Experienced Tactical Fly Fisher with a full fly fishing equipment caught a fish in the river | Fly Fishing Outfitters

What Does It Take to Be a Tactical Fly Fisher?

You can be an amateur fly fisher or you can hone your skills and turn into a tactical fly fisher. That is part of the beauty of fly fishing.

Tactical, Euro Nymphing, Tight-line Nymphing or whatever you want to call it, has become a big part of today’s fly-fishing community.  In recent years what was once only considered a foreign form of catching Trout for competition Fly-fishers has become very mainstream, why? Because it works!

First off you must understand that 90% of a Trout’s diet consists of subsurface feeding on the immature insects and smaller forage fish.  We all love to see that splashy take on the surface of the water, but…If they are only feeding 10% of the time on the surface, we are missing a huge opportunity.  While the traditional western style of Nymphing with a glorified bobber has been around for ages, it still doesn’t compare to what we consider modern Nymphing.  As a guide back in the early 2000’s, I was fortunate to spend a day on one of our best rivers in the Vail valley with none other than the legendary Joe Humphries. Joe is the guru of tight line nymphing in America,  I learned more in one day from Joe then in my first 20 years Fly-fishing.

In 2016 the Vail valley hosted the World Fly-fishing Championships on U.S soil for the first time in nearly 30 years. The big event which drew 600+ Competitors and support staffs from over 20 countries was an amazing learning opportunity for the local Fly-fishing community.  the couple years before the World’s we had several American based competitions.  Long story short, we were sold on the art of Tactical Nymphing. A good friend of the shop Jason Lieverst, who was employed at the time by the governing body of the international competition FIPS MOUCHE spent 2 years living in the valley.  We are the only shop with a serious Fly-tying area. Jason spent countless hours in our shop and he became a mentor to all of us in the art of the “Dirty Nymphing”.

Like learning any new technique, it takes some time and dedication to master nymphing without an indicator.  You don’t need to run right out and buy a 10ft. 2wt. Euro rod and setup.  You can gradually work your way into it. Many of us started with a hybridized rig on our 9ft 5wt.  and honed our skills, eventually going on to have the full Tactical rigs.

With a little practice, however, you can develop your skills and try new casting techniques in more challenging conditions, thus adding to the thrill of fly fishing and catching more this then you thought were in your favorite hole.

Becoming a Tactical Fly Fisher

Like any new sporting endeavor, getting some professional experience under the belt will help steepen the learning curve.

To be a tactical fly fisher, you need practice. Taking a guided fly-fishing trip with experienced guides will fast-track you through the various methods and skills required, including:

  •  Equipment
  • Rigging
  • Flies
  • Presentation

The Equipment

Like we say, you don’t have to go right out and buy a Euro (tactical) set up right away.  Like anything that’s new and different have the basic equipment makes nymphing much More productive and greatly increases the number of Trout to the net.  Basically it’s all bout the Rod, Line and leader.

Rod- The difference between your average fly rod and the Tactical nymphing rod is the length and the sensitivity in the tip section. A Nymphing rod usually has softer action from the mid section to the tip. The goal of Tactical Nymphing is to create a truly drag free drift of the flies at the bottom of the river. Understanding that the speed of the water on the surface can be very different from the speed at the bottom is very important.  Having the flies drifting almost directly below the rod tip will help you achieve the correct drift. Many rods are between 10 and 12 feet long.  Rod weights are generally in the 2-3wt.

Redington Strike Euro Nymphing rods $349.00

Redington Strike Euro Nymphing Fly Rod

Orvis Clearwater 10″ 2 wt. Euro Nymphing Rod $249.00

Orvis Clearwater 4 Piece Fly Rods – | Orvis

Orvis Recon 10″ 2wt. and 10″ 3wt Euro Nymphing rods

ORVIS Recon Freshwater Fly Rods

Line- This is where things become drastically different from your traditional flylines. The modern Tactical lines are most often not tapered or weighted to match the weight of the rod.  Most of the lines are a level taper and a thinner diameter then traditional flylines.  Lines have a braided or a mono core.  The line almost hardly comes into use, because the leader is what’s in or on the water.

Rigging For Success 

One of the biggest questions we get in the Fly shop is more about how to rig your rod for Tactical Nymphing.  First off, you must remember that these rigging systems were developed by competition anglers, who are working against the clock.  But what makes it so effective is the rigs ability to get the fly down to the fish as quickly as possible and stay in the feeding lane as long as possible.  Fortunately there is quite a bit of leeway for us armatures, but sticking a close to the formula does result in more Trout to the net.

Let’s begin by understanding one big difference between a standard indicator rig and the tactical rigs drifts.  The old school indicator rig is a “bobber” rig.  The indicator is a hinderance to the fly getting to the bottom and staying there. Remember, the speed of the water is probably different on the surface then on the bottom.  Having an indicator on the surface creates a reverse “Bell Curve” affect.  The fly’s are in the feeding lane for a much shorter time due to the drag and the fact that maybe you don’t have your indicator set for the proper depth.  I can’t tell you the number of times that a angler has walked into the shop and gotten skunked, simply because they didn’t adjust the depth of their indicator.  A clean drift is a drift that’s not deep enough and your flies are going right over the Trots head.

How to European Nymph

This is where your “ah ha” moment occurs.  Eliminating the “bobber” for a section of brightly colored mono (sighter tippet)is really the biggest adjustment you need to make as an angler.  We have all become emotionally attached to our favorite style of indicators, we are just switching to a more effective indicator.  By taking the floating hinderance out of the equation, you now have a rig that is much more effective. Fact is your flies are getting down faster and your drift is drag free. The set up is really just one time, then you make your fly tippet changes at the tippet ring.  This is why most of us have gone to a dedicated Nymphing rod and reel set up.

Creating a Modular European Nymphing Leader | Fly Fishing | Gink and  Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

Just like any completely new technique, it does pay to go out with someone who is familiar with this style of fishing to get a better understanding of the concept. Once you do, you will realize that you do catch way more Trout this way.

The Flies

One of the biggest innovations to fly tying in the last several years has been a direct result of the competition anglers search to get the flies down fast.  In competition Fly-fishing under the FIPS MOUCHE rule, there is no use of extra weight allowed anywhere on the line, no split shot!  To make up for this deficiency, competition anglers started tying flies with larger beads and then Tungsten beads became all the rage since, it’s much denser then any other metal. They then discovered that a jig style hook was much less likely to get stuck on the bottom. And finally the flies needed to be extremely streamlined so they sink faster, the less material the less drag.  The Europeans invented an entirely new family of nymphs.  It became less about matching the hatch as just putting something in the Trout’s face.  Slowly the idea of using the jig flies started catching on in the U.S and are now becoming a major section of every fly shop’s fly bins.  We have been tying and using jig flies sine around 2015 as more of a innovation. Today the jig flies are probably outselling most of the traditional nymphs.  Your old school Prince, Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears and even the San Juan Worms are all being tied as “Jiggy” patterns.  Fishing a dry/dropper rig next to the bank with a jiggy dropper, provides a nearly snag-free drift.  Many dubbing ang and thorax materials have been replaces with much finer Coq de Leon materials to make flies less bulky.

4 Olive Perdigon Euro Jig Euro Nymphs. Best Perdigons. - EtsyEuro Nymphing Flies | Jig Flies | Mad River Outfitterstroutline-perdigon-uv-hot-pink | Nymph fly patterns, Fly tying, Nymph

Tactical Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is an art. It combines physical effort with mental focus and skill development. Its beauty is that you can catch your first trout with minimal expertise. Once you have experienced the thrill of catching fish, you are ready to become a tactical fly fisher.

Call us at (970) 845-8090 or visit our retail store at 1060 W Beaver Creek Blvd, Avon, CO 81620 to pick up your fly-fishing gear and get started on the path of becoming an expert tactical fly fisher!

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