What is Spanish Nymphing?



A long line nymphing technique that relies on sighting a brightly colored indicator line to detect strikes from a distance.

Spanish nymphing was developed  by anglers in pursuit of fario brown trout (Salmo trutta morpha fario). Averaging around 8″, the fario brown of Spain’s mountain streams are notoriously smart and spooky. Spanish nymphing relies on keeping most of the line off the water, using rods pushing 12′, and rigs pushing 25′ to keep fish calm and biting.

Any of this sound familiar? Spanish nymphing is about as close as Western fly fishing gets to traditional  tenkara. The entire time you are reading this article, a little voice in your head should be saying, “Holy $#@%, that’s just like Tenkara“.

Where Does It Fish Best?

Spanish nymphing is effective in a wide variety of water types. Natural, drag-free drifts become effortless in varying currents and pockets with all but tippet off the water. The long rigs of traditional Spanish nymphing particularly excel in relatively calm, long runs and riffles where fish tend to have one eye out for anglers.

What Kind of Flies Do You Use?

Like Czech nymphing, Spanish nymphing traditionally relies on weighted flies to get to the bottom, with the heaviest fly on the end of the rig (anchor fly). Unlike Czech nymphing, a balance must be achieved between heavy enough to reach the fish yet light enough to cast, enter the water without spooking fish, and allow you to keep line off the water. That’s because (get ready, Tenkara enthusiasts) presentation is more important than pattern, especially when tricking spooky Spanish fario. In order to maintain an adequate cast with your tenkara rod, you might want to err on the lighter side of weighted flies.

How Do You Rig It?

A traditional Spanish nymphing rig might consist of a 10′ tippet line section, followed by 1-2′ brightly colored monofilament or nylon indicator, followed by a 4-10′ 2-3 fly dropper system.


Turning a traditional Tenkara rig into a Spanish rig is simple. Replace your one fly with a dropper system, and you’re pretty much ready to go. Here is a basic Utah legal 2 fly recipe for the Tenkara USA 13′ AYU:

  1. 15ft of Tenkara Bum’s HI-Vis fluoro. This simplifies the rig by serving as both line and indicator.
  2. 5ft of 5x tippet.
  3. About 16″ from the end of the tippet, attach a 6″ tippet tag using a Seguar knot.
  4. Add flies. Place your heaviest fly on the end of the rig. The Davy knot will not only speed up the process, but will help you conserve that short tag.

How Do You Fish It?

Casting does not have to change a bit, particularly if you are used to long-line tenkara:

  • Cast upstream using an overhand motion.
  • Concentrate on the backstroke. Ensure an abrupt stop with sufficient power.
  • Aim for a spot a bit above the water. Your goal should be for your anchor fly to hit the water first, but gently so you don’t offend those spooky fish.  Slamming flies into the water column to entice an aggressive bite like you might with traditional Tenkara is more likely to end up in a tangle than a strike with a Spanish rig.

The drift is also nearly identical to traditional Tenkara:

  • Lift your rod tip up and downstream so that the bright indicator section remains just an inch above the water at all times.
  • Match the downstream drift of the flies with your rod, keeping that hi-vis fluoro off the water.
  • A steady hand is absolutely key here. Only tippet should be in the water, with the end of the hi-vis fluoro held calm, tight, and off the surface at all times.

Drifts are typically longer than in traditional Tenkara. A spooky fish is more likely to take flight than be enticed by a peppering of rapid fire casting and short drifts.

KEEP AN EAGLE EYE ON THE END OF THAT HI-VIS LINE! Spanish nymphing is a game of sight, not feel. Learn what that line looks like as it dead-drifts downstream – and set the hook immediately any time it looks at all different. Strikes might be as obvious as an upstream movement in the line. But with a little practice, you’ll learn to recognize the most subtle strikes with imperceptible twitches in the line.

Tenkara Guides Tips and Tricks for Spanish Nymphing.

1) The Indicator. Hi-viz level line is a great option, providing a built-in sight indicator. But with the spookiest of fish, in the clearest of streams, a bright line can sometimes send fish running faster than a less obvious one. Try different combinations of lines. Tenkara USA’s new #3.5 level line is another favorite of ours. Try attaching a 6″ 12lb Amnesia or #3 Tenkara Bum Hi-viz fluoro section to the end with a blood knot to serve as your indicator. For furled Tenkara lines, pick a supple material. Braided spincasting line (usually spectra blends) work wonderfully. Whatever you choose, we recommend tapering the diameter at the indicator section a bit to ease casting with a long Spanish rig.

2) Line Length. I love fishing pocketed mountain streams with a dropper system that is barely 4′ long, maybe 8″ between anchor fly and tag fly, pushing tag length down to as small as 1 or 2″. But the real advantage in Spanish nymphing comes with casting to spooky fish in long, calm runs with more than 20′ level line and an 8′ dropper system. Your long-line Tenkara gets good, fast. Play with the overall length of the rig in various conditions, and see what works for you.

3) Tapering your Rig. Casting long line nymphing rigs can be difficult. Easier if you have long-line Tenkara experience, but still difficult. If you don’t mind something a little more complicated, try tapering your line and/or dropper system. Tapered Tenkara lines (furled and knotted level line) are easy to come by. To make a 5′ tapered dropper system, try starting with 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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