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How I learned to Euro nymph in one evening, 30 pages and 10 minutes in the water. Really.

What I had heard sounded very similar to tight line nymphing, a traditional method that we use quite a bit here in the States presently; a method of fishing which implores proper technique and sort of simplifies things for us guides, making it very simple for clients to catch fish.


The Old Man at the shop and his assistant at the time, Brian Harris, had suggested that I take home a book called 'Dynamic Nymphing' by a gentleman named George Daniel to learn what I could about the "new and improved" way of catching a trout with flies. Within about 10 minutes of reading that book I had soon discovered that Mr. Daniel could easily come to my favorite piece of water, of which, I fished almost daily, and he would probably out fish me without even thinking about it. He laid out more knowledge about fly fishing in such a short time, just 20-30 pages into the book, and just blew my mind away. I was curious as to all the new flies, different types of leaders, long (much longer) rods used specifically for nymphing. I was very curious to one thing in particular. I was very amazed by the fact that the more I read the more I discovered that this is how all the international fly fishing teams compete. That told me one thing that I knew already and another thing that I liked a lot; that number 1, I like catching trout and 2, it's very efficient at catching trout. I was hooked Euro and hadn't even tried it yet.


I was on a short time limit as I had to prepare for the trip the next day so my goal was to tie up a handful of Euro leaders and read as much as I could about how to implore the technique properly. I rigged about 5 or so of the different types of leaders from the book and I read til I couldn't anymore with heavy eyes taking over.


The next day my client arrived. The first thing I noticed was that there was 2 gentleman, not 1as originally planned. I was already a little nervous for the trip. That was a feeling that had escaped me for a couple years at that point because after you've gone out on, at that point, at least 300 trips over 3 or 4 seasons, you develop a sense of confidence and a calm demeanor that shows itself to your clients and eases their apprehension of being a beginner. But that wasn't the case today. I was to catch fish with flies and leaders that I had never used before. And I wasnt the one catching fish, it would (hopefully) be a client that apparently had no prior fishing experience. Best of luck to me.


I asked the old man what I should say when the client asked how much experience I have doing this as I'm not one to mis-lead my clients. He suggested I state that I'm relatively new to it but was pretty good at "the nymph game". Essentially, this was true, as I did learn to fly fish in the winter when I first took to it and developed a knack for catching trout sub-surface before I discovered the joy of seeing a trout rise to my fly that preceding summer. So we would go with that. Sure enough, the client asked me on the drive up how much experience I had at Euro nymphing and I simply stated that "I'm relatively new to it but I am pretty good at the nymph game". A simple truth was stated, and it flew with him. He asked several questions on the way up as a matter of fact, and I tried my best to recite all that I had read. I kept stating "You'll see" and "Oh, its so effective". It sure had better be effective if I didn't want to look like a fool and wanted to collect a tip.


It was early season and that limited me on my choice of waters as we were still in run off phase. One thing I did pick up on my reading the night before was that this practice could be very useful during higher flows, as it's main focus was getting the flies to the bottom where the trout like to feed the most, especially in rough conditions like that. Knowing that, I was tempted to drive to Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was a peculiar move as I personally did not fish this stretch of the Big Thompson very much for two main reasons. The first reason being it's a tourist magnet. I tend to find that the more tourists I fish along side with, the more my solitude gets ruined by getting high holed and getting a million questions. When I guide, or work in the shop, I love the questions. When I go out fishing, I don't. Simply put. The second reason, this section of Moraine is a classical meandering stream and at that point in my fly fishing career, that wasn't my strongest game. I've since changed that fact and can now have very dominant days in meandering streams. The day that followed would actually be the driving factor in that change.


We arrived at about 9 and I remember it being a cloudy and rainy day. The rain drops on the water would help keep us out of the trout line of sight which, again, had been part of my problem in this spot up to that point as I would often make the mistake of only fishing there in the late summer when flows were low and the trout could quite literally hear and see you from 20-30 feet away.


To this day I believe I picked that spot subconsciously to give myself a sense of righteousness if and when I (we) did succeed. I hoped so, for if it didn't turn out well, it would leave me with a feeling of rejection and apprehension; a very similar feeling as the first 20 guide trips ever feeling before that confident calm demeanor developed.


We started rigging up and the second gentleman had mentioned that he had experienced fly fishing and was just loooking to do his "normal thing" and wasn't interested in learning to Euro nymph, a feeling that was shared by most anglers before it developed into the craze that it is now. So that helped my confidence going forward. I set him up with a normal nymph rig, an old school thingamabobber and set him on his way after he confirmed he didn't need a lesson and just needed help with fly selection.


Now for the mission at hand...Euro nymphing. I led my client to a huge sweeping bend in the river and gave my standard 10 minute beginner off the water lesson (just a different version today to fit the demands of the day). Afterwards, I gave my standard "let me stand in the water and fish and make a believer of you while I show you how it's done" on the water lesson. I always used this 10 minute lesson for beginners (and beginners only) as a chance to, as stated, make a believer out of apprehensive and nervous newcomers while illustrating how it's done. They found it useful. I may or may not have always used this time as a chance for the angler in me to catch my daily fill of trout. May or may not have. Hey, you can only see so many trout in your net that aren't yours before you just can't take it anymore and I learned early on in my guide career that it went over better if you took this approach as opposed to asking a client for their rod at 3:00 in the afternoon to catch "that trout on the far side of the river that may be out of reach of their ( beginner) cast". Yeah, that approach didnt go over too well usually so I adapted.


That day was different though as I only had 10 minutes to make a believer (and subsequently) a teacher out of me and this nervous, apprehensive guide. As it turns out, I didn't need 10 minutes. Didn't even need 2 minutes. In fact I needed 1 cast; 1 and only one. I threw that first cast confidently, knowing it would increase my chances. I hooked up on the first drift and several things happened at that moment. I became a believer. I was no longer apprehensive, or nervous. I became a more confident guide, and for that matter a more confident fly fisher. And I became hooked; hooked on Euro nymphing. In those first 10 minutes or so I think I landed 3 trout and missed another 3 or 4. Highly...effective. Simply stated. Hooked and sold.


My client ended up catching upwards of a dozen or so trout that day and was doing so good that the other gentleman finally decided in the afternoon that he would give it a try. He did well also. I couldn't wait to spend a whole day exploring this whole new approach for myself. It was very exciting to be quite honest.


To this day I look back at that trip and draw several items of note from it. The power of educating one's self, even if only having a couple hours of short time to do it. The power of confidence in one's self. The ability to be open-minded and willing to learn. The fact that George Daniel is a fly fishing genius and I still read that book quite often; and still gain new insight from the information presented so well.


To this day, I still Euro nymph. In fact, most but not all days, it's my preferred method. I owe that to not only my joy of this method, and not just to the efficiency of this technique, but in large part to the fact that the way I jumped into this way of fly fishing was very enjoyable and rewarding.


I encourage you all to try new techniques, new flies, new rigs, and new methods; it might just lead you into a whole new way of thinking about how you catch trout.


If you are interested in learning how to Euro nymph, please feel free to contact us at The Colorado Fly Angler to book a guided trip. If you are already into the "nymph game" and need to restock on flies, look to CFA as well; we carry a large selection of guide tested and guide approved Euro nymphing flies.


Tight Lines

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