drift as possible. As I mentioned in a previous post, a traditional fly line is for the post part detrimental to a Euro nymphing setup. The added mass in standard taper fly lines can cause a variety of issues when trying to achieve good drifts. Because of the problems with fly lines in most nymphing applications, some people even opt to fish an entirely monofilament rig with no fly line at all. So why are there Euro nymphing specific fly lines produced if fly lines cause problems? Essentially, fly lines in Euro nymphing exist to keep you legal in competitions and to adhere to fly only regulated waters. In order to comply with these rules while still gaining the advantages of a Euro nymphing setup, most Euro specific fly lines are as thin and light as you can get away with.
So what can you expect out of a line specifically designed for Euro nymphing?
These fly lines have a few key properties that set them apart from traditional lines. I’ll highlight a few of the major aspects and considerations below, though you will see some small differences from brand to brand.
Tapers: In Euro nymphing lines, you will see either a completely level line with no taper at all, or a very gradual double taper that still stays very thin. Because of this, you can get at least 2 or more “separate” fly lines from just one line. With the double tapers, you can get two lines out of one by flipping it around when one end wears out. With true level lines, you can continuously cut worn out sections back until the line is too short to use. Level tapers can be helpful in executing casts where you need to control your fly’s angle of entry into the water, such as a tuck cast. The Orvis Tactical Nymph Line and the Rio Euro Nymph Line have a very slight double taper which can help in presenting dries in a pinch. The SA Mastery Competition Nymph has a level .022 line with a mono core making it extremely light and thin. I’ve extensively used the RIO and SA products below and find them to both be good options.
The Rio Fips Euro Nymph Line and the SA Competition nymph lines are among the most popular lines for Euro nymphing.
Why Diameter and Weight matter: The thinner and lighter your fly line is, the more it can behave as an extension of your leader. The diameters of traditional weight forward lines are much thicker, and thus, heavier than euro specific lines. If you tried to fish with an 18 ft leader and traditional fly line at anywhere from 10-20ft away (common distances), your line would literally pull your nymphs back to you causing a very unnatural drift. If you need or want to fish with a traditional line, I’ll mention ways to get around that later. For general purposes in Euro nymphing, the thinner and lighter the better. This will allow you to fish lighter flies farther away. This is why you will see people fishing 3-4 weight Euro nymphing rods with lines that match the diameters of 0-2 weight traditional fly lines. Also, materials account for weight. Some lines utilize a monofilament core instead of a traditional braided core. Both are common, with the mono core requiring different knots to attach to leaders if you prefer to bypass the loop connection.
Below is the taper profile of the RIO Euro Nymph Line. Notice the slight taper that maintains a very thin diameter throughout. I have fished this line a lot over the years and I think it's a great option.
Here is the SA Competition Nymph Line. It has no taper and is as thin as possible for the entire length. This is the line I currently fish. It has no welded loops and has a mono core so be ready to use a needle nail knot.
Below is the taper profile for Rio Gold. This is a typical weight forward fly line with a lot of mass built into the head. Lines like this are great for standard fly fishing, but will inhibit your ability to execute Euro nymphing techniques.
Loops vs Knot Connections: Some lines will come with a welded loop or a braided loop attachment. This makes adding a looped leader easy, but has some downfalls if you are purely committing to a euro rig. I suggest cutting off any loop and using a nail knot or needle nail knot. A super glue splice with braided core lines, or a blood knot for mono core lines can also work very well. Because your fly line will be constantly be moving through the guides, the fewer the knots, the better, in my opinion. Less knots will hang up less and result in less lost fish and smother casts. If you want to have more versatility in your system, leave the fly line loop or add a mono loop at the end of a short butt section. This is best for those who want to switch quickly to a traditional dry fly leader without changing spools, reels or rods.
The Mono Rig: Using only monofilament is certainly an option when regulations allow for it. The mono rig has a lot of versatility in presentation that fly lines don’t provide. The system is similar to euro nymphing but has some nuanced differences. This is not something I use, but check out Dominic Swentosky’s blog Troutbitten to learn more.
Keeping Your Traditional Weight Forward Lines:
If the idea of buying an entirely new fly line just to try Euro nymphing doesn't sound appealing to you, don't worry. Below are some work arounds that can allow you to effectively fish these techniques while keeping the fly line you already have.
- The first simple work around is to build a super long leader. You could do something like 10 ft of 20 lb Maxima,10 ft of 15 Lb maxima and 10 ft of 10 or 12 lb Maxima and then add your standard sighter and tippet. This will keep your fly line in your reel and negate its mass. It is essentially a modified mono rig with a traditional fly line hiding within the reel.
Notice that all of my fly line is in the reel while fighting this fish. In close range fishing, this is often the case when Euro Nymphing with long leaders.
- Another option is to use a much shorter leader and make sure your fly line is always at least a foot out of your rod. This is a much less effective technique, but can work when fishing fast water or at close range (just below rod tip). This is a variation of traditional high stick nymphing and is not as versatile as true Euro nymphing.
- Rio and SA have also just released a Euro nymphing fly line extensions which are going to be a game changer for some. The Euro Nymph Shorty by Rio is a 20 ft Euro nymphing fly line extension that can be loop to loop connected to a traditional fly line. SA has also released the similar Euro Nymph Kit which includes a leader and rigging foam in addition to a 20 ft Euro nymphing fly line tip. These are perfect little tools to quickly change setups if you want to switch back and forth between traditional casting and Euro nymphing.
A quick casting experiment:
Though this is a slight digression, I had some fun experimenting in casting regular fly lines on Euro nymphing rods. This is obviously not what these rods were designed to do, but it's good to know what your gear is capable of. I personally wouldn't pass too much judgement on any of these rods for their ability to cast a WF line or not, but I'm sure many would be curious to see the results. I casted four 10 ft 3 wt nymphing rods (ESN, Pulse, Recon, Clearwater) next to each other with an SA Amplitude Trout line in a weight forward 3 wt and here is what I found:
- The slowest action Euro nymphing rods (ESN and Pulse) were the least user friendly when casting a fly line. Especially at closer distances, there was so much front and back wobble in the rod tip during the forward and back casts that it would kick the line around, making it difficult to control a loop. The ESN started to behave well at over 40 ft and could actually rocket a line farther than I thought. Although, being limited at the shorter distances was definitely a problem because that is where you will catch the most trout.
- The rods that were relatively faster (Recon and Clearwater) casted far better at a variety of ranges. The Clearwater fizzled out at longer distances but was serviceable otherwise. The Recon struck a great balance between control, accuracy and distance. It was by far the best of the four at casting a standard fly line. Though this is a cool versatile aspect of the Recon, it still isn’t as crisp of a caster as most other traditional fly rods. I would consider rods like this if versatility is important to you.
- Food for thought: If you already own a Euronymphing rod, experiment with a variety of fly lines. You may find that over or under lining a rod will make it perform better at a particular distance that you need. Each Euro nymphing rod has a unique flex profile and action so I can’t tell you exactly what to do other than keep the trial and error process rolling until you find something that works for you.
In looking at the big picture, a purposed Euro nymphing fly line does little actual work compared to a traditional setup and is simply an extension of your leader. Going as thin and light as you can will be far better for pure nymphing performance. For hybrid techniques and for those who don’t want to carry 2 rods while still being versatile, consider experimenting with fly lines and leader combinations until you get a set up that works well in the casting range that makes sense for your water. The SA and Rio Euro nymphing extensions with a rigging foam can make switiching techniques quick and easy without breaking the bank.
Thanks for reading!
TCO Boiling Springs