Euro Nymphing Reels: What Really Matters?
Posted on 25 November 2019
Trout reels. Strike up any conversation about reels and you are bound to hear the old adage that all they need to do is hold your line. For a long time, I pretty much held that conviction. To be honest, for the vast majority of situations, I still agree with the concept. As long as the reel is durable and functions every time you use it, does it really matter which reel you have? The basic answer here is that most of the time it doesn’t. The reason a lot of people have such a dismissive view of reels when it comes to trout is because normally, stripping in your fish by hand is all you need to land even very large fish. Even if you do put a fish on the reel, trout don’t require an insane amount of pressure to keep them at bay. Palming a click reel or tightening your drag knob on a disc drag reel will do the trick. At the end of the day, fish fighting technique is more important to landing fish.
Despite this, I’ve begun to see some of the pros to having certain features in a reel that can make it a nicer piece of gear for any situation. Things like the weight of a reel can make a difference, whether its cast or machined, and whether it has a click pawl or disc drag all matter a bit even for trout. More carefully crafted reels pay attention to detail. They have smaller gaps in their grooves which can catch line if they’re too wide. Also, well made reels with disc drags have the ability to adjust more finely, meaning, when you turn the knob you can get a wide range of pressure that can be useful for anything from playing fish to walking through dense brush. Additionally, many reels are simply works of art that many appreciate.
Alex showing off his purple Hatch!
As we turn back to the focus of this article, Euro nymphing reels have a few nuances to consider that will help your overall success and enjoyment on the water. All of the old trout reel philosophies mentioned above still apply, but with some caveats. Here are the two most important things you need to consider if you truly want to optimize your Euro nymphing set-up:
Overall Weight of the Reel: Because of the added length of Euro nymphing rods, there is a lot of additional weight that is in turn associated. The technique will often require you to hold your arm out away from your body. With a long rod being tip heavy, that can cause fatigue. Putting a reel on that’s heavy enough to balance the rod can lessen this problem a bit, though it will never entirely eliminate it. I’ve never been a huge proponent of balance in rod reel combos in casting. For me, close enough has always been good enough. If my setup was a little unbalanced, I didn't worry about it. I’ve seen fantastic casters use automatic reels that were far “too heavy” and plenty of struggling casters use perfectly balanced setups. To me it's just about preference most of the time. Although, when it comes to Euro nymphing or any other technique where fatigue can become a factor, balance does matter. For your average Euro nymphing rod in a 10 ft 3 weight, a 5-6 weight reel that isn’t too light will be what you need.
Drag: It is debatable as to where and when a strong, smooth drag system matters for trout. For Euro nymphing, I absolutely recommend a reel with a reliable smooth disc drag. The reason isn’t so much that a disc drag is necessary for a trout. It has to do with the long leaders that are used. A normal fly line is easy to handle and control when fighting fish. You can strip it in and pinch it with relatively no problems because it has a thickness and texture that is easy to handle. When using a 20 ft plus euro leader, you are handling thin monofilament which is not so easy to work with. Especially when using very light leaders, such as a level piece of 8lb Maxima, it will be a nuisance to strip in a large fish, especially in strong current. I will put most of my better fish on the reel when Euro nymphing, stripping only here and there or when making an attempt to land the fish. Because of this, having a good adjustable disc drag is an advantage. I really try and have people shy away from click pawl reels if you are serious about using long leader and tight line techniques.
Here are two tips on how to set up a reel for Euro Nymphing
- Consider your backing: The amount of backing you put on a reel can assist you in getting a decent balance by adding or removing backing as needed. If you are going to dual purpose your reel, fill it to factory suggestions so you can put on a normal fly line if you need to. If you are going to commit a reel to Euro nymphing alone, my suggestion would be to fill the reel with as much backing as you can. This will help in two areas. For one, it will help you to retrieve line with fewer revolutions of the spool. Second, it will help to keep your light long leader straight. Monofilament has a memory, so the fewer turns it has in it when spooled, the less coiled it will be when you pull it out to fish. Because Euro nymphing fly lines are so thin, a lot of extra backing is needed to achieve this. If you want the reel spooled to capacity, expect to greatly exceed the factory backing suggestion by close to double depending on the reel and backing size.
- Consider your drag: Your reel’s drag is extremely simple to adjust throughout a day, so experimentation here is easy. Here are a few things to keep in the back of your mind as you mess with how much pressure to put on your drag. When walking through thick brush to get to the water, I like to tighten my drag down tighter than I would while fishing. I don’t want a stick to catch my line, pulling line off the reel easily. This creates countless opportunities for tangles and the thicker the brush you are walking through, the worse those tangles become. When fishing, your drag is used to keep a fish from running too fast without having any resistance. Going too tight here is worthless because you will break off big fish. At a minimum, your drag should be set loose enough so that when you apply maximum pressure to a fish, line comes off the reel before the tippet breaks. It takes some experience to dial this in, and I would say that the tighter you go, the more skill you need to manage a larger fish. Also, going too loose is equally problematic, as we’ve all seen the terrible mess that happens when a reel unspools too quickly.
Once a fish hits this size or larger, your drag setting can really make a difference in landing fish in hard current.
Featured TCO Reels:
TCO has a thorough selection of reels so instead of getting into each one, I’ll highlight a few from each line that we carry.
Lamson: Lamson has recently upgraded their lineup by keeping the old favorites, but giving them a new look. Pretty much every Lamson reel in the lineup would be a great Euro nymphing reel for the right person. Among the lower price points, the Liquid and Remix are by far my favorite reels for somebody who doesn’t want to pay a premium price for a reel. The new look Guru is a great reel that is fully machined and made in the USA with some cool new color options. The Lightspeed is my favorite reel if you don’t mind spending a bit more.
The Remix, Guru and Litespeed are exceptional reels at a variety of price points!
Ross: Ross has a number of solid reels. I have been fishing the Animas series for a couple years and it has not failed me yet. The Evolution LTX and Gunnison reels are both great at a higher price point. I would use the Evolution LTX to balance a lighter rod, while the Gunnison is a great sturdy reel to balance longer and heavier rods. Both have almost identical internal components, but vastly different aesthetic styles.
The Ross Animas, Evolution LTX and Gunnison are all great reels. For longer heavier rods, check out the Gunnison if you're looking for a premium reel.
Orvis: Orvis has a solid reel option to match each of their rod series. The clearwater reel is the way to go if you have not bought a rod yet and want to go with the clearwater rod, as it is a great deal as an outfit. The Hydros is their mid price reel that performs as well as many that are more expensive. The Mirage LT is new this year and we have heard nothing but good feedback about it.
The Mirage LT and the Hydros are both reels that perform great and pair up nicely with the Recon and Helios 3 nymphing rods.
Hatch: The 4 or 5 plus Hatch Finatic reels are some of the best on the market. These sizes will match up well with a euro setup. They come in at a higher price point and probably offer more than you need in terms of performance, but if you are willing to step up to a higher priced reel, you cannot go wrong here. These reels are the favorites of many our TCO staff. If you buy a Hatch, don’t expect to need a new real for years to come as they are durable, reliable and hold up extremely well to the elements.
For lighter rods, use the 4 plus. For heavier rods, go with the 5 plus. Also, check out all of Hatch's unique and limited color options to add some style!
Thanks for reading! Come to one of our TCO stores to check these reels out in person!
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