In this article, I’ll take you through 10 of the best Euro nymph flies. This topic forms part of our complete Euro nymph series, so be sure to check out the related articles.
I’ve been using Euro nymphing techniques for quite a number of years. Initially, it didn’t have a name; it was just a method we used to catch our indigenous yellowfish species here in South Africa.
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After its popularity grew and more variations began popping up, I started incorporating these in my fishing style. Let me tell you one thing, if there’s one technique to catch stubborn trout, this is it.
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What Is Euro Nymphing?
Euro nymphing is a broad term that includes many specific styles and ways of fishing nymphs. In essence, they all have the same purpose: to present a fly to a fish that’s holding relatively deep.
As the name suggests, Euro nymphing was developed in both Western and Eastern Europe by competition anglers. It’s not a particularly beautiful style of fly fishing, like, for instance, dry fly fishing, but it’s incredibly successful if you get the core techniques right.
Depending on the distance, style, and way you do it, each style has its own name like Czech nymphing, French nymphing, etc. For the purpose of this article, I won’t delve into these in much detail, as I’m primarily focusing on the flies themselves.
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What Makes a Great Euro Nymphing Fly?
At this point, you might be asking why do specific flies work more effectively than others? I mean, a nymph is a nymph, right? Wrong: Although you could use a standard Pheasant Tail Nymph in this method, it wouldn’t be as effective as flies adapted specifically for this purpose.
The first and probably most important feature a good Euro nymph fly needs is a fast sink rate. Part of what makes this technique so effective is that your flies are in the fish’s feeding zone for most of the drift. For this reason, most good Euro nymph flies have tungsten beads.
A fly that takes ages to get to the required depth will not be as effective as one that gets down instantly.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should tie on a 4mm tungsten beaded fly every time you hit the river. In slower moving or shallower water, you need to go lighter, for example, a 2.0-3.0mm bead.
In fast and deep water, move to a fly with a tungsten bead of over 3mm.
We now know that great Euro nymph flies must have a fast sink rate. One factor that influences this sink rate is the fly’s profile. A nymph with a thick and buggy body sinks much more slowly than one with a slim one.
For this reason, you’ll see that many of the best Euro nymph flies below have slim, tapered bodies. From a fly tying perspective, the trick is to retain some sort of resemblance to an aquatic insect.
Many great Euro nymphing flies have a built-in trigger. This trigger might be in the form of a flash body, a fluorescent collar or tag, and a brightly colored bead.
10 Best Euro Nymphing Flies
As you’d expect, there are hundreds of Euro nymph fly patterns out there. After all my years of experimenting and fishing in different locations worldwide, these are my choices for the best Euro nymph flies. I always keep a good stash of these in my fly box.
1. Perdigon Nymph
This is one of the nymph patterns that have most successfully migrated from competition fishing. It can be found in many recreational anglers’ fly boxes. The Perdigon Nymph has all the features of a great Euro nymph fly.
It has a big tungsten bead, a tapered slim body, and a pronounced wing case. On top of that, the fly has two huge built-in trigger points. The body is made from a flashy material, and the thorax has a fluorescent collar.
The Perdigon is available in a wide range of colors, with the most popular sizes ranging from 12 to 18. Make sure you carry a good selection of these with colored beads of various sizes.
2. The Gun
Chances are you’ve never heard of the Gun before. It was developed by a member of the South African national fly fishing team, Garry Glen-Young. The fly is filled with many trigger points, hence the name.
Although the fly can be tied in a range of colors, the image shows the original combination. It has a chartreuse trigger spot at the base of the tail, and the abdomen is made from UV flashabou and colored in on the top to resemble a mayfly larva’s two-tone coloration.
Probably one of its biggest trigger points is the fine rubber legs that give it incredible movement underwater.
The Gun is tied on a jig hook that ensures the hook point rides up, which results in fewer snags to the bottom and less damage to the hook point. I carry Guns in sizes 14 and 16 with 2.5 to 3.5mm beads.
The Frenchie is an adapted Pheasant Tail Nymph. It’s tied using the same materials but with a couple of tweaks to make it more suitable for Euro nymphing.
The first adaptation is the jig hook. Once again, it allows the hook point to ride on top, resulting in fewer snags at the bottom. Because the fly is tied on this style of hook, the bead is slotted.
The second adaptation is the fluorescent collar just behind the bead. The color of this color may be varied, with the most popular being fluorescent orange and pink.
In my opinion, the Frenchie proves how versatile a fly the Pheasant Tail Nymph is. I find that this fly works particularly well in small sizes (16-18), and I use it with confidence on fussy trout.
4. Caddis Nymph
While the first three imitations leaned more towards the mayfly nymph, this fly represents the prolific caddis larva. For this reason, the Caddis Nymph is tied on a curved shank or scud hook, which gives the fly a more natural appearance.
The Caddis Nymph has a slightly bulkier abdomen and thorax, so it won’t sink quite as fast as, say, the Perdigon. But what it lacks in sink rate, it makes up for in profile and appearance.
The Caddis Nymph fly is available in a wide range of colors and sizes, making it relevant for almost all rivers in the world. Carry a good selection of colors, sizes, and bead weights.
5. Zebra Midge
The Zebra Midge imitates a midge larva. The inclusion of the silver ribbing and bead is not done at random. This coloration imitates a very specific stage in the larva’s life cycle.
Like most aquatic larvae, midge larvae spend most of their time on the bottom under rocks and aquatic vegetation. Before beginning the transformation from larva to adult, air bubbles accumulate under their exoskeleton. The silver bead and ribbing on the Zebra Midge accurately represent this stage.
The Zebra Midge has a slim profile and a heavy bead, which allows it to sink like a brick. Carry various colors, including black, brown, red, and olive, in sizes from 14 to 20.
6. Walt’s Worm
If you’re a beginner fly tier and need to fill a box with excellent Euro nymphing flies, the Walt’s Worm is your best bet. The fly was developed by Walt Young from Pennsylvania in the 1980s and imitates a wide range of aquatic larva.
This adaptation of the Walt’s Worm is tied on a jig hook with a slotted tungsten bead, which allows the hook point to ride up, resulting in fewer snags. I also find that jig hooks result in solid hookups with the point penetrating the fish’s top jaw in most cases.
A fluorescent collar is added behind the bead as a trigger point and can be orange, chartreuse, or pink. I carry a selection of Walt’s Worms in sizes ranging from 12 to 20 in many different colors and weights.
7. San Juan Worm
The San Juan Worm is another one of my go-to fly patterns because it’s quick and easy to tie, and most importantly, catches a heck load of fish. I tie the San Juan Worm on a curved shank hook, which gives me more solid hookups.
The fly is made from a thin piece of red, fluorescent pink, or orange chenille. A tungsten bead is positioned in the middle of the shank and can range in size depending on the depth you’re fishing at.
I must mention that the San Juan Worm’s sink rate is not as fast as some of the other patterns due to the loose chenille, but it’s an excellent choice for slightly slower water.
A good Euro nymphing box will have it in various colors and weights in sizes ranging from 14 to 18.
8. CDC Mayfly Nymphs
This is a very generic pattern, and different tiers call it different names. In my mind, there are very few new patterns around, so I just call this pattern a CDC Mayfly Nymph. In essence, it’s a slim-bodied fly, like the Perdigon, tied on a jig hook.
The main trigger point here is the inclusion of a CDC collar, which does a couple of things. Firstly, it creates a slightly bulkier thorax area, which gives the fly a natural profile. The CDC fibers also represent a nymph’s legs or evolving wings.
CDC itself traps micro-air bubbles, which I believe is the most important trigger point of this fly.
The CDC Mayfly Nymph is available in a huge selection of colors and sizes, which is why this is my favorite pattern from my list.
9. Jig Bugger
We all know the Woolly Bugger is an excellent fly. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the best fly ever created. The Jig Bugger is an adaptation of the Woolly Bugger, showing the fly’s versatility.
In basic terms, it’s a scaled-down version tied on a jig hook with a slotted bead. Now, what makes this fly so amazing is its versatility on the water.
When I guide clients who have never cast a fly rod before, it doesn’t help if you put on a tiny dry fly to get that classic sip off the surface. This is where I pull out the Jig Bugger.
In most cases, I’ll swing the Jig Bugger to likely fish holding spots. But this is also an excellent Euro nymphing fly. It opens the standard style of Euro nymphing up a little, which means you can jig the fly around at the end of the drift.
I mainly carry these flies in black, especially if there are tadpoles in the system you’re fishing. Good sizes range from 12 to 16, all tied on jig hooks.
10. Red Tag
The Red Tag is a typical modern Euro nymph fly, where each component is specifically selected to have a purpose. Form follows function.
The fly is tied on a jig hook with a slotted bead. In most cases, the hooks are small, ranging from 14 to 20, with beads ranging from 4 to 2 mm in size. There’s no tail, except a short, brightly colored tag that acts as a sighter and trigger.
The body is slim and durable, allowing you to get a maximum sink rate and catch multiple fish on a single fly. A simple thorax includes a tiny amount of dubbing for the profile and a couple of CDC fibers for the bugginess.
I find that the Red Tag works particularly well in off-colored water, where the tag makes the fly more visible to fish. In gin-clear water, I’d probably opt for a more natural-looking pattern.
What Do Euro Nymphs Imitate?
There’s some debate around the topic of what do Euro nymphing flies imitate. We’ll probably never get the full and accurate answer, as I haven’t met a trout that can speak.
That said, in my opinion, there are two categories of flies: imitative and suggestive. This is obviously not cast in stone, and some flies can be both imitative and suggestive. Let’s look at each in more detail.
These flies imitate a specific aquatic insect. The main larva most patterns try to imitate are mayflies, caddisflies, and midges. A naturally colored Caddis Nymph imitates a caddisfly larva.
Suggestive flies have certain characteristics that suggest a specific insect. In most cases, the profile is similar. But these suggestive patterns usually incorporate some sort of trigger that draws the attention of a fish. These triggers come in the form of flash, fluorescent color, or lively legs in many cases.
When Do I Change a Fly?
This is the age-old question of when to change a fly and what fly to use. The answer to both of these questions depends greatly on the fish species you’re fishing for and the specific scenario. There’s only one real way to get better at this, and that’s with experience.
Having said that, I want to cover four basic concepts of when you’ll probably want to change flies.
The key to Euro nymphing is getting the flies down to where the fish are holding. In most cases, although certainly not always, this means getting your flies to the bottom.
If you’ve just come off a shallow riffle and arrive at a deep run that’s considerably deeper, you’ll want to switch to a heavier point fly to help get your flies down. In contrast, if you’ve just fished a deep run and want to fish shallower, go for a lighter fly to avoid getting snagged the whole time.
Also, remember that fish don’t always sit on the bottom. If you’re 100% sure you’ve covered the bottom, but you’re not getting eats, fish at a shallower depth, even if it’s with the same flies. In most cases, fish won’t feed downwards; they’ll always look in an upward direction.
The faster the current, the harder it will be for your flies to get down. For this reason, use heavier flies and thinner tippet material to cut through the current.
Water clarity plays a huge role when it comes to selecting the right fly. I always try to stick to the basics. If the water is super clear, I’ll opt for a natural-colored fly with, at most, a tiny trigger or hotspot.
If the water is dirty, go for a fly with many triggers and a big profile.
You arrive at a specific drift, and before you start fishing, you can see fish around. Then you put in a first cast and set up a nice drift. Nothing. Then you try a second cast, adjust the depth of the drift slightly, and still nothing.
After the third cast, you’re 100% sure you’ve drifted the flies in the fish’s feeding zone, but still they’re not committing. This is when you need to change flies, or you’ll end up spooking the fish.
If the water is clear, go for a more natural-colored fly and one size smaller. If the water is dirty, go for a fly with a larger trigger point.
I hope that you found this article about the best Euro nymphing flies insightful. Remember, this is part of our Euro nymphing series, so be sure to check out the other articles on this subject.
Please leave any comments, questions, or suggestions at the bottom of the page, and be sure to check out the video on YouTube.
Until next time.