A lot of anglers just getting started with euro nymphing (aka tight-lining) have the misconception that tight-line techniques are only for weighted bead head style offerings (nymphs, leaches, worms, etc.). However, euro nymphing is just a technique and set of tools to deliver and drift offerings; it doesn’t dictate what types of flies are offered as long as the rig has ample weight to cast and sink to target depth. This post illustrates one option for using unweighted offerings on euro style rigs and hopefully clears up some misconceptions.
Note that this post proposes the use of sinkers for unweighted flies. That said, if you’re governed by a set of competition rules chances are you won’t be able to use sinkers; and this read isn’t a good use of your time.
Why not use a bead head or jig?
There are a lot of advantages to use bead and jig style nymphs with euro nymphing. Jig style offerings (nymphs, leaches, etc.) allow the hook point to ride upwards. This not only allows you to more easily bump the bottom without getting snagged, but also more frequently hooks fish in the top of the mouth giving you more leverage during the fight. Bead head style offerings alone (non-jig) can also produce a higher strike rate by adding a little flash to the front the offering. So why would you not want to use a bead or jig style offering for euro nymphing?
There are some reasons why a weighted bead head (jig or non-jig) offering may not be the most productive/viable:
- Fishing tiny micro nymphs (sizes 24 – 30); today it’s not easy to find hooks and beads that small.
- Using small offerings where even if a weighted bead is used, the weight isn’t enough to get the offerings to the target depth in time.
- When the pattern calls for an unweighted style of bead; such as a glass bead head.
- Targeting picky fish, that just don’t want to eat an offering with a bead head.
Whatever the case, there’s no need to assume you need a weighted bead head for tight-line techniques.
Euro Nymphing with a weighted split shot
The solution to euro nymphing with light or unweighted offerings is simple; use a split shot just like you would for your floating indicator rig.
If you are fishing a single offering, you can place a split shot sinker about 6″ up from the fly. If you are fishing multiple offerings (2 or more), then you can place the sinker in between the bottom 2 offerings.
The diagram below illustrates the principal using a tandem rig with 2 offerings. While the diagram shows the whole mono rig setup, for this discussion focus on the hook and sinker placement shown near the bottom of the diagram. Here the lower offering is tied about 16″ below the upper offering and a sinker is placed in between them. If you find the sinker slipping from your cast you can place a single overhand knot right below it to keep it from moving.
Note that as you shorten the length between the offerings the rig will sink more quickly; so using 12″ between offerings should have a faster sink rate than 16″, all other things equal. Also how far a sinker is placed from an offering can effect its sink rate as well.
Determining how heavy of spit shot to use will take a little practice and depends on your offerings, water currents, target depth, etc.. In general, I find myself starting with a BB and working up or down from there. Your goal is obviously to get your offerings at the depth where the fish are and if that’s near the bottom you can use the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule basically says that 20% of the time you should “feel” (bump) the bottom otherwise you are too shallow/deep. Also note that this implies you may have to adjust your spit shot size as you cover different water.
As long as you are not competitive fishing, split shot sinkers are a good way to tight-line lightweight nymphs and other offerings; simply use the split shots just like you do with floating indicator rigs.
Okay, now a pop quiz to see what you learned… Suppose you are familiar with a stretch of water and know a solid pattern choice for your floating indicator rig is a size 22 RS2 and size 24 Zebra Midge… What pattern might you try euro nymphing and expect some success? Yup, those same exact RS2’s and Midges you fished with an indicator rig can also be fished with tight-line techniques too. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a whole new collection of nymphs for euro nymphing; you don’t.