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A primer on Czech Nymphing

Based on observing a demonstration by Oliver Edwards

By Terry Lawton

The Czech style of nymphing is a high speed, close range and deadly technique for catching fish in the right type of water. Like many fishing techniques, the origins of the Czech technique are uncertain but it is thought to have been used first in the 1970s. It may even have been introduced from neighbouring Poland. Because it is such a fast and effective technique, it has been put to good use by competition anglers.

To use the technique successfully you want a fast, turbulent water: typically fast flowing rivers and streams rushing down a mountain side or off moorland. Everything is done to get the flies (three on a cast) down deep as quickly as possible. This is why Czech nymphs tend to have very smooth profiles with very little hackle which might delay the sink speed, as well as being heavily leaded. There is no casting - as we know it normally - involved as only about three feet of line is extended beyond the top rod ring. Only the leader is in the water.

Making the leader

Because no traditional casting is involved, there is no need for a tapered leader. The leader is made out of a length of mono of a suitable breaking strain, based on size of fish likely to be caught and the character of the river bottom. You must use mono that is strong enough not to break when you hook the bottom or a rock. To make-up a leader, start at the bottom end. You will need a leader with two droppers that are 20 inches apart. Take your first length of mono and attach another length to it using a Surgeon's knot. The dropper must be on the parent leg and pointing downwards. When you have completed the knot, trim the dropper to about four inches. Now tie on another length of mono so that the next dropper is 20 inches from the first one and trim the dropper to four inches. The next length of mono to be tied on is the last one and this connects the leader to the end of the fly line, using a coloured braided loop or a Roman Moser Minicon. When making up your first leader it will pay to make this last section over long. The overall length of the leader should be a little less than the length of your rod. The idea is that when you catch a fish, after you have played it, you can raise your rod and take hold of the fish easily without having to alter the length of line beyond the top of the rod. You can adjust the length of the leader by shortening the top length of the leader.

The heaviest nymph goes in the middle with a lighter fly on both the point and the top dropper. This helps get the flies down and ensures that they swim correctly. When you start fishing, do make sure that every time you hook the bottom that you check your flies: check that the hook still has a point as well as clearing away any weed. If you find that you are catching the bottom too frequently, change your flies - certainly the heaviest - to lighter ones. As you will have been handling the leader a lot while making it up, you must degrease it well before starting fishing so that it will sink quickly. When fishing you will watch the end of the line like a hawk, so make it bright and highly visible, hence the use of a coloured braided loop.

Fishing technique

Having made-up your leader and extended three foot of line, the first thing to do is to fish your way into the water. Don't just get in and start wading: this is guaranteed to frighten away fish near the bank. Fish all the water that you can reach from the bank. It is vital to keep the three flies separated when casting. The cast is more of a lob than a cast. At the end of the cast lift the leader and flies out of the water quickly and simply describe an upstream arc with the end of your rod. The minute your flies land in the water, you must watch the end of a line for the slightest movement, hesitation, dip or check that indicates a take. Raise the rod at the slightest of indications of a fish. If there is nothing there, simply lob the flies back into the water again. Make sure that you always lead the flies downstream with the rod tip.

Because you can cast and fish a stretch of water so quickly, you can search every likely lie. Move slowly and carefully because as you are using such a short line, you will be catching fish very close to you. If your first choice of flies is catching fish, there is no need to change them. But if you are not catching fish, try a change of flies. If you are going to fish a shallower stretch of water, it makes sense to change to lighter flies which won't sink so deep and will be less likely to catch the bottom.

The Czech technique is very different from the traditional English style of upstream nymphing which was developed and refined on slower and smoother flowing rivers and streams. But used in the right places, the Czech technique is fast and deadly.

Terry Lawton is a passionate nymph fisherman who caught a wild 4lb 2oz brown trout (his biggest to date) on a home-tied variant of a goldhead, Sawyer-style pheasant tail nymph. You can contact him direct at: