What is Czech Nymphing?

A fly fishing technique that emphasizes direct contact with the fly utilizing tight lines, relatively short rigs, and heavy flies.

Short rig, tight line nymphing techniques were born out of competition fishing in Eastern Europe during the 1980′s. Originally introduced by the Polish, the idea was quickly adopted (some say perfected) by the Czech, resulting in a string of wins in international competition. For more on the history of Polish and Czech techniques, check out the excellent summary  on Blue Quill Angler’s website.

Where Does It Fish Best?

Czech nymphing is the ideal setup to trick fish holding in fast moving, deep water. In western fly fishing, a Czech rod might be 10ft long. The sweet spot for such a rod is said to be in water anywhere from 2 to maybe 6 feet deep. But the longer  tenkara  rod allows you to fish a longer rig, increasing your effective depth range from 2 to more than 10 feet deep.

What Flies Do You Use?

Whatever you want. Just as long as they’ll get you to the bottom. Traditional Czech flies are tied sparsely to sink fast. Tungsten and wire are common elements. Patterns often imitate free swimming caddis. Many are bright to catch the eye of trout in fast moving, deep water. Caddis, stonefly, scud, worm, and conehead streamer patterns are just some of the patterns we use when Czech nymphing with a tenkara rod. See that brown trout featured at the top of our Trip Options page? That’s one of a multitude caught over 3 incredible days of Czech nymphing with big scuds and wire worms on a swollen Utah river.

How Do You Rig It?

Traditionally, a Czech rig might run 3/4 length of the rod, comprised of a brightly colored indicator section, followed by a #3 to #5 tippet line, ending in a 2-3 fly dropper system.
With tenkara rods, you can get away with a larger rig compared to rod length. Try shooting for a rig that’s just shy of the rod length. Our favorite tool for Czech nymphing is Tenkara USA’s Amago. Here’s a simple, Utah legal two-fly Czech nymph rig for the 13’6″ (4,1 m) Tenkara rod:

Cut a 0,8 m section of brightly colored spectra fly line backing as your indicator section. Tie a loop in each end, one side for a girth hitch attachment to your tenkara rod lillian, the other to connect your tippet. All you need is a simple overhand or figure eight on a bight to make the loops.

Attach 3 m of 4x fluorocarbon tippet to the indicator. Use a loop-to-loop connection, or just tie directly to the indicator loop using the quick and easy Davy knot.
Cut a 15 cm section of 4x fluorocarbon tippet. Tie it onto the 3m tippet line about 0,4 m from the end using a Seguar knot. This creates your two-fly dropper system.
Tie the heaviest fly on the end point, and the lighter fly on the closer point of the dropper system. This will help you avoid tangles, and will ensure both flies run deep.

How Do You Fish It?

The key to Czech nymphing with a tenkara rod is to maintain a tight line at all times. The cast and drift blend together, becoming one continuous motion with zero slack in the line at any point.

To cast:
  • Start with your flies swinging downstream in the current, with the rod at about 3/4 downstream.
  • Lift your rod up and drive it forward in a large arc (think Mickey D’s here). This should pull your flies out of the water downstream and slam them into the water upstream, driving them deep, fast.
  • End with your rod tip low, the rod about 3/4 upstream.
To execute the drift:
  • Immediately pull your rod back downstream.
  • Keep the rod tip low, the rod flat and parallel with the water.
  • Pull fast, keeping the line tight throughout the drift. The goal is to lead the flies downstream at the same speed as the current. If you’re not sure, err on the side of too fast rather than too slow.
  • As your rod moves past you, extend the drift by slowly lifting your rod. The line will pass under the rod tip in an almost vertical position. A little outside is okay, but a little inside never seems to catch many fish.
  • Be ready as the rod approaches the 3/4 downstream position. A lot of strikes seem to occur during this portion of the drift. Once the line passes under the rod and swings downstream, start your cast again.

Remember, the whole process should occur in an almost continuous movement. Cast and drift should be seamless, ensuring there is NO SLACK in the line at any point. Not only will a tight line protect the delicate tip of your tenkara rod from shock loading with those heavy Czech flies, it will ensure you detect every strike. Though you will learn to detect strikes through subtle twitches and pauses in the brightly colored indicator section, Czech nymphing is more about feel than sight. You will quickly learn to feel the difference between your anchor fly gently bouncing off the bottom and the sharper hit of even the subtlest strike. Just like traditional tenkara, a tight line is the key to Czech nymphing’s effectiveness.

Tenkara Guides Tips and Tricks for Czech Nymphing.

The Indicator. The indicator described above is about the simplest to make. However, we prefer using a bi-color indicator, joining two 15-20 cm sections of different color material. We prefer using supple materials like spectra/dyneema fly line backing. The advantage is the supple hand allows for the best feedback on keeping a tight line, immediately developing a tell-tale droop if there is any slack in the line. It’s also the best for detecting the subtlest of strikes. The downside is that it freezes in cold weather, loosing that beneficial suppleness. For frozen conditions, or just for a change of pace, brightly colored monofilament or nylon (Tenkara Bum’s Hi-Vis Level Line, Amnesia, etc) also works great.

The Dropper System. The two-fly system described above is a Utah legal system, and a simple place to start. If you’re fishing waters that allow three or more flies, simply add additional 6″ tippet tag every 16″ along the main line. There is a reason for 6″ tags and 16″ spacing. A little triangle geometry tells us that this spacing should give us the best fly positioning at the line angle most often encountered in ideal Czech nymph water depth. In the deepest water (more than 6′), your line will be at less of an angle. If you want your flies to stay slammed against the bottom, shorten the spacing and the tags to ensure your flies stay at the bottom. Short tags also prevent tangles. In the shallowest of water (less than 3′), try reversing the orientation of your flies. Placing the heavy fly on the tag and the lighter fly on what is normally the anchor end will prevent you from pulling the tag fly too close to the surface when you tighten the line in shallow water.

Blending Techniques. Czech nymphing is great for fast, deep water. but it can be seamlessly blended with other techniques like English Highsticking to cover even more water. Play around with the position of the rod a bit. In the fastest, deepest water, keep that rod low and parallel to the water surface. In shallower or slower water, try bringing the rod up so that the line forms a 45 degree angle to the water surface. If you encounter pocket water, try Highsticking, with the rod held high and the line coming taught directly under your rod tip. There’s nothing I like better than getting a perfect fish-tricking drift through a fast run and immediately into a swirling pocket by seamlessly blending these techniques.

Check out this video for a look at Czech nymphing from start to fish: