Article by August Gresens
An article describing the conversion of an angler practicing euro nymphing that transitioned to using fixed line rods and the advantages these rods offer over using a more traditional euro nymphing rod and reel.
In 2018 I had been fly fishing for almost 15 years semi-seriously with moderate success using traditional western fly fishing gear. It was something I enjoyed but I had many trips, which ended in me getting skunked and I decided to reset on my approach. This included taking some time to review available literature and also finally teaching myself to tie flies. In my research I came across euro nymphing which was a method that competition fly anglers used and reportedly increased their catch rates. By using very light and thin leaders with beadhead flies, euro nymphers were better able to get their flies down to the bottom of a river where the fish hold (in most cases). In the spring of 2019 I adopted this technique and my catch rates increased dramatically compared to the previous year. This was a major breakthrough and greatly increased the quality of my fishing experience.
In the winter of 2021 I injured my right elbow chopping wood which made it impossible to fish with my right arm in the spring. As a work around I switched to my left arm using a tenkara rod I had bought for my daughter the previous year.
My intention at the time was to return to my euro nymphing rig after my elbow healed. While using the tenkara rod to fish euro nymphing style (with a nylon leader and beadhead flies), it became very apparent to me that there were very significant advantages to using these longer rods. Most apparent was that I could get much better drifts at distance. This was particularly an advantage in situations in which I was fishing pocket water or places with lots of variable currents. The additional length of the rod allowed me to keep all of the fly line off of the water while I dissected these individual currents and pockets. I was catching fish in situations in which I was not able to before.
At a certain point in 2021 I realized that after my elbow was healed I was not going back to using my euro nymphing rod & reel. There was too much advantage in my ability to present the files to the fish with these longer tenkara rods. While it was admittedly harder to land the fish (due to the hand lining) I was hooking more fish than before. To me this was an acceptable trade-off. By increasing my hand lining skills I could reduce the fish lost through practice. I enjoyed this challenge and got better at learning how to land the fish (navigate it to slack water, etc). Surprisingly, I also noticed that I was able to land larger fish more quickly using a tenkara rod. To me this seemed like an additional advantage.
Now I use tenkara (or fixed line) for all of my fly fishing. This includes nymphing, dry-dropper (particularly good in pocket water) as well as indicator fishing on larger rivers in the east where I live. I have rods up to 20 feet (keiryu) but typically use a 15 foot or a 13 foot rod. I also have shorter rods for much smaller streams.
In thinking about reach, I was reminded of Devin Olsen’s article that explored how rod length increases reach. I thought it would be interesting to apply the same trigonometry to longer tenkara (or keiryu rods) to determine how much additional reach I am getting with the longer rods. Included here are the results. Of course (as in Devin’s article) these are rough calculations that do not take into account the weight of the line and other factors. But my calculations indicate that a 15 foot tenkara rod has an additional 5-6 feet of additional reach compared to the longest euro-nymphing rods on the market (11.5 feet). For a 20 foot rod that additional reach increases to 12-15 feet!
I should note that the reach advantage here cannot be understated. The ability to keep the line off of the water at distance is critical in creating better drifts. This is true for all styles mentioned above. With indicator fishing, for example, one can keep all of the line off of the water up to the indicator. This completely removes any drag on the indicator and allows the indicator and fly to drift without any interruption in a given seam. This also allows one to fish deeper – without drag the flies can drop straight down into the water. This cannot be achieved with shorter rods and/or fly line that requires constant mending. The drift is also longer as well.
Given these advantages, it is puzzling to me that there has not been greater adoption of using fixed line rods in the euro nymphing community. With the exception of George Daniel (who is a proponent) and Dominick Swentosky (who thinks you “don’t need it”), there has been little written about this by euro nymphing thought leaders. My intention with this article is to encourage people who are currently fishing euro nymping with rod and reel to give this approach a try.
It does take a bit of getting used to but the rewards are definitely worth the effort!
August Gresens is a fixed line and tenkara enthusiast living in the Hudson Valley, New York.
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