Are you new to Euro nymphing and struggling to get the hang of the cast? In this article, I’ll show you what to keep in mind when you cast a Euro nymphing rig. If you go out, spend time on the water, and practice the things listed here, your Euro nymph cast will be on point.
As a professional guide, I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I’m not a natural when it comes to Euro nymphing. My progression (or regression, depending on how you see it) in nymphing followed the same route as many of yours.
My first introduction to it was throwing one or two heavily weighted flies upstream and detecting strikes with a big floating strike indicator, usually a Thingymabobber. Although this does catch a lot of fish, there are a lot of scenarios where this doesn’t work.
It was only when I moved to a town close to Cape Town, South Africa, that I really saw the limitations of these indicators, as the rivers run very clear and the trout are as weary as they come. Big indicators don’t work here.
I decided to up my learning curve by getting into the competition fly fishing scene. Now those who know me will tell you I’m one of the least competitive people out there. But, if you want to up your freshwater fly fishing game, get into competition angling.
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Although I don’t agree with everything around competitive angling, it opened my eyes to different fishing techniques, including Euro nymphing. Since then, it’s been one of my go-to methods if the going gets tough.
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Why Is the Correct Euro Nymphing Cast Important?
“How to cast a Euro nymphing rig” has been covered so much, and this article will cover it too. But, what I want you to think about first is why the correct Euro nymphing cast is important. The keyword in that sentence is correct.
In practical terms, it’s possible to get your flies somewhere upstream and do a drift of sorts. Doing that you can still be Euro nymphing and you’ll still be successful at catching fish.
But getting your cast dialed in is just as important as the gear you use, the flies you tie on, and how to detect takes. A great Euro nymphing cast greatly improves your fishing success.
If you’re fishing a lake or dam, there’s a clear division in fly fishing activity between the cast (getting the fly out there) and the retrieve (the actual fishing part). You make a cast, you either count or readjust your hands, and then you start retrieving.
The Euro nymphing cast forms part of a continuous circle of fly fishing movement. The moment the fly lands on the water you’re fishing, the cast needs to set you up so that you’re in the right spot and are in direct contact with the flies.
Casting a Euro nymphing rig doesn’t simply mean chucking the heaviest flies you can upstream. No, it’s a dedicated movement that sets up the drift, and it’s actually the drift that catches the fish.
Euro Nymphing Casting Mechanics
If you hear anyone say that casting a Euro nymphing rig is completely different from standard fly casting, they’re lying to you, or they don’t understand what makes a cast possible. Let’s, very briefly, look at a standard fly cast.
Tension is the most important element that needs to be present in every cast. If you’ve stopped your back cast and start coming forward again, it’s the tension in the line that loads the rod. You then accelerate forward to retain the tension and come to an abrupt stop. The loaded rod will now present the cast.
I know this is a very unfair and basic description of a fly cast, but humor me for a moment if you will.
The Euro nymph cast is exactly the same. Without tension in your line, the rod won’t be able to load properly and you’ll struggle to get your flies upstream. Because the leader and line of a Euro nymphing rig are so thin and light, I’d argue it’s even more important than in standard fly casting.
Sufficient tension also enables us to direct where the flies need to be going, but more on that in the accuracy section below.
Euro Nymphing – Loading the Rod
If we don’t have the fly line weight, what’s actually loading the rod in a Euro nymphing cast?
I’ve given this point some thought and have come to the following three elements that are loading the rod in a Euro nymph cast:
- The weight of the flies
- The rod flexing under its own weight
- Tension in the line generated by movement
Loading the Rod – Weight of the Flies
The reason why it’s easier to cast heavier flies than light flies with your Euro nymphing rig is that they load the rod more. The more weight you attach to the end of the line, the more the rod bends.
The constraint here is that you’re not always in a scenario where extremely heavy flies work. Two 4 mm tungsten beaded nymphs work great in big rivers with high flow, but those same two flies will be less effective on a slow-moving tiny trout stream.
Using the weight of the flies to load the rod is certainly beneficial, but what if you want to use lighter flies? This is where the other two methods of loading the rod come into play.
Loading the Rod – Rod Weight
If you take a broomstick, and I’m not talking about a G Loomis Asquith but rather a real broomstick, and abruptly move it through a casting stroke, it won’t flex. Make the same movement but now using a fly rod and you’ll see how the rod the flexes.
This is due to wind resistance and the rod’s own weight. Euro nymph rod manufacturers design these rods specifically with this in mind and optimize the rod’s tip section to load under its own weight.
Loading the Rod – Tension of the Moving Line
The two aforementioned rod loading mechanics can be seen as constants. If two anglers of different skill levels use the same rod and flies, you still won’t see the same casting results. The reason for this is that the more skilled angler will be able to load the rod better by how they move the line.
The first element in this area to get right is your line management hand, a.k.a. your non-casting hand. This is the hand that takes up all the slack during the cast, drift, and set. This hand actually does a lot more when Euro nymphing than many anglers think.
If you’re not using this hand to manage your line, you’ll notice line slack building up between all the line guides. This eats your efficiency and accuracy.
The second important element to get right is to keep moving through the casting stroke. I think this is the reason why many people think there’s such a big difference between normal fly casting and Euro nymph casting.
The reason we can’t stop moving is that, firstly, the line we’re casting is very short, and secondly, the leader we’re casting is so thin that it can’t carry the weight of the flies. If you make a standard backcast and stop, the flies will collapse over the leader and you’ll end up with a tangle.
Casting a Euro Nymphing Rig
With all of that discussed, let’s look at the best and easiest way to cast a Euro nymphing rig. We’ll also discuss a small bonus tip to help you get control of your flies quickly.
Before we get going, I know I said that the Euro nymph cast is one movement, but for the purpose of this section I’m going to split it between the back and forward cast. The Euro nymph cast resembles a Belgian cast in many ways. It’s a constant tension cast where your back cast is on a lower plane than your forward cast.
Euro Nymph Back Cast
The back cast will be to the side on a lower plane than the forward cast. This ensures that the heavier flies don’t collapse on the leader. Accelerate the back cast through the entire arc to prevent any shocks in the leader.
It’s important that, at the end of this back cast, the rod tip is in position for the forward cast to commence immediately.
Euro Nymph Forward Cast
Remember that this is a constant tension cast, so in reality, there’s no pause between the back cast (mentioned above) and this forward cast.
The forward cast is going to be straight over the rod, so make sure that at the end of the back cast the rod tip ends in the correct position. If you’re just starting to learn this cast, open the forward cast’s loop by moving the rod tip in a wide arc.
This isn’t very efficient and certainly not ideal, but as you get used to this constant tension cast, and you’re able to maintain tension throughout, close the forward cast’s loop by moving the rod tip in a straight path.
You’ll soon notice that you can apply quite a lot of power in the forward cast. This will help to increase the tension and, hence, improve accuracy. But remember, when it comes to casting, we’re talking about controlled power, so it’s something you need to practice.
Delivering the Fly – The Bonus Tip
Have you ever wondered why you’re only catching fish between halfway and the end of your drift? I can assure you it’s not because the fish like sitting in your shade.
If you’re not getting fish between the moment your flies land and halfway through your drift, your flies are either not getting down quick enough or you’re not detecting takes.
The cast that changed it all for me is known as the tuck cast. Once you deliver your forward cast, you stop abruptly and then tilt and lift the rod at the same time. This action will make the flies land on the water before your leader does, and it gives you control to make the drift do what you want it to do.
Your rod will also end in exactly the correct position to guide the drift. Because of this, you can immediately detect takes and strike if a fish eats the fly.
If you’d like to see how I do this, be sure the watch the video we did on How To Cast While Euro Nymphing (Euro Nymphing 101). It’s one of those things that is a lot clearer when you see it in action.
Watch the Video How to Cast While Euro Nymphing
I hope that this article on how to cast a Euro nymphing rig has shed some light on this topic. Don’t overcomplicate the technique. I’d rather you keep these things I spoke about in the back of your mind and go spend as much time on the water as possible.
In the end, casting, whether it’s for Euro nymphing, a dry fly, or salt water, is a muscle memory action. The more time you spend practicing it, the better. Also, remember that basic casting mechanics always remain true. With a couple of alterations, the standard cast can become an easy Euro nymphing cast.
Please let me know what you thought of this article and if it has been of some help to you. If you found it interesting, share it with your fellow anglers and friends.
Until next time!