The art of nymphing |

The art of nymphing

Howard Horton (far left) points to a trout in the South Platte River near Deckers while he helps assist a Euro nymphing clinic attendee locate fish in the high country waters.
Lance Maggart / Sky-Hi News

Fly-fishing is a favorite pastime of many who visit Grand County or call Middle Park their home and while most individuals are familiar with the classic style of fly-fishing, often focusing on dry flies and the standard 10-and-2 casting style, there is a less well known style of fly-fishing almost ideal for our high country rivers and streams: European nymphing.

In late May I attended a fly-fishing clinic put on by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the South Platte River at the quaint roadside stop along the South Platte’s canyon called Deckers. Parks and Wildlife’s Angler Outreach Coordinator Howard Horton led the clinic along with Evergreen based professional fly-fishing guide Brian Kelso. The clinic focused on the European Nymphing style of fly-fishing.

Euro nymphing, as it was often referred to by Horton and Kelso, is a distinctly different style of fly-fishing involving a different line setup, a different casting style, and a total reliance on nymph flies. Unlike the popular dry fly fly-fishing the flies used in Euro nymphing remain below the surface of the water.

The upturned hooks of Euro nymphing flies are designed to bound along the bottom of a river or creek while an angler awaits the bite of a hungry trout. Standard nymph fly-fishing often relies on strike indicators such as a bobber but the Euro nymphing style utilizes segments of line, typically neon colored to allow for easy viewing, to show the angler when a fish has taken a bite.

The casting method for Euro nymphing is quite different as well and can be significantly easier for beginning or novice anglers to reach proficiency. Unlike the classic 10-and-2 method of casting Euro nymphing employs an slight backwards oval swoop wherein the fly is lobbed a few yards upstream. Anglers then allow the nymph fly to gently flow downstream before repeating the process.

According to Kelso, who guides for The Blue Quill Angler along the Front Range, Euro nymphing can work in all water types but is ideal for pocket water, often found in the relatively small high country rivers and streams of Grand County. Kelso has been working as a fly-fishing guide for approximately seven years and called Euro nymphing his specialty.

The Euro nymphing clinic kicked off around mid-morning on a late May Thursday. After a brief introductory session Horton and Kelso led their students through a quick line tying session where all attendees added the neon line indicators we would use throughout the day as well as well as our tippets and a dual fly setup.

We stood on the rocky shoal of the South Platte and watched as Kelso demonstrated the casting technique used for Euro nymphing. As he did Horton explained the process, how the oval roll cast would lob the flies upriver, how Kelso kept his rod at a 45 degree angle above the water allowing his indicator line to gentle drift downstream with a heavy slack. Within approximately 15 minutes Kelso pulled his first trout out of the deeper water on the far side of the river. Shortly thereafter our class dispersed along a roughly half-mile stretch of the South Platte.

Horton and Kelso drifted up and down the river, stopping in to provide guidance and encouragement to each angler and to help direct their casts. After several hours I had still not caught a bite. The clinic was nearing its end and Horton was eager to help me catch my first fish in the Euro nymphing style. He led me to a bend in the river where a fast moving current drifted between several outcroppings of rock. With his polarized sunglasses he spotted a fish hovering just upstream from one outcropping and guided my casts. For the next 20 minutes I continually worked the line Horton had pointed out, casting my nymphs upriver and letting them drift downstream past the nose of the lingering trout.

When the strike came it was subtle but I felt the gentle tug that told me something was on the far end of my line. I reeled in a brown trout roughly 10 inches long. After removing the fly I placed him back into the river and he quickly darted out of site.

The clinic I attended at Deckers was free to the public but was limited to less than a dozen participants on a first-come-first-served registration basis. The clinic was one of several CPW puts on over the course of the year that helps instruct outdoor enthusiast on a range of subjects from basic fishing techniques, to beginner fly-fishing, to specific styles such as Euro nymphing. You can find more of the clinics offered by CPW by searching for “Colorado Parks and Wildlife Clinics and Seminars” online.

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