On The Fly Freshwater
Article & Photos By Jimmy Jacobs
We Southerners tend to be a bit parochial at times. In fact, on occasion folks might refer to us as hard-headed and stubborn. My introduction more than a decade back to what is now called Euro-nymphing is a pretty good illustration of that point.
When I first heard about the fishing technique it was called Czech nymphing, and was presented to me using standard angling equipment. Basically, it was fishing a weighted tandem nymph rig on a very short line with no strike indicator. You were fishing practically under your feet. Surprisingly, it did work, though I quickly abandoned it simply because I didn’t enjoy that type fishing.
Now, let’s fast forward to the present and a late spring invitation to head up to Tennessee’s Tellico River for an introduction to “modern” Euro-nymphing tactics with the guys from Tellico Outfitters in Tellico Plains. Shop owner Cody Fisher provided some tips, explained the rig and demonstrated how to use it.
The Tellico River was the perfect place for this action. It is heavily stocked, and the fish that hold over receive a lot of pressure and have seen plenty of flies. The portion of the river from the mouth of Turkey Creek upstream to the North Carolina border requires anglers to have a special Tellico River permit from March 1 to August 15. The stream also is closed to fishing on Thursday and Friday each week during this period. From August 16 to the end of February fishing is allowed every day, without the special permit. However, from the mouth of the North River up to the state border delayed harvest rules are then in effect.
Tennessee’s Tellico River offers both placid and tumbling water sections. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
After meeting Cody at his shop, we soon were on the shores of the river near the village of Green Cove. Expecting a repeat of what I’d seen years earlier, I rigged my 9-foot rod for the nymphing. After about an hour of fishing I finally hooked and landed a 12-inch rainbow, thus remained unimpressed with the technique. After releasing the fish, I sat on a log to watch Cody fish through the pools and runs I had just covered.
I’m not sure if my emotions were more amazement or embarrassment, as he pulled a total of seven trout out of the two pools just behind me! Either way, it sent me scurrying downstream for a closer look at what he was doing.
As it turned out, my understanding of the Euro-nymphing tactics was solid. On the other hand, the innovations in gear in more recent years had escaped my notice. A good Euro-nymphing set up now consists of a 10-foot or longer rod with a quite limber tip. This is complemented with a straight leader of as much as 20 feet long. This linkage of a sensitive rod with the leader makes detecting strikes much easier. It is more a game of “feeling” rather than “seeing” the take.
A key to the fishing is getting the fly down to where the trout are holding. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
With that rig, only the rod and leader are actually used for the fishing and the leader is kept off the surface of the water, with a tight-line connection to the flies. In expert hands, this set up has a reach of up to 30 feet, but that did not seem overly important, since a number of strikes were within 10 feet of Cody.
Obviously, those close strikes are dependent on the water being either deep or a bit cloudy. In extremely clear water the trout can spot you regardless of the gear you are using.
Another key to this angling is getting your offering down to where the fish are holding. Cody was using a tandem rig of three weighted nymphs, with two tied on dropper leaders off the main line. These are far superior to tying droppers off the bend of the hooks of the upper flies. Usually the heaviest fly is at the bottom of the rig. Especially when using tungsten beads on the nymphs, you can get them surprisingly deep.
The final ingredient for success is one shared with all nymphing techniques. You need the flies to drift naturally, staying at the same speed as the current as they move downstream.
I came away from my day on the Tellico with a new appreciation of Euro-nymphing. Granted, it takes some experience with this type fishing to get the kind of results Cody Fisher was exhibiting. But, just maybe those folks across the pond did have some ideas that even a son of the South could put to use to his advantage.
Tellico Outfitters opened its doors at 109 Scott Street in the heart of Tellico Plains in March of 2019. They have quickly become the go-to stop for anglers heading to the Tellico River and surrounding waters.
Tellico Outfitters shop in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs
Their mission is to offer goods, knowledge and services to those visiting the area to enjoy the endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. Whether you’re wading waist deep on the Tellico River searching for that trophy rainbow, or in the backcountry chasing wild and native trout on one of the area’s numerous small mountain streams, they want to be there to provide you with the gear and the expertise to make the most of your time outdoors. If you need even more help, they also offer guide services on those waters.
Additionally, the staff at Tellico Outfitters is a good source for learning the Euro-nymphing techniques that are so impressively successful.
For more information, check out their website at tellicooutfitters.com.