What is French Nymphing?

Classically, a long line nymphing technique fished upstream utilizing a unique coiled indicator to sight strikes.

Like Czech and Spanish, French nymphing has proven its worth in international competition on more than one occasion. Like Spanish, French nymphing utilizes long rods (up to 14′) and long rigs (up to 25′). And like Spanish, the French method has quite a lot in common with traditional  tenkara. Interestingly, in many of the ways that Spanish deviates from Tenkara methods, the French method remains similar. Keep reading. You’ll see.

Where Does it Fish Best?

French nymphing is one of those techniques that can prove effective in a variety of waters. In this sense, it is similar to Tenkara. But where the relatively short rigs of (traditional and not long-line)Tenkara feel most at home on small, pocketed mountain streams, the relatively long rigs of French nymphing feel most at home on larger streams with long runs and riffles where identifying holding spots can be difficult.

What Kind of Flies Do You Use?

The flies used in French nymphing are usually weighted and tend towards the smaller variety. French nymphing is another long line technique, so those rules about balancing fly weight to ensure accurate casting with a tenkara rod is just as true here as it was with Spanish nymphing.

How Do You Rig It?

A typical French nymphing rig might consist of 4,5m heavy tippet line, followed by a 1′ coiled indicator, followed by a 4′ dropper rig.
Let’s start by adapting that long coiled indicator to a tenkara rod.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Brightly colored 12-17lb monofilament.
  2. A 3/8″ carriage bolt (or pipe or other round metal substitute).
  3. Two smallish rubber bands.
  4. A pot of boiling water.
  5. A freezer.
  6. A pair of tongs or other instrument that can pick up a really hot piece of metal.
  7. Start off with just 12″ of the monofilament. Wrap it tightly and neatly around the 5/8″ carriage bolt. Use the rubber bands to hold the ends in place.

Dip the bolt in boiling water for 15 seconds. Then immediately transfer the bolt into the freezer. Let it freeze for at least 2-3 hours. When you take the monofilament off the bolt, you should have about a 4-6″ monofilament slinky.

Now that you have your indicator, here’s a Utah legal 2 fly French nymphing rig for 3,9 m Tenkara rod:

Start off with 4,5 m Tenkara level line. Attach your French indicator using a blood knot (note: as shown in the photos above, some prefer attaching the indicator to the line before boiling to make tying the blood knot easier).

Throw a figure eight stopper knot in the other end of the indicator.
Use a Davy Twist or Double Davy to add 1,2m of 5x tippet to the indicator above your stopper knot.
Create a dropper system by adding a 15 cm 5x tippet tag about 0,4 m  from the end of the 1,2 m tippet section with a Seguar knot.
Attach your flies using a Davy knot.

How Do You Fish It?

Wading upstream, you come to a long run that appears about 2-4ft deep. There’s just enough current to form some light riffles. You pause to carefully read the water, realizing there are no obvious holding spots, and finding fish may be difficult. This is the perfect opportunity to grab your French rig.

There is a bend to the right ahead, so you start more toward the right. You cast directly upstream. The flies hit the water first. You immediately raise the tip of your long tenkara rod until your French indicator straightens – just a couple of turns left in the slinky. Nearly all of your line is tight and off the water. You are practically pulling your flies downstream.
You allow the flies to drift a short while, raising them out of the water and beginning your next cast well before they reach you. You begin covering the run in a grid pattern, peppering the water with quick casts and short drifts, pausing occasionally to hit a probable lie with one or two extra casts.

You are now 10 feet upstream into the run, with the current around that rightward bend pulling your flies slightly left with each drift. With an eagle eye on the indicator, you get used to the pattern.

Then, ever so slightly, that leftward drift of your indicator goes to the right. Before you can even decide if you really saw it, you instinctively raise your rod. The hook is set. FISH ON!
You’ve hit the tail end of a holding. The next 12 casts bring another 5 fish.

Tenkara Guides Tips and Tricks for French Nymphing.

1) Detecting strikes. Many anglers believe that they should be keeping an eagle eye on the French indicator for any straightening in the slinky. That’s possible, but not nearly the usual. Keep a sharp eye out for left, right, upstream, or accelerated downstream twitches in the indicator – the same signs you’re watching out for with Spanish nymphing. The theoretic advantage in the slinky is not, in fact, enhancing strike detection. The memory you boiled into that indicator provides just enough slack for the trout to hold on a bit longer, increasing your hookset percentages.

Let’s be perfectly clear with this. Tight line techniques have developed separately in diverse settings around the world because they flat out work. Strike detection is next to none. But, even with the best tight line technique, there might be that occasional trout that feels tension on the fly in his mouth and spits it out before you can react. The French indicator theoretically solves this issue, providing just enough give in the line to fool a trout while retaining the benefits of tight line technique.

2) Tapering your Rig. This is another long line nymphing technique. Tenkara rods are great tools for casting long line nymph rigs, but the learning curve can be steep. Tapering your rig can help. Try  2′ 4x fluoro, followed by 26″ of 5x fluoro. The end of the 5x fluoro section will form your tag line. So, 6″ from the end of the 5x section, tie in 16″ of 6x fluoro. This will form your anchor (aka point) line, giving you a nice 4x to 5x to 6x taper all the way to the end.

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