Becoming a Euro Dork

When I first picked up a fly rod all those years ago, I could not have imagined there was more to it than plopping down an oversized dry fly and waiting for a fish to feed – or that I’d become a Euro dork, myself.

Several years later, I was introduced to indicator nymphing. That changed the game completely for me. Knowing that trout, on average, consume 90% of their diet subsurface was huge. I went from prospecting for a fish or two to landing their food on their dinner plate.

Indicator nymphing, although great and very productive, has some drawbacks. The largest challenge I see is that, as fly fishers, we are working with a rig that is constantly fighting itself. The indicator is being pulled by the current.

Too large, and we don’t see as many takes. Too small, and it may not hold up your rig or pull your bugs downstream. Too much weight and you’ll snag every few feet. Too little and the indicator rips the bugs through the water, telling those fish that there’s something wrong. Is your indicator in the same seam as your bugs? Did you mend? How much distance do you have between bugs? How much distance to your weight? How much distance from your indicator to your weight? It goes on and on.

This isn’t to say that an indicator rig is bad; quite to the contrary. It’s a great way to fish and is very productive. As a guide, this is how we start most people out. They can see a “bobber.” If it moves, set. Simple. Or so we hope.

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The Euro nymphing rig that worked for me

A solution to some of these problems came a few years ago. Gary, my father-in-law, told me that he was interested in learning to Euro nymph. I had been curious off and on about it myself. I had heard countless stories from other guides and fishing buddies about how their friends who Euro nymphed would come into a run after them and pick off several more fish.

So, I took a leap. I purchased a mid-level 10’ 3wt. I mated it to a non-Euro fly reel and spooled that with Euro line from Scientific Angler. I watched a ton of YouTube videos and read countless other blogs. I was surprised at the lack of consistency in how each person fished a euro setup. Some ran sighter (alternating colors) leaders; some didn’t. Some ran tags; some didn’t. Some used long light rods; some didn’t. Some used weighed bugs specific to Euro nymphing while focusing on the bead size; some didn’t. You get the point.

I set out to find what worked for me in the waters I fished here in Colorado. I made all sorts of different leader setups with tags and no tags. Different kinds of flies. I tried various combinations. In the end, I more or less accidentally came up with a rig that worked out for me. The 10’ 3wt was just about perfect for any river on the front range. Maybe a little outgunned by a 24” rainbow and a hair heavy for a 6” brown from one of the local creeks, but just about perfect nonetheless.

As for the leader, I’ve changed this several times over the last few years. I’ve experimented with it all. I first started with a leader that consisted of 4’ of chartreuse Amnesia 20lb > 4’ of red Amnesia 20lb > 4’ of chartreuse Amnesia 15lb > 6-8’ of 12lb Cortand Ultra Premium fluorocarbon with figure 8 knots tied every six inches from the point. This allows me to tie in tags with a Davy or clinch knot just above the figure 8 in 4x or whatever I want. This then gives me a tag that I can adjust depending on the water depth and conditions. No need for weighted flies with this rig as long as you used split shot at the bottom of the rig. Was this a true Euro rig? Not really, but it worked. I’ve heard it called everything from the Provo Rig, the Colorado Tight Line, to a DropShot Rig.

Now, I fish two flies on a more traditional Euro setup. Here is my current formula: 18” or so of sighter with a perfection loop connected to Rio or Cortland Euro-specific lines. Run that sighter to a micro swivel. Approximately 5-6’ of 5x depending on the depth of the water. 18” of 5x tied into the end of the 6’ section with a surgeons knot thereby creating two tags that are slightly offset by 6-12”. Tie on your favorite weighted flies and enjoy.

So, am I officially a Euro Dork now? I think so. Over the last few months, I’ve reached for a traditional nymph rig once or twice. I’ve even stopped bringing other rods when I head out.

The secret to a good day of Euro nymphing

Not too long ago, I was fishing the Arkansas River with my brother. It was a slow day as the water was a bit on the warm side. I had the aforementioned Euro setup and my brother was fishing a traditional nymph rig. I usually outfish him by a few fish (I fish more than him so I get more practice); however, I had landed 6 when he hadn’t caught any. That was unusual. I kept offering to switch him over to a Euro rig. He kept declining.

Just before we were getting ready to wrap up for the day, he let me change over his rig. In the first two casts, he caught two fish. Why, you ask? I don’t know for sure, but I have a suspicion that it had to do with the water temperature. Warm water isn’t good for trout and can make them lethargic. I noticed that the takes on my flies were VERY subtle. I then began to think that my brother probably wasn’t able to see the slight disruption in his indicator. I should mention that the rig was set up right. He had the same bugs I was using, and the weights were ticking off the bottom.

A random pointer. Levi Lambert (a local expert guide) taught me that the difference between bad and good days of fishing can be a split shot. This is so true. If anything, err on the side of going a bit heavier.

Anyway, back to the Arkansas River and the lessons learned. I learned that on a day like that, being able to feel the fish eat your fly was the difference.

Like being a control freak? Become a Euro Dork.

I describe Euro nymphing as a cross between streamer fishing (you usually feel the take) and traditional indicator nymphing. You are your own indicator and it’s pretty sweet. You can also pick your own seams and stay in there. You can control the speed at which your bugs float downstream or even where they float in the water column.

I guess being a Euro Dork allows you to reach for full potential as a control freak. With that said, you’re not going to be casting much more than your rod length unless you really know how to control your line and adjust your flies by weight.

So, will I ever indicator nymph again? Absolutely. I did a few days ago. This is just another facet of this awesome sport/hobby. It adds something. It’s another arrow in your quiver.

I still have a lot to learn about Euro nymphing and fly fishing in general, but that’s what I love about fly fishing. This isn’t the sport that you walk in and master. Or, if you master part of it, there are still 1,000 other things to learn and master. It’s a lifetime sport.

In fact, one of the things I’ve learned as of late is that Euro nymphing isn’t for all types of water. Obviously, lakes don’t make much sense with this method. Yet, several rivers around town are slower and clear with spooky fish and run further away from the angler. In my opinion, these rivers don’t lend to as much success with a Euro rig and I’d prefer to fish a traditional nymph rig.

If you’re a fisherperson who has stuck with one type of fly fishing, using the same bugs, going to the same spot on the same river, or packing the same sandwich with the same beer, expand your horizons a bit. (Maybe you’re ready to try a new piece of equipment! Check out our online store today.) Try something different. You, too, might just find that you’re a Euro Dork.

It’s time to nail down your 2024 fly fishing trip with Minturn Anglers.

About the Author

Tyler Banker

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