Learn Tight Line Techniques (Euro-Nymphing)

Learn Tight Line Techniques (Euro-Nymphing)

History of Tight Line Techniques

Learn tight line techniques (Euro-nymphing) to increase your hookups on the stream! Tight line nymph fishing has been around much longer than most Millennials realize. Some would say back all the way to the earliest forms of fishing a few thousand years ago!

One of my mentors and friends, the late Jim Green was the line designer for Sunset Line company. Sunset line company has manufactured Amnesia orange and green colored mono for a very long time now. It was the preference for many tight line fly fishers for decades. Jim also created the movement to graphite rods in 1970’s. His influences are witnessed just as much today with fly line taper configurations as well casting techniques! Jim was a legendary fly fisher!

Other notable anglers who used the tight line techniques long before the Euro nymphing craze include Jim Estes (an excellent angler from Bryson City, NC)  and Joe Humphreys (Penn State fly fisher). Many of us at that time wanted a very skinny fly line for tight line techniques because it had fewer memory coils and handled better than straight mono rigs.

Leon Chandler at Cortland lines answered this demand with the level line of .018 thickness. These were available in the mid-1980’s and I was an instant fan. The Cortland level line is what I prefer still today for fishing distances of 40 feet and closer.


Comp Scene and Tight Line Fishing

In about 2005, many fly fishers started to call the same technique Euro nymphing. This movement came about from many of the Team USA competition anglers. They witnessed the effectiveness of Euro nymphing in many of the FIPS-Mouche World Championships. Polish, French, Czech, and Spanish style all put their various twists on what I still consider tight line nymph fishing.

Modern-day terms go as far as stating light flies fished far away are more indicative of Spanish style. Heavy flies fished deep correlate to the popular Czech style. And it goes on and on which quite frankly is absurd in my humble opinion. In fly fishing, it is common to use many various sizes and weights of flies depending on the type of water you may be fishing, fish mood, and other conditions.

America Tight Line History

Many authors had detailed illustrations in the early 1970’s for rigging tandem or triple rigs depending on where the fish may be feeding. They also went into great detail on the advantages of single flies for pocket water nymph fishing. So, this whole Euro-nymphing marketing charade is truly a reset of tight line methods! It is still good for the sport if the young people assume they have invented a new way to fish!

If I picked one area of fly fishing that has changed me the most, I would have to say it is European influence on my fly tying! I still find myself getting fresh ideas from many of the excellent fly tiers all over Europe. The internet is no doubt responsible for much of this information. I am just thankful so many of them are willing to post such excellent patterns.


Maxima pink on left, Amnesia green in middle, Cortland bi-color lower, and Maxima Chameleon for building leader attached to fly line.

Advantages of Tight Lining (Euro-Nymphing)

The main advantages of the tight line technique are you will have more control over your flies when you have tippet riding on the surface. Tippet offers a better drift than a bobber tugging the nymphs along since the current speeds differ greatly from the surface to the bottom. Think of your tippet like a parachute in that the difference in diameter really affects your ability to sink small flies. If you are using heavy flies it becomes less of a consideration in bigger water.

If I had to pick one of the biggest advantages with light level lines coupled with 2 and 3 weight long fly rods it would be easy to answer with the sensitivity is increased!  The sound is transferred through vibration. A long light rod using a lighter line (even lighter mono) will transfer sound through vibration much quicker than a standard heavier rod using a traditional fly line.

The sag of traditional lines becomes a problem for tight line techniques because they interrupt the drift due to the sag of fly line being too heavy. The vibration is reduced using heavy traditional lines as well. The transmittance of subtle vibrations really is superior to anything out there when fishing close (36 feet and less) because you are in control. There will always many choices on the stream and I am in no way knocking the traditional modern lines out there today! They are needed when a greater distance is desirable. Many examples of the water where they may excel so they have their places!

Reduce the Tippet When Needed

Small tippet penetrates the water’s surface to keep you in contact with your flies because it is more directly “inline”. When you attach a float, the nymphs get pulled along at a faster rate. The water’s surface moves quicker than the deeper currents.

The rod angle and rate you follow or stop the drifts dictate how deep your flies are under the surface. As an example, when you stop a fly heading downstream of your position, the fly will lift back toward the surface. When you feed straight downstream the fly sinks quickly. There are many ways to sink flies quick by example a Tuck cast, a lift and reset, or an angle change to name a few.

Learn what depth your nymphs are in the water

When I think about many of the elite nymph fishermen I have known over the years. The one thing I believe that separates them instantly from the masses is they have total control on the depth they are fishing. Learn tight line techniques (euro-nymphing) is the best way to learn.  Your time on the water is so critical much more than any video or book. There are many methods to accomplish this task with the info from the article “Learn to nymph fish“.

The trend throughout the USA is to use an indicator for nymph fishing. Bobbers must match the size flies you fish, hence there are many different sizes. They may not be as stealthy when casting to new water. When you fish water far away they excel because you can cover lots of likely fish locations (drift lanes).

Tight line techniques keep you more inline to your flies so that is better for fishing by “feel”. It also enables the fly fisher to have fewer adjustments on the stream because you can match your setup for varying depths of water. Tight line excels in pocket water situations because you can implement more techniques. Techniques might include the basic lift, jig, swing, rate of retrieval, and dead drift for your presentation.

Rigging Variations

The three fly rig may at times use a dry fly to suspend the other offerings. Be creative with your rigging and fish many different combinations. As an example, I will often use a small dry fly on the point with a few droppers back toward the rod on the leader. The reason is the mono will suspend those flies on the dropper and keep them at the level where the fish are feeding.

For a stealthy sighter that floats I will often use the small tags left where I join mono together. This is an old school technique leaving small tags on plain mono leader rigs. These small greased tags are quick to put in when building the leader. This is a deadly tactic when fish are feeding on emergers in the film.

Light flies can be fished farther away by using your favorite floatant to grease just the sighter (many prefer Mucelin). I prefer my own homemade floatant because it stays on the monofilament material better. Sighter material is hot colored orange and chartreuse and is made by the Cortland Line Company in America. Hanak has the brightest colors out of Europe.

Give tight lining a try on your next outing to increase your catch! It for sure has its place in all types of water for all types of species! Many young kids that grew up tight lining with bait find this transition is a natural progression. The detection and ability to impart lifts, jigs, swings, and dead drift the presentation is very similar!