The French Chronicles: Ceramic Nymphs
We are delighted to welcome French fly-tyer and writer, Stanislas Freyheit, on board for a new series which, amongst other things, will include features on nymphing, fly fishing travels and some marvellous French anglers and rivers. Enjoy
It’s 2014, anglers have been fishing nymphs for a relatively long time now and, as such, the fish have seen an infinite range of nymphs, made from an infinity variety of materials. There really is little that is new…
Now I am a true river fly fisherman, but I must admit that reservoir fly fishers sometimes seem to me to be the most creative; only last week a friend of mine was tying an imitation of cigarette butt because the trout in his over-fished reservoir were bored, they had seen it all and were now trying new ‘food’...
But I am like you – a passionate fly-tyer and an admirer of the well-tied flies - I love to coil the best natural materials around my hooks on the vice like pheasant tail, quills, and all the nice hackles, roll the dubbing and then finish the fly with a flawless head. But I am also a curious fly-tyer and I love to explore all possibilities to create a fly by adding different and new materials to create the end effect.
Five years ago I was fishing with a friend – stalking zebra trout on the Loue River in the north east of France – and I noticed (well, I could hardly not…) that my fishing mate was catching more trout than me. You know exactly how it is when it comes to showing off the fly that’s doing the business to somebody else and despite the fact that he was a very good friend of mine he kept pretending that he was just using a ‘classic’ nymph, nothing special...
At the end of the day, I had caught only two grayling and one trout, whereas my friend was whistling on the bank and making fun of me, proudly pointing out that he had lured more than ten fish in the day, a very good result indeed for an overfished French river like the Loue.
Finally he opened his box for me to take a look inside and I was astonished by the nymphs he was fishing with - they really did look just like insect larvae, with different tones of rings on the body on a jelly aspect. I admit that my old pheasant tails are good nymphs but these were really extraordinary, and in a range of incredibly realistic colours: green insect, chocolate, dirty yellow - just like real caddis nymphs.
I asked him where he found them and he replied:
“Well, you know it’s kind of a French secret, everybody is always thinking about tying materials around a hook and these nymphs are made of lead, painted in a special way.”
I was really stuck on creating the same type of nymphs so I spent months establishing the best formula of paint, the ideal diameter of the lead, the baking time of the ceramic nymph in the oven and many other parameters required to produce the most realistic finished nymphs. Now, four years on, I have fished with the ceramic nymphs in many countries - from Montenegro to Mongolia, Sweden to Iceland - and they have taken fish all over the world!
Back home I tried to trace back the true history of these nymphs in France and, in fact, I found that several people have claimed their creation including anglers from the Albarine River, the Ain River, the Sorgues River fishermen… But the interesting point is that these nymphs seem to have been born in those places where the fish see a lot of fishermen on the bank and are educated. In these rivers the anglers have had to be creative in order to develop an ultra-realistic pattern of nymph: smooth enough to be fished on a small size leader and to sink quickly in the deep, crystal clear French pools.
The smooth shell of these ceramic nymphs really is the most interesting point because they sink really fast in the water without any rough materials to act as a drag upon them - and this is a great help when you have to reach fish feeding on the bottom of deep pools.
As far as colour is concerned I love to add an orange spot to fish for trout, and a purple spot for grayling. If you try the dirty yellow model – a caddis imitation - and you make it drift really close to the bottom, big grayling just can’t resist it! In addition I think that these nymphs take more fish because of the effect of the rings on the body, which is really different from all of the classic rings that you get with quills, vinyl rib or any other classic material. Also, the layer of UV resin acts like a magnifying glass on the body of the nymph, enhancing all of the different tones of the colours, making them really realistic.
As far as techniques are concerned these ceramic nymphs are not only good to practice sight nymphing, they also take fish on all of the classic methods from French nymphing to Czech nymphing and even under a klink.
About the author
Stanislas Freyheit is a French professional fly-tyer and writer, specialising in the production of hand-tied French original nymphs.
He has travelled in many different countries during the past ten years, fishing with both dry flies and nymphs, and has decided to specialized in the production of nymphs designed to fish what he has called the ‘four fundamental nymphing methods’ namely:
- Czech nymphing
- Klink and dink nymphing
- French nymphing
- Sight nymphing
You can find his tungsten and ceramic nymphs HERE Stanislas also shares his fly fishing experiences on a colourful blog HERE describing ten years of nymphing around the world in texts, pictures and tutorial videos.