Taupo Euro Nymphing | A How To Euro Nymph with Ollie Bassett
Euro nymphing is fast becoming one of the most popular techniques for fly fishing in New Zealand & Australia
New Zealand Fly Fishing team member and recently crowned National River Champion, Ollie Basset, is a guru on the subject. Ollie not only knows Euro nymphing, he wins with it. Therefore, if you want your fish count to head to double digits, have a read of what he has to teach you about fly fishing.
Euro nymphing is an incredibly effective and fun way to fish for trout, especially those that are feeding or holding near the bottom. Euro nymphing is a bit of an all encompassing term that encompasses all of the different countries' styles - Czech, Spanish, French, Polish etc. If you look at all the top competitors from each country they will be using a similar sort of setup, and while they all have their own styles (the Spanish for example typically fish a bit longer and the Czechs on the other hand a bit closer) based on what works best in their countries they are all effectively doing the same thing. It's no different down under. We all have our own styles and ways of Euro nymphing - there's no black and white rules involved but there are certainly some common themes in the set up and style of fishing.
The Taupo tributaries are a pretty unique fishery with the size and number of big fish that run the rivers from the lake in winter (and summer) and are a deservedly famous destination for anglers to visit. The fashionable style of catching fish in them has changed a lot over the years. To begin with wetlining (swinging lures down and across on heavy sinking lines) was the most popular method. Next came indicator nymphing which is still one of the most popular methods today. Recently, fishing with two handed (Spey) setups and Euro nymphing have become very popular. In this article I’ll run through how the setup and technique for Euro nymphing works.
What makes Euro nymphing so effective?
Imagine you are fishing down the braids on the Tongariro or TT and there's a pod of fresh rainbows sitting in a slower pocket feeding hard near the bottom. You're probably thinking no problem, I can catch them with my indicator setup. But now imagine there's a ripping current between you and where the fish are. Sure, you can mend and hold the line high, but it's going to be really tricky to get any sort of dead drift without everything getting pulled away downstream. These are the sort of situations in which Euro nymphing comes into its own as you aren't tethered to the surface currents and can get a really nice dead drift even in the most difficult places (where people don’t usually fish).
Another benefit is immediate strike detection. Instead of having 10 foot or so of tippet between your flies and the indicator, you can watch the leader close to the flies or feel the fish take the fly. You miss a lot less takes and convert a lot more bites Euro nymphing as you are in much better contact with your flies. You can also animate your nymphs, swing them or slow them down to give different presentations so the fish get to see something new. Having better drifts, increased contact and improved control of your nymphs is the difference between catching a few fish and catching a lot. The one situation where I prefer a traditional indicator nymphing rig is in the middle of the really wide deep pools which favour a presentation that allows you to cover a greater distance. Carrying two setups to cover both situations is a really good idea if you want to fish these sorts of water types.
How to set up your Euro Nymph rig
Long, light and sensitive rods are typically used. These range from 10 to 11 feet long and 2 to 4 wts. The length and power of the rod is decided by the size of the river, power of the fish, how heavy the tippet is and personal preference. The balance of the setup is really important. If you're going to fish with a heavy line for big fish in fast current it doesn't make much sense to fish with a super delicate rod, whereas if you're fishing for small fish with fine lines and small flies using a more powerful rod doesn’t work well either.
For winter fishing in Taupo I’d recommend a more powerful rod (3 or 4 wt) between 10 to 11 ft long. For fishing the smaller tributaries like the Hinemaiaia a 10 foot rod is more suitable as you can fish in overgrown areas and you don’t have to cast as far. On the other hand for the bigger rivers such as the Tongariro a longer 10’6 or 11 foot rod is a better choice as you can make longer casts and drifts and won’t have overhanging trees to contend with. Primal make a range of Euro rods, designed specifically for purpose.
You can use most fly reels, but keep in mind that with longer rods a reel that is too light won’t balance out the setup very well and can make it tip heavy. The other thing to look for is a full cage design so that the thin euro nymphing lines and leaders don’t get caught up in the frame. Look for a specific Euro reel like the FlyLab Focus to ensure the above boxes get ticked.
While you can attach a Euro nymphing leader directly to the end of your regular floating line, it's much better to use a specific Euro nymphing line of level 0.55mm diameter. The reason for this is that it makes casting easier and reduces sag. Sag occurs when you hold the rod high - if you have a thick line such as a 6 wt floater it will fall back through the guides more and pull your leader. This is a pain and creates unnecessary drag. To attach the leader to the Euro line it's best to create a smooth connection so that it slides easily through the guides. These lines have factory loops on the end but they are pretty big and clunky and it's a good idea to create your own.
My favourite way to do this is to double the line over against a fly hook in my vice and bind and glue it together to create a tiny micro loop. This still slides very well, but you can also change leaders quickly. It's super strong and reliable and in my opinion creates a better all around connection than some of the other methods people use.
If you ask twenty different competitors what their Euro leader is you’ll probably get about twenty different answers. It comes down to personal preference but I’ll run you through how I’d build my leader for Taupo winter Euro nymphing.
When I compete I fish with a level leader of 0.14mm or 0.16mm diameter as this allows me to get the best drift possible. However, this limits me to using thin tippet which makes it unsuitable for Taupo winter fishing where where you needs thicker tippet for the bigger fish. For these conditions I’d recommend a thicker leader that allows you to fish the heavier tippets that are needed to control the bigger fish. In the Taupo fishery you are limited to a leader of 6 metres maximum including tippet (around two rod lengths) so when making a leader this needs to be kept in mind so you are fishing within the rules.
To start the leader use a rod length of 0.25 mm coloured line. Next attach approximately 50 cm of 0.22 mm clear nylon. Finally, add another 50 cm (or two colours) of 0.20 mm bi colour indicator mono. To the end of the finished leader add a 2 mm tippet ring to attach the tippet to so you don’t have to cut into your leader when you change rigs.
To your first fly add about a metre of tippet (0.14 - 0.18 mm) - you may want to make this longer in deeper pools or shorter in shallow water. To your second fly add 60cm more tippet with the top fly being on a dropper of about 10 - 15 cm. I will typically pull off the full amount of line to the bottom fly and then double it over where I want the dropper to be to make a loop with a triple surgeon's knot. Once I have the loop I cut it so there’s a tag and a longer section to the bottom fly. Cut off the tag facing upwards and tie the fly onto the one facing down.
The weight of the flies is very important because it controls how deep you are fishing. You don’t necessarily want to be bouncing along the bottom, but you do want to be close to it as this is where most of the lake run fish will be sitting. For the bottom fly I would recommend a heavy fly of between 3.5 and 4.5 mm diameter tungsten bead (depending on the depth), for the top fly I would use a lighter fly between 2.5 and 3.5 mm. I have a few confidence patterns I like to use like tag flies, thread flies and pheasant tails. If the water has got a bit of colour, mixing it up with a weighted egg is also a good option. Bead colour is also important. Copper and silver are my usual choices but metallic pink and orange are worth a try if the water is a bit dirty. If the conditions are low and clear, natural black or gunmetal beads are also worth a try.
Euro Nymphing Technique
The technique of Euro nymphing is both simple and complex. I’ll try and provide some tips, but there are a lot of subtleties involved that can make a big difference.
- The water is your friend. If you are having trouble getting your nymphs to go where you want or are not achieving a good distance try flicking them onto the water behind you to set the cast up.
- Try the tuck cast to get your flies to depth quickly. You can do this by bouncing your hand down and then up like a tennis ball. This drives the nymphs down into the water, then provides a short moment of slack for them to get down.
- The cast is more in the wrist than in the arm. Point the rod tip where you want the flies to go.
- In general, cast upstream at a 45 degree angle. If you need to get flies deeper try casting further upstream.
Keeping in contact
- Use your non rod hand to control the length of line you have out. Pinch the line against the rod using your casting hand then retrieve slack as needed.
- Lead the flies with your rod tip. You want to keep a little bit of tension without dragging them.
- Watch the indicator line for any twitches or movements that could indicate a take. If you are only feeling the bites you are either too slow or fishing too heavy and will be missing subtle takes.
- Try small lifts and jiggles during the drift if the fishing is slow, and let the flies swing up from the bottom at the end of the drift.
Euro nymphing rigging
Don’t go straight to the heaviest fly in your box. If your fly is bouncing along the bottom the fish is less likely to eat it than if it is just above it.
- Spend time at each spot to make sure you have the right fly weights and tippet length. This takes some time but will catch you more fish.
- Try different bead colours and weights rather than only switching the pattern.
- Fish more natural flies/beads and finer tippets in periods of low flows.
Ollie Bassett is 21 years old and is a current New Zealand fly fishing team member.
In 2022 Ollie represented NZ at the World Fly Fishing champs in Spain and placed 11th individually. Off the water, Ollie is a student studying a Masters of Science in Ecology and Biodiversity at the University of Waikato.
For more in person Euro Nymphing advice and on the water tuition contact Ollie at https://www.facebook.com/flyfishernz