Participants of the 1989 World Fly Fishing Championships were witness first hand to the short line nymphing skills, techniques and flies of Polish fly fisher Vladi Trzebunia. Vladi obliterated the competition, taking the individual gold medal by storm. Vladi’s performance was nothing short of spectacular as he garnered more points than the next three national teams combined! The fly fishing world took notice. In subsequent competitions other countries such as the Czech Republic added their own stamp to Vladi’s method and flies vaulting themselves to the podium. So much so that fly fishers around the world often refer to short line nymphing without an indicator as Czech nymphing and the flies as Czech nymphs.
Originally developed for taking trout and grayling in shallow, swift, pressured waters between 1-4 feet deep across Europe, Czech nymphing has evolved into a deadly method. Taking its time to emigrate perhaps, the techniques and flies are ideally suited to North American rivers and streams. Veteran competition fly fishers such as Maple Ridge’s Todd Oishi have integrated Czech nymphing into their own tactical repertoire with impressive results, both domestically and abroad.
It would be inappropriate to discuss Czech nymphs without first briefly discussing the method. Czech nymphing does not utilize strike indicators as competition rules prohibit their use. Rod length leaders lead a fly or team of flies through perspective lies slightly faster than the current. If possible, use foam bubbles or a drifting leaf as a gauge to track fly progress. Keep the fly on a short leash for maximum control and striking power. At the end of each drift inject a sharp wrist snap, as though setting the hook. It is surprising how often this tactic results in a take. Turning downstream trout grab the nymph as it flees from view, the brisk rod snap drives the fly home. Takes are felt, ranging from firm to subtle. Pattern weight is a key component to the method as flies must skip and tick the bottom. Properly placed within the hydro dynamic cushion along the bottom rubble and debris the tumbling nymph glides down main street, perfectly placed for foraging trout.
Original Polish nymphs featured woven bodies of yarn or floss over a heavy lead foundation and a sparse beard hackle. The woven look provided light and dark surfaces common to many aquatic nymphs and larva. Remember to cover the lead foundation with floss to provide a firm base for the woven body. For further information regarding woven bodies please dig out the November/December 2006 issue of B.C. Outdoors Sport Fishing and look for my Woven Wonders column or feel free to visit the Flies section of my website, www.flycraftangling.com. Polish nymph’s still work and along with the more popular Czech nymphs are becoming available on a commercially tied basis.
Curved scud pupa hooks are the foundation of most Czech and Polish nymphs providing a distinct grub or scud look. Compared to resident stream fauna these nymphs do a fantastic job suggesting free living and net spinning caddis larva from the Hydropsycheand Rhyacophila families. Caddis is one of the most prolific aquatic insects within any river or stream system. Once weighted, a curved hook rolls over in the current riding hook point up. This inverted posture results in less hang ups as the fly drifts snag free. Feeding trout and grayling certainly don’t mind the inverted fly. Most Czech nymphs range in size from #6 through #12.
Czech nymphing uses a team of flies to attract trout while the cumulative weight places the offerings into the strike zone. Pattern weight becomes a critical factor to using this method in British Columbia as dropper rigs are not permitted. Single patterns must be extra heavy to compensate for lack of additional patterns. In today’s world there are numerous weighting options at the tiers disposal. Metal beads, lead wire, tungsten beads and tungsten sheets are foundation materials for any Czech nymph. Vary the weights and combinations to maintain a diverse arsenal of weighted patterns adaptable to all current and depth conditions. Serious Czech nymph addicts document the various gram weights of their patterns, segregating the various weight combinations within their fly boxes.
A glance at a handful of Czech nymphs reveals a common look, relatively skinny dubbed bodies, scruffy thoraxes and dark dorsal surfaces. On larger or heavily weighted variations bodies may end up thicker owing to the lead or tungsten under body.. Fly tiers have a variety of shellback materials their disposal including Midge Flex, Scud Back, and Latex. Pearlescent materials such as Uni Flat Braid, Super Weave Mylar and Crystal Flash are becoming increasingly popular for their attractor qualities. Tungsten sheets can be fashioned into heavyweight shellbacks as well. Permanent markers are often used to darken all or part of the shellback to match the natural coloration of aquatic invertebrates. Contrast is another key pattern trait, thoraxes are typically darker than bodies and fish attracting hot spots are common. Hot spots can be bright sections of orange, pink or red dubbing or subtle such as the bright orange tying thread Todd uses for his Czech nymph. Segmentation, as with any nymph pattern, is an important component. Czech nymphs often feature dual ribs. Mylar ribs are often incorporated over the body and under the shellback as sources of attraction. Traditional wire or monofilament ribs wound over both the body and the shellback provide segmentation and reinforcement.
1) Slide a gold tungsten bead onto the shank of a de-barbed hook. To avoid obscuring the hook eye make sure the narrow opening of the tungsten bead faces forward. Place the hook into the jaws of the vise and attach the tying thread directly behind the bead. Trim a 1/16 inch wide strip 3 inches long from a tungsten sheet. Bind the tungsten strip in place along the shank. Wind the tungsten strip forward to the bead using close touching turns then back over itself ¾’s of way back down the shank. Reverse the direction once again winding the tungsten back to the bead and tie off. The goal is to create a neat tapered underbody.
2) Tie in the shellback material just behind the bead on top of the shank and secure it back to the rear of the underbody. Tie in and secure the fine red wire in the same fashion.
3) Form a dubbing noodle of olive hare’s ear or rabbit dubbing by twisting small pinches of dubbing onto the tying thread. Wind the dubbing noodle from the rear of the underbody forward to the ¾’s point on the hook forming a slender tapered body.