Fly Fishing in Europe - Winter French Nymphing
There is an undeniable fact: “French Nymphing” is gaining more and more adherents because of its great effectiveness. During the cold season, it is useless to search for large graylings in the small veins of water or in the riffles! The finest specimens are always feeding in regular and deep currents where a good amount of water gives them both food and security.
Scientists explain to us that during the floods of autumn and winter, grayling tend to move away from areas where the current becomes too strong, but then they come back quickly because this is where they get the best flow of prey items by simply holding in the current. During heavy rains, “the lady of the stream” often leaves her preferred position under the pressure of the rising water.
In search of a lady!
Fish chose an area where water depth and flow velocity are favourable. It can go down a gravel spit to where the current calms down or just get closer to the shore as I have seen many times on major rivers. Generally, large regular gravels are the best at this time of year but it is primarily the observation that will guide the angler to the hot spots! If a couple of large rocks deflect the stream of water, it is a safe bet that many beautiful fish will be feeding here. Nevertheless, there are also days when hatchings are rare or absent, and our task is complicated.
Winter is a cold season, which brings its share of tough climatic conditions. Anglers must keep in mind that during these rigorous months large grayling need a high protein to cope with winter settles. We have all noticed that the most beautiful specimens are fond of shrimp and other nymphs that will satisfy their appetite.
Followers of the "French Nymphing" technique will then find here an interesting playground. A 10’ long rod, a fluorescent indicator (a simple short length of orange braided backing connected loop to loop) and two or three nymphs will be in charge of catching grayling. Also called "short line Nymphing" in the rest of Europe, this method has the advantage of being very effective if well controlled! Most disappointments when practicing in relatively deep waters come from a bad position of the angler. The fly-fisherman must stand facing the current and near the deepest area. By placing themselves perpendicular to the flow, he will be more able to control the drift of his line. Being placed in front of the deep zone also facilitates the detection of takes. Strange as it may seem, if the angler approached slowly fish have virtually no negative reaction.
Practicing this kind of "dead drift" method is very effective on deep areas but take care because grayling can take the nymph and spit it out without any indicator’s movement!
Orange and pink!
In the mainstream, grayling often come to look at everything that happens in front of them even if it is not necessarily edible. So if you want the fish to quickly locate your nymphs, it is very effective to present two or three models of different sizes, one of which acts as a teaser. Personally, I practice very often with two small nymphs size 18 or 16 on the droppers and a bigger one on the point of my long leader! The biggest nymph with an orange or fluorescent pink bead works as a teaser.
The first thing to get to the right depth is to degrease the tippet tip to a length equal to the height of water. Repeat it several times during the fishing day so that the immersion of the nymphs is always perfect. When the nymphs get to the hot zone, the angler must jig the leader to induce small vibrations and movements. Big grayling are particularly sensitive to moving nymphs and it greatly facilitates the perception of bites! The angler needs to react to each movement or slight stopping of the indicator with a small lift of the rod. With reasonable practice, the degree of difficulty required in mastering the French Nymphing technique will slowly disappear! The pleasure of catching nice winter grayling is unique!
My fishing tackle for “French Nymphing”:
Airflo Streamtec Nantec rod 10’ line 4/5 or Helios 2 4-weight 10' Fly Rod.
Airflo VLite 3/4 reel or Orvis Hydros.
Airflo Ridge Supple Technical WF3 and 4
Home made stiff tapered leader.
Laurent Guillermin is a French reporter and photographer. Laurent’s images and articles have appeared in a great number of fishing magazines in France and Europe. He’s also well-known in the small fly tying “world” and has commercial patterns tied by Easy Fly. He has traveled all over the world as a reporter and is considered as an expert fly fisher for trout, grayling, pike, carp, sea bass, bonefish and permit. “Every time you go out fishing you can have a different experience. That’s what it’s all about!”
You can contact him on email@example.com
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