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When I first started fly fishing I would exclusively use dry flies. Dry fly fishing is simple – you watch the fly float on the water, try to maintain the same speed as the current, and when a fish eats it you set the hook. I saw what was going on and I knew what to do.
Besides, the excitement I felt whenever I saw a fish even look at my fly kept me coming back to the same method every time I wet a line.
However, the more time I spent in the river, the more often I saw people fishing with other tactics. And when the seasons started to change, the dry fly bite really slowed down.
So, I was forced out of the comfort and understanding of dry fly fishing into the unknown world of a new tactic: nymphing. I quickly found that I had been missing out on untapped potential success on the river while I refused to sink my fly beneath the surface. I was catching more fish nymphing than I had been on dry flies and I actually found nymphing to be almost as exciting.
I’ll stop that story right there before I bore you too much, and I’ll redirect to the topic of this article: the Best Fly Line for Nymphing.
First we’ll discuss why nymphing is such a potent method for catching trout, then we’ll talk about the benefits of using fly lines made specifically for nymphing. I’ll wrap it up with some product recommendations, and then you can head to the fly shop, pick up some new line, and head out to the river.
Table of Contents
Why Do We Nymph?
The simple answer- nymphing catches fish. It catches big fish, small fish, a lot of fish. But why- that’s the better question.
Trout are simple creatures. They eat, they mate, they try not to die. Nymphing is a productive method for catching trout because of those former and latter characteristics.
The normal feeding behaviors of trout place it on a conveyor belt of food. The current pushes the water and the water is full of aquatic insects, crustaceans, fish eggs, and everything else trout love to eat. The trout swims against that current and waits for food to come to it.
When there’s a hatch, the trout swims below the surface and waits for insects to land on the water so that the conveyor belt brings that food to them. But when there’s not a hatch, or the hatch isn’t bringing a lot of food, the trout prefers to eat where there’s always food: below the surface. Nymphing imitates the food that trout are seeing the most, the food that’s drifting under the water.
“Nymphing takes advantage of this tendency of trout by bringing the “food” to where the trout feels safest“.
For an analogy, imagine you’re trying to trick your fat lazy friend into eating a Ghost Pepper. The best way to do it wouldn’t be to stick the ghost pepper into a salad, sprinkle it over a filet mignon, or stuff it into a Thanksgiving Turkey and ask him to come eat it. That would be too suspicious- he doesn’t eat that stuff usually and he’s not one to get up and move just to eat.
But if you put the Ghost Pepper right in the middle of a Big Mac and took it to him in his favorite chair, he’d probably chomp down on that spicy sandwich without giving it a second thought.
Trout are the same way. They want the food to come to them, and they want to eat what they’re used to.
Alongside appetite, the tendency for trout to be caught by nymphing can also be partially explained by their natural instinct to avoid dying. Survival is, after all, nature’s most powerful motivation.
In most trout streams, the majority of dangers for mature trout are outside the water. Their natural predators are mostly birds, aquatic mammals, and humans. And the best way to avoid getting eaten by these predators is for the fish to remain unseen. So, trout have fantastic camouflage, they hide under structure for cover, and they do most of their feeding below the surface where their predators can’t get to them.
Nymphing takes advantage of this tendency of trout by bringing the “food” to where the trout feels safest.
The Benefits of Using Nymphing Line
Now of course, you don’t have to use a nymphing line to catch trout nymphing. In fact, you’re probably using a regular fly line right now and catching fish just fine. But using a nymphing line while you’re fishing will be more effective. Having specialized equipment always gives you an advantage.
You don’t hunt dove with a .30-06. You don’t putt with your driver. The best way to ski powder is with powder skis.
Fly fishing is best accomplished with the proper tools, and your fly line is no exception. Here’s how using nymphing fly line helps.[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nlcZ_qIqV4[/embedyt]
The most technical aspect of nymphing is keeping your flies moving at the same speed as the current.
To go off our earlier example of tricking your friend into eating a ghost pepper, if you walked up to him at a normal speed with the pepper stuffed Big Mac, he may take it. If you sprinted at him at full speed though, would he be a little suspicious? Or if you walked towards him as slowly as you can?
Trout think the same way. They’re sitting on a conveyor belt of food, and when that food varies from the conveyor belt’s speed, they usually don’t eat it.
“You don’t hunt dove with a .30-06. You don’t putt with your driver. The best way to ski powder is with powder skis.”
So, to prevent our flies from going too fast or too slow, we mend our line. Mending is the most important part of fishing with nymphs. And so, the ability of a nymphing fly line to easily mend is a top priority.
Nymphing fly lines are designed with longer heads that allow for easier mending. The mass of the line allows you to easily lift the line and throw it in the proper direction. Normal floating lines don’t have the shape that allows for you to easily turn them over, so nymphing with them requires more work and yields less productive results.
Normal floating fly line is designed to float. Nymphing fly line is designed to float better.
Because nymphing rigs often include heavy flies or even added weights, lines designed specifically for nymphing have more buoyancy than normal fly lines. They do this by making the fly line less dense.
For you, that means your line will be less likely to sink during a drift, wasting your cast. You’ll be able to see your fly line easier, as it will be floating higher out of the water, notifying you of any necessary mends. If you’re nymphing through rough water, the current will be less prone to inhaling your line. And you’ll be able to add as much weight or as many flies as you want- your line will still float.
The primary concern with fly fishermen whenever they’re choosing a rod or fly line is casting. I’d argue that fly fishermen (myself included) may even enjoy casting more than they enjoy catching fish. There’s just something about whipping that line out as far as you can that gives an immediate satisfaction.
But casting is also an important factor in catching fish. You have to be able to cast far enough to reach the fish. The cast has to be accurate enough to put your flies in the path of the fish without scaring the fish away. And you want the casts to be consistent, so you can build a casting rhythm.
Nymph rigs can be big and heavy. They sometimes have multiple flies, a number of split shot, and an indicator. All this stuff makes them hardly aerodynamic (like a single dry fly is) and the added weight makes them tricky to cast.
Fly Lines created for nymphing have a longer head which balances out the added weight of the nymph rig. They’re also tapered to cast, creating aerodynamic efficiencies that counteract the bulkiness of the nymph rig.
Now that you understand why you should buy a nymphing line (or if you skipped to the bottom), here are some of our favorites.
This Euro Nymph fly line from Rio is specially designed for (you guessed it) Euro Nymphing. It’s ultra thin, so you can feel even the subtlest bites. And the core has no stretch, keeping the fish from working your line.
Rio also makes the InTouch Xtreme Indicator for normal nymphing. This line is easy to cast, even with multiple flies and big indicators. It has a no-stretch core, enhanced floatation, and is one of the most accurate casting lines out there.
And Orvis’ Hyrdros Nymph is another great option for nymphing fly lines. The design of this line brings the weight forward on the line, making it cast more accurately and far. The rear end tapered design makes the line mend more easily. And the highly visible chartreuse color makes seeing drift ruining bends in your line a piece of cake.
Best Fly Line for Nymphing Conclusion
We don’t always get to experience the adrenaline, euphoria, and joy of dry fly fishing. Sometimes we have to nymph.
And sure, any old floating fly line will get the job done. But don’t you want to use the most effective tool? Don’t you want to catch as many fish as you can? Nymphing fly lines help you catch more fish while you’re nymphing. If you want to improve your nymphing, buying one will help.
If this article helped you pick a nymphing fly line, let us know in the comments below. And share it with your friends! They probably suck at nymphing too.
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7 thoughts on “Best Fly Line for Nymphing”
Great article and read! Very informative on the different types of lines for nymphing and the purposes of each. I had a general question on if I can use these lines on my Orvis Helios 3F 9ft 5wt and still have great success nymphing. I’ve read a lot about nymphing specifically with these lines but with a 10ft 2-4wt rod. I’m not really interested in buying another rod but don’t want to be truly lacking the experience/help from a 10ft rod. Could you give me some insight on this? I’m hoping I’ll be just fine with the Orvis rod I currently have and just buying one of these lines would help instead of buying a whole new rig.
Hey Logan, the 9ft 5wt is a great rod but will leave you lacking a bit when nymphing. The tip will be a bit stiff to feel the delicate takes that a 2wt would give you.
However, you can still fish with the rod and see how you get on maybe setting up the leader and tippet in such a way to make it successful even with the stiffer tip such as the sight indicator.
There are many variations on the setup and they are water depth and flow dependant so I can’t advise here but I would go ahead as you are now and see how much you like the method before you consider getting a new rod.
Hi John, I will be getting a used 10′ 4 wt Cabelas CZN rod from a friend. New to nymphing and am hoping that the rod will serve dual purpose for nymphing and dry/streamer. In your opinion would I be better served with a nymphing fly line and leader or a conventional wf line and something like the Rio Shorty 20′ and leader. Not sure if the nymphing fly line would serve adequately for dry casting. My current Sage 8’9″ 7wt just doesn’t do well for nymphing.
You will not be able to throw dries with that Nymphing line. Pretty much impossible. That line has almost no weight and is extremely thin. I would tie your own custom leaders or buy a completed one. They are pretty easy to find online. Just type Euronymphing leader and you should be able to get one for under $10. Attach that to the end of your regular fly line and you will be in business. It also isn’t too tough to swap out to a regular leader for throwing dries or chucking streamers.
Hey, I just owned and returned a 4wt 11.5ft CZN from Cabelas and I can tell you the rod is stiff! You would be better off with a traditional fly line, and a spool of some 20lb Amnesia for your euro leader.
This is a very thorough and we’ll written article. Thank you! I mostly Euro nymph and have found it extremely productive. I bought the Rio Euronymphing line and hated it. I think Rio products are high quality and are a good value, but I found that not to be the case with that line. In fact, it broke after not a lot of use. I use a 20′ section of Maxima Chameleon off of my floating fly line and have found it to work great. The formula I use for taper and lengths I got from Devin Olsen and Lance Egan’s videos which are extremely informative. Tight lines!
I went with a traditional wf line and a RIO TECHNICAL EURO NYMPH LEADER which is 14′ – 2x/4x , w/ 2 tone sighter section ending in tippet ring. I attach 5-6′ of 5x/6x and this setup works great for me. Easy to switch to standard leader for dries and streamers. 10′ 4wt CZN handles well for both setups.
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