What is Czech Nymphing?
Czech nymphing is a special fly and method of nymph fishing that was developed in the regions of Middle and Eastern Europe. The original Polish nymph was taken over by Czech fishermen during the mid nineteen eighties, especially the top Czech competitors, who experimented with this new method, developed it and brought it nearly to perfection.
The principle of fishing the Czech nymph is short-distance fishing, practically under the tip of the rod. The fly line is hanging under the tip of the rod and its end often does not even touch the water. Two or three nymph flies of various weights are used.
Classic flies for Czech nymphing are called Bobeshs – this original Czech name we do not translate, because the name Czech nymph has quickly spread and now it is widely used.
Czech nymphs are weighted flies tied on grub style hooks, imitating fresh water shrimps or case-less larvae of caddis flies. Imitative as well as super flashy patterns are used, mostly in size 8 – 16. Their characteristic sign is a rounded (bent) grub hook, that is weighted with lead wire or wire and a tungsten bead. The body is created from natural or synthetic dubbing. Another typical feature of a Czech nymph is the back, made from latex strips or a material with similar characteristics. For ribbing, monofilament or colored wire is used. A real Czech nymph is always tied very thin so that it will sink quickly towards the bottom.
One highly effective nymph fishing technique, was until recently little used outside Europe. But not any more. This technique has become known as Czech (or European) nymphing.
Using this technique has placed Czech and Polish anglers right up amongst the top performers in World fly-fishing Championships, and in recent World Championships on the winners podium.
So, what is the basis of its success?
First, the angler fishes very close to lies (where trout lie in a river or stream, not the lies told by anglers who cannot find trout lies, and therefore cannot catch them) and fish, with probably only about 3 to 5 metres of fly line and leader out of the tip. (In fact many using this technique do not use a fly-line.) The leader will be loaded with two or three nymphs, heavily weighted, and this means heavy.
The heaviest fly is generally in the middle of the team of flies. The flies are vividly coloured, wild in fact, plenty of orange and pink. This does not mean that imitative flies are not used, they are, but mixing it up can produce enhanced results.
The size of the flies were pretty large, overall, and do not seem to put the fish off. Because no weight other than the flies are used, the flies must be heavy to get the flies down to the bottom where the fish are typically eating nymphs. The larger flies tend to add more weight.
Despite the extra weight, flies are tied slim to ensure they sink fast.
Leaders are typically one length of line; not tapered. Fluorocarbon line is generally employed, again, because it tends to sink faster. The leader is generally around 3 metres, or the length of the typical rod. This leader needs to be strong enough to account for the fact that a fish is hooked and played very close to the angler.
The flies are positioned 20 inches apart, with the heaviest fly typically in the middle position. The flies are tied on using droppers off the leader. This is usually accomplished by joining two sections of leader with a double surgeon’s or blood knot and leaving a tag hanging off. The most exact fly imitation is usually on the point (bottom) of the team of two or three.
The cast is nothing more than a lob of the weighted flies upstream. Don’t try ‘flicking’ a short cast, your ears will not be happy. I find the best method of ‘casting’ is (if right-handed) to face downstream, let the line drift down below you, and with the line tight and the rod-tip right at water level, do a ‘back-cast’, that turns into a forward cast as you swing your body to face upstream.
Three things to watch out for
using this ‘cast’:
- The line must be tight and your rod tip on the water surface.
- As for all casting, start slow and finish fast.
- Make sure there is not a fish on before you start the cast – its happened to me! (And another reason to start the cast really slow!)
Once the flies are lobbed out upstream follow the flies with the rod tip. Follow the line with the rod tip just above the water. At the end of the drift allow the flies to lift up to the surface. The angler can actually lead the team of flies through likely looking holding water.
Use an indicator if you must, but it must be small. But, typically, this technique allows the angler to actually feel the take. This is what makes it so effective and why the Czechs are seemingly such great nymph fishermen. An angler also spends more time actually fishing, since his flies stay in the water longer. This for me is a key factor – the longer a fly is in likely water the greater your chances of hooking fish.
There is a downside
to fishing this technique.
- First, you will lose a lot of flies from hooking up on rock, stick and snag fish, so be prepared to either tie a lot of flies yourself, buy them at your favourite store, or buy a tackle shop.
- Second, you will be tying lots of knots as you change flies and adjust your leader material. Tying up a heap of leaders, or whole rigs before heading out is a wise option.
As for flies, there are a couple
of things to consider.
Generally flies used are slim in profile, have no hackles and no legs. Because you are fishing so close and on such a short line the flies must sink like a rock. The middle fly as mentioned is usually the most heavily weighted, and often the most ‘colourful’, and may act as an attractant. A gold bead anything could be used on the point fly or a small Glo-Bug, very small. Glo-Bugs – roe imitations) that are too big take far too long to sink. The fly at the top, again, could be a gold bead anything. Another tack is to use bead flies above and below the heavy fly. Bead flies sink fast.
This technique is best used in faster, more turbulent water, or in water where your presence can be hidden behind some rocks, etc. As will be realised this method requires that you are close to the fish and you need the roily water to help disguise your presence.
I can think of innumerable stretches of water I used to walk past to get to the ‘good’ pools, especially on the Rivers of the central North Island, NZ, and the rivers of the West Coast (South Island, NZ).
The technique can be invaluable if you want to avoid crowds.
There you wade happily pulling in fish while ‘experts’ wander past making snide remarks to each other about the ‘duffer’ who can’t cast, fishing in the wrong area – experts? Yeah Right!
This technique is not particularly new, it has been used in Poland and Czechoslovakia for many years with references going back to the 1940’s. In the US the Charles Brooks book ‘Nymph Fishing for Larger Trout’ describes a very similar method, and his book was written in 1976. The US “High-Sticking” technique is not a million miles away either, except that the rod tip is held high through the drift, and only lowered as the fly drifts down past the angler.
Whatever you call it, in the right water it really does work. But right there is a sometime downside:
This fishing technique was originally developed to fish smaller mountain rivers and streams for smaller trout. Small fish in tumbling water must grab what food they can, and as such are suckers for a well-presented fly.
In the competitive fly-fishing scene, where fish numbers caught are the deciding factor, Czech nymphing was an instant success. Word spread fast outside the competition world.
In my experience, and as a wide generalisation, Czech nymphing is most successful where fish sizes are generally less than a pound and often much less. If you are fishing waters where catching fish over 3 or more pound is a realistic aim and opportunity, Czech nymphing tends to be much less effective.
History of Czech Nymphing
The first great success of the short line nymph technique was recorded at the World Championships in Belgium in 1986, where it brought a gold medal and the World Champion trophy to Slavoj Svoboda. He won the World’s using a time tested pattern, the Hare’s Ear Nymph in sizes 10 – 12, but fished them like no one had ever seen. The true Czech Nymph pattern as a whole broke through at the World Championships in Wales in 1990 for the first time and brought the title of World Champions for the Czech Team as well as in 1994 in Norway and again in 1996 in Czesky Krumlov. At this event the technique was explained to the British for the first time, and they arranged a detailed publishing of all the series of “Czech” secrets. The latest great success of the Czech Nymph was the World Champion’s trophy for Vladimir Sedivy in Sweden in 2001.
Now days when new books about flyfishing are published, there are often many new “Czech Nymph” patterns. It would be useful perhaps to explain the actual origin and formation of the fly and the technique. There has been much speculation but little real knowledge. The current captain of the Czech team Jiri Klima read a report about nymphing upstream at the 1st Czechoslovakian Flyfishing Seminar in Ceske Budejovice in 1986. But the actual origin of all this is a little bit different.
It all began in 1984 on the Dunajec river in Poland, where the flyfishing tournament between teams of Poland (A,B,) GDR and the team of Czechoslovakia was held. The Polish fishermen were fishing a short line technique, which was surprisingly easy. At that time most of them did not have a fly line because they were not redily available. They instead substituted a thick nylon line of about 0.5 mm (5X) in diameter, which they bound to the tip. Mr. Jelenski showed the Czechoslovakia competitors two basic patterns; these were imitations of the caddis larvae. Hydropsyche a body made from natural hare fur and Rhyacophylia which had a green body and green tail. The backs were bound from peacock fibers on both patterns. Straight hooks were used, with a slight bend. In 1985 at the World Championships on the San river, our Czech competitors implemented this new technique thay had learned in 1984 and finished second behind the team from Poland.
In 1986 Slavoj Svoboda was in Belgium as a competitor in the Fresh Water Club World Championships in Liege, where he bought a new Daiwa flyfishing rod and won the trophy at the Champion of Czechoslovakia on the Vltava River that summer. As a backing material he was using Grafting Bast. Then a few weeks later he won the famous World trophy on the Ourth River in Belgium. At that time Slavoj was binding the bodies of his patterns from plastic foam, which he got from the sponges used by motorist to clean their cars. Its only disadvantage was its short life span. Another of his proved patterns was the “Carrot”, which he brought from the Orava region in Slovakia and for which he used beige chameleon substitute and strips from a red raincoat. All was ribbed with horsehair. This nymph was also used by the Czech competitors on the San River with wonderful success.
At this period the secret of the short line nymph was only known by some of the best competitors in South Moravia (Svoboda, Klima, Malasek) they won the competition on Vltava River and also won the team event. Their secret of the short line nymph was watched closely by the other competitors from South Bohemia. Between them and lead by Milan Janus they began to experiment in the Competitions an at the Czechoslovak elimination competition on the Jihavka river in 1987. One year later the team from Strakonice (Janus, Ancicka, Seknicka) won the first league competition with this technique on the Malse river. At that time the big emphasis was on the development of the shell back of the fly. They started using the casing from a sausage and later the dried skin of a catfish or eel were. These first fat nymphs were called a “Bobesh” and they were classified to the bug’s category.
Radical changes in the appearance of the nymph were brought about by the use of ultra thin lead wire, which allowed them to really slim down the nymphs. They also started to use a true Grub style hook from Admiral Hook Company which is equivalent today to a Kamasan B100. This new technique was used by the competitors from Roznov (Karafiat, Machacek, Barton) who were very successful with these patterns. The next improvement was the use of thin rubber on the back of the nymph which added durability, transparency and ease of tying. Rubber strips cut from surgical gloves were first used and later they used prepared vinyl strips in different colors. Special plastic foil backs were the next innovation, with natural colors, bright colors and even some with a pearlecence appearance.
Next, the Hares Ear fur, especially super colorful variations were used. Seals fur prompted a new innovation with its long fibers, made the nymphs look alive. Original monotonously colored bodies were now being improved with brightly colored red, pink and orange spots, commonly referred to as hot spots. One of the first who tied his flies like this was competitor Lukas Pazdernik. The real innovation, the use of super bright colors was brought about by Pavel Machan (European Champion 2002) and also Tomas Starychfojtu. Theses flies were classified as “Crazies”
Trips by the Czech competitors abroad, enlightened them of new materials available which led to more durable, colorful flies which to this day are still favorites in any Czech nympher’s fly box. Patterns were now being tied with Ice Dubbing which gave the fly a lot more flash, Scud Back material which stretches super easy and is incredibly durable and tundgsten beads in a variety of colors which made the flies super heavy while maintaining a super slim profile.
Remarkable improvements in these flies required innovations in the hooks themselves. Nowadays, most of the hooks you by are chemically sharpened, which was not the case in the late 80’s. Hooks from companies like Hayabusa, Kamasan, Knapek, Mustad, Skalka, Tiemco and VMC are all chemically sharpened. This makes the hook hold a point longer which is a must for flies that are constantly in contact with the river bottom. International Competition rules require barbless hooks and that has given companies like Knapek and Skalka a competitive edge in the market with their complete line of barbless, neddle sharp hooks. The latest craze is hooks with lead weight molded right on the shank. This will save time at the vice since you do not have to add lead wire or strips, prep the underbody and then begin to tie the fly. You will need to prep the lead (roughen up the surface) so the thread will catch, but that is easily done with a pair of pliers or a razor blade. Once you have completed the fly, you can then flatten the body with a pair of pliers to the shape you desire.
One of the biggest improvements in this style of nyphing has been in the leader construction. In the 80’s, leaders were constructed by joining several sections of leader material, decreasing in size down to 3X. The problem with this type of knotted, tapered leader construction was the fact that they would not sink very fast. Finally, companies started making drastic improvements to their leader and tippet material, making it stronger while reducing the diameter. This was a blessing for the Czech nymphing community, because we could now build the leaders out of a single diameter material that was smaller in diameter with the same breaking strength as the older, larger material. The addition of Fluorocarbon tippet material has revolutionized the fishing industry as a whole, not to mention the Czech nymphing aspect. We are now able to build the entire leader out of this material that has superb knot strength, amazing abrasion resistance and best of all, is nearly invisible under water. Fishing a single diameter leader with complete control would not have been possible without the addition of high modulus graphite fly rods, which are lighter, more responsive and super supple in the tip to protect the lighter tippet material. With the new generation of fly rods, we are now able to fish three heavily weighted flies with ease, a task you could not do with the older, less responsive rods.
Czech nymphs are today are a common household term in the European countries and rapidly catching on here in the United States. The top British fly fishing magazines always have an article, fly patterns or how-to’s on fishing the Czech nymph, whether it is for trout or grayling.
Eventually, the “Czech” attribute will probably disappear, but hopefully the World fly fishing community will keep it going strong. The development of new ideas and pattern will continue to evolve, but let’s not forget the countries and the people who were the pioneers of this super effective method of fishing.
The first Czech nymphs were tied from materials that would bring smiles to faces of today’s fly tiers. Imagine a plastic foam body from a kitchen sponge, horsehair ribbing and a shellback from a salami. The use of grub style hooks gave the Czech nymph its characteristic shape and the original thicker patterns gave way to thinner, heavier patterns with the introduction of new materials that were readily available to the Czechs I the beginning, imitative patterns were preferred, like scuds and caddis larvae.
Original single color bodies were enriched with various color or hot spots and eventually graduated to flies that are so colorful, the really do not imitate any natural insects in the river.
European Woven nymphs have been used over the years with great sucess, especially by former World Champion fly fisherman, Vladi Trzebunia. These style of flies are true fish magnets and really get to the bottom quickly. The history of the this fly is somewhat cloudy, but tying them is a true joy. Here is a tutorial on tying the European Woven Nymph
Fishing the Czech Nymph
The basic method of fishing with Czech nymphs is the so-called short nymph or rolled nymph technique. We are catching fish practically under the tip of the fly rod with about a foot of fly line out of the rod tip that usually never touches the water. We make a lob cast upstream and let the flies sink to the bottom and then follow their movements with a downstream movement of the rod tip, keeping the leader as tight as possible without lifting the flies off the bottom. The rod is outstretched in front of the angler at all times. When the flies have swung around below you, give a quick wrist snap and recast the flies again.
To be successful at the Czech method of short nymphing, you must be in permanent contact with the flies at all times.
When a fish takes the fly, it will show up as an inconspicuous movement of the leader or fly line upstream, to the sides or the whole fly system will come to a complete stop. If you are not tight with the leader, you will miss the subtle takes and only notice the really violent ones. Some sort of Hi-Vis Indicator Butt Section will really help in strike detection
There are several things that can help you keep in contact with the flies. First of all it is, you must however lead the flies and match the speed of the current with you rod tip.
The length of the leader is probably the most important part. A short leader, about ¾ the length of the rod will be a lot easier keep in good contact with the flies, where a long leader will be a total pain because you will get a belly that forms under the rod tip and you will loose contact with the flies.
Last but not least, it is very important to have the correct weight in the system of flies. Keeping contact with heavier flies is much easier than with lighter ones although the lighter ones will behave more naturally in the water.
Czech nymphs can also be use on a long line, but you will detect the strike by watching the end of the fly line and most likely will never feel it. You will make a lob cast across the stream and hold the rod tip near vertical and gently lower the rod as the flies move downstream. Don’t be afraid to try both the short and long methods. It may seem awkward at first but after a few takes and misses, you will begin to get the hang of it.
Equipment for Czech Nymphing
You do not need a special rod for Czech nymphing, but a longer rod will make things a little easier, especially when you need to reach over a fast run and hit that pocket on the other side. A 9’ rod will work just fine when you are getting started, but a 10’ is the rod of choice for most rivers and streams.
The line weight is a personal preference. Most anglers will use a 5 weight but a 4 weight will do the trick and be a little lighter in your hand. Weight is important after a long day of holding your arm out.
The leader is usually a butt section of some sort of high-vis material like a hot orange braided but section or a super bright monofilament like Stren Hi-Vis Gold. From that, you can make a 50 to 65” section of 3,4 or 5X tippet, terminating at what ever tippet size you feel is necessary for the conditions. The flies are attached on a tag with the bottom or point fly tied directly to the tippet. Be careful not to use to light of a tippet with super heavy flies because it will do nothing but tangle all day and lead to mounds of frustration.
Tactics of fishing with the Czech nymph will always differ according to current conditions and there is no set in stone directions for right tactics. Below are some tips to help figure out where to use the Czech nymphing method.
Where to fish:
With a Czech nymph you can fish shallow as well as deep, fast runs and along the seams beside these runs. Look for places in the faster water that has a little current break or a submerged rock in the fast water that will give the fish a little cover to hid in. Unlike indicator rigs, the Czech nymphs will sink to the bottom as soon as they hit the water and you can easily catch those fish that are in those tight little current breaks. Also fish them in deep holes and calmer areas in the stream. Look for the reverse currents along the bank and cast down stream and lead the flies back upstream, you will be amazed at how many fish you can catch this way. The Otava river in the Czech Republic is ideal for Czech nymphing.
When to fish:
The Czech nymphing method is effective year-round with minor adjustments to you flies you use and the size of the tippet. You can run a super heavy nymph on the bottom or point fly and two un-weighted emergers like the Black Beauty and a SParkle Wing RS2 in the middle and top positions. This is the perfect rig for Cheesman Canyon. Get creative with the flies and placement! It’s alot of fun and a great way to re-discover nymph fishing.
How to Construct a Czech Nymphing Leader
Here is a really cool video shot by Steve Parrott while fish were gorging themselves on Baetis Emergers. Steve fished a weighted point fly with a Baetis Emerger pattern on the dropper tag, twitching it through the water column. There are really no limits to these methods!!!!
Here is a video shot by us in The Czech Republic in 2016
So if you think of going out fishing in the Czech Republic, fill out our form and we will give you the best deals, set you up with fishing permits and accommodation if you so wish it, fishing packages tailored to your requirements, just ask and we will do everything to make the trip a dream come true for you.