Czech Nymphing - ideal for Tasmania's trout

Joe Riley
Competition fly fishing has been one of the driving forces in the advancement of fly fishing techniques in Australia over the past couple of decades. Loch Style fly fishing was largely brought to Tasmania by visiting competition anglers and has been widely accepted as a deadly way to fish by locals keen to improve their catch rates. Changes of fishing regulations in Tasmania to allow the use of 3 flies on a leader came about largely as a result of the international competitions also allowing the use of 3 flies.

While the more noted advances have been in relation to lake fishing there are some techniques used by competition anglers on Australian rivers which are just as deadly on trout as they are on  grayling in the rivers of Europe, one of these is Czech nymphing. Now you might think that Czech nymphing originated in the Czech Republic, but it was the Polish team who used this technique in a European competition in 1984, to win. The Czechs took the deadly technique on board and have since developed and modified it for their own use further developing patterns for nymphs which are now generically known as Czech nymphs.
Best of all this way of nymphing lets you catch trout in fast turbulent water, literally at your feet. It fills a void left by traditional river techniques allowing you to effectively fish water which is restrictive to good dry fly or nymph under dry techniques, that being rapids and heavy turbulent pocket water, from half a metre to 1.5 metres deep.
The aim of Czech nymphing is to drift a nymph along the bottom of the river, exactly where most fish hold. When a fish takes one of the flies the leader will pause or pull straight, this is the time to strike.

The set up
Rod:    A light soft action rod is ideal, 2 to 4 weight in a length appropriate to the size water you are fishing. The average 9 ft rod will do fine, however shorter rods are suitable for smaller streams. The reason for using a soft action rod is for reading the line for takes as you drift the nymphs past your body, I will explain this a bit further shortly.
Line: A floating line is all that is required, you will usually have no more than a few metres of line out of the tip of the rod, however the lines should be  a highly visible colour such as peach or bright green. Alternatively you can use a fluorescent braided loop connection to add visibility to the end of the fly line. Double taper lines are recommended for river fishing and Czech nymphing is no exception.

Leader: The leader is a critical element in the set up. Using a self tied tapered leader assists in turnover when casting, however you can use a straight leader using as fine a tippet as possible for the conditions you are fishing. For example if you need to fish an extremely heavy nymph in fast deep water use 8 lb or if you are fishing shallow clear runs with light nymphs reduce to 4 lb. A two or three fly leader can be used, here are a couple of examples;

Example 1: A two fly leader.
The leader should be 1.75 m to the point (second) fly.   The dropper should be about 50 cm above the point and the dropper should be relatively short no more than 10 cm. Where to place the heaviest nymph is a matter of personal preference some prefer point, I prefer the dropper.

Example 2: A three fly leader.
This is essentially the same as the first rig, however a 50 cm tippet is placed at the end of the previous leader. Again the droppers should be no more than 10 cm long, the heaviest fly should be placed in the middle of this leader to keep all of the flies close to the bottom while on the drift.

Flies: Czech nymphs are basically grub style nymphs tied with a lead under body. This can be formed with lead wire in various diameters, lead sheet or the new moulded lead body hooks. (The Partridge hooks I reviewed in a recent issue of TFBN). They have a dubbed body and a skin over the top of the nymph, usually segmented with a monofilament rib.
You don't have to try and source these flies if you don't tie for yourself. Most good fly fishing shops stock a range of tungsten bead head nymphs in various sizes, which work well for this style of fishing. In fact any of your favorite bead head nymphs will work well provided you have a variety of weights to match to the water you are fishing.

Fishing the nymphs
Casting is not exactly high tech with this type of fishing.   All you need to do is lob the flies in front of you out at the tip of the rod with your arm extended, this is about a 45 degree angle upstream. The flies are then allowed to sink quickly for a moment before  you bring the rod across your body downstream to a point where the flies are about 1 metre downstream from you. If you are doing it perfectly the flies should drift naturally with the current ducking and lifting  in the eddies and currents near the bottom. If the heaviest fly is hitting the bottom, bounces will show on the leader,  while a take should appear as a pause or visible pull on the line. If you suspect a take strike immediately with a strong upward flick of the wrist.
The important aspect of drifting the nymphs is to keep contact with the nymphs. Too little contact will result in takes not being seen and too much contact will result in an unnatural drift and refusals. Judgment is required (and comes with practice)as to moving the rod at the correct pace so that the flies are drifting naturally with a light curve in the line back to the rod.
Once you reach a point where the flies are about a metre below you slowly raise the rod as this lifts the nymphs away from the bottom, this action will very often induce a take from a fish following the nymphs. If no take is felt after lifting for a foot or so, give a strike with the wrist to complete the swim.     It is important to do this every time as it is very possible that a fish has taken the flies without giving a visible sign or you feeling the take due to a slack line. The other effect this has is to pull the flies clear of the water for the next cast. Then simply repeat the lob of the flies into the next swim you choose for them.
This is quick effective fishing that will allow you to cover water thoroughly searching for fish. This is also exciting fishing as you will pull trout from under your rod tip, trout that you normally would have trouble catching unless they were willing to quickly come to a dry fly through the deeper turbulent water that you are fishing.

Czech nymphing in Tasmania
While Czech nymphing originated in European rivers which abound with grayling trout are also a very good species to target. Freestone rivers with fast runs, pockets and broken water are all ideal as you can readily approach holding water without spooking trout. Tasmania has plenty of water suitable for this type of nymphing, rivers like the Tyenna and Derwent, North Esk, St Patricks and upper Meander and Mersey Rivers all have ideal stretches of water.
Early season when rivers are running slightly high, or when a fresh is coming through after a good rain are ideal times to fish this style of nymphing. If the water is a bit discoloured try using a brighter coloured nymph such as a pink czech nymph in the set up. This oddly coloured fly is quite effective at times. This technique will also work right through the season  in the right water such as I've described.   

Variations to Czech nymphing

Once you've got a feel for standard Czech nymphing, this set up and technique can be adapted to short line upstream and also short line down and across. The fundamentals are the same, it is all about contact with the flies so takes are visible while maintaining a natural swim of the nymphs.

Czech nymphing fills yet another gap in the successful anglers portfolio of techniques. The take of a good size trout right under your rod tip and the resulting chaos as he rips into the current angry at the fact he has been hoodwinked is a just reward for the practice and  patience spent in learning this style of nymph fishing in rivers. With a new season kicking off now is the perfect time to try Czech Nymphing.
Joe Riley

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