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Top 2 Mistakes People Make When Euro Nymphing

So, you drank the kool-aid. You read all the hype on euro nymphing, bought tackle and hit the water. But you’re still not catching fish. What the heck? I can assure you that you’re not alone. In fact, That was me a few years ago. Back then, I didn’t know what I didn’t know; but now I do. So, I’m going to tell you what I was doing wrong and what I see everyone else doing wrong when they start to euro nymph.

It took me about 100 days on the water to figure this all out. For me, that’s only 6 months, for you it might be 10 or 20 years! Let’s fast track it so you can catch fish now.

I’m assume that you understand the basics of trout fishing in moving water

Things like:

  • Cast upstream of the fish and let the fly dead drift in front of it.
  • Don’t scare the fish- Always be stealthy when fishing.
  • Know where the fish are generally located in the given river.

Need More Explanation?

Ask me a question in the comment section below if you’d like some further explanation on the basics



Casting a Euro rig is completely different from casting a floating line. Some people don’t learn how to load a rod enough to cast far because they think that Euro nymphing is about close distance and lobbing a fly into an adjacent run. Or, slamming the fly down with a so-called “Tuck” cast. Neither of these techniques I find very useful. Here’s why:

Effective euro nymphing to me is all about better dead drifts, as well as covering lot’s of water- not just the run you happen to be standing in. When you can cast far and accurately you’re at a huge advantage because you have a much larger area around you to fish. On tough days when the fish aren’t in the obvious spots, you can drop a fly in every nook and cranny until you find them.

Long casts also allow you to get your fly up further in the run. This often makes for a longer dead drift without the need for excessive weight, especially in faster water.

Accuracy is most important to me when casting under overgrown or bushy river banks. A Tuck cast does me no good here because I need to shoot my fly in there low and under the branches. Hauling my casts gives me that extra power to keep my fly low and straight. Same when casting out from heavily brush lined banks where I don’t have room for a back cast.

TIP:To cast far and cast accurately you have to load your rod with either a water load, a haul, or both. Knowing how to water load and haul a euro nymph cast will increase your overall fishing area by at least 50%.


A lot of people think that after they cast, the dead drifting fly is out of their control. Not the case. The more important thing is to avoid what will impede a good dead drift.

A good dead drift is the name of the game when euro nymphing. It means:

  • There is little to no drag on the fly.
  • The fly is at the correct depth.
  • The leader isn’t tight nor has excessive slack.

To get a good dead drift there are a few things you must do after you’ve cast your fly and it lands in the water.

First, let your fly sink.

I see some people get anxious and start to strip in the slack line too soon. They don't give the fly time to sink.

TIP: Don’t tighten your line, don’t remove too much slack. Just let it do it’s thing. Any tension on the line here and you’ll pull the fly back into the faster current on the top. By the time the fly sinks again it’s passed the fish. Be patient here, it’s the most critical time to not tension your fly as it is trying to sink through the faster top surface current.

Think of your fly as a rocket- It needs to blast through the earth's gravity (top water) to reach orbit (bottom water). Let your fly reach orbit.

Second, is to get your fly at the right depth.

Usually it’s the bottom but sometimes it’s the middle or even the top when the fish are looking up. The point is, you have to be able to control the depth of the fly until you figure where the fish are located. Most novice euro nymphers fish the run the same way over and over.

TIP 1: Depth of your flies' dead drift can be altered by weight of the fly, fly profile, and or the dead drift distance. You can start from shallow and work your way deeper, or you can start deep and work your way up. Fish each run thoroughly at different depths before giving up on that run.

TIP 2: Use your sighter as a depth gauge. Tippet is never the perfect length for every run. It’s either too short or too long. And that's ok. But if you fish with your sighter just out of the water like the “euro nymph textbook” says to do, you’ll run into trouble.

Instead, if your tippet is a little short for the water you are fishing, let your sighter dip into the water or add more tippet.

If your tippet is too long for water depth you are fishing, then fish with the sighter up out of the water to make up for the extra tippet length.

Every run is a different depth, if you fish the sighter in the same location above the water surface you can see how your fly tippet length will always be wrong.

Third, keep the line off the water.

Most novice euro nymphers hold the rod tip high with their elbows down low, like they are fishing floating line. I know, years of muscle memory. But doing this drops the elevated line in the water sooner and thus pulls the fly out of it’s dead drift state. It also adds unwanted slack in the form of a bowed line.

TIP:Doing whatever it takes to suspend the line off the water will keep your flies in a natural dead drift. This means long/low arm reach at the start of the drift, high arm reach at the middle, and long low arm reach at the end of the drift.

Think of your line as puppet strings. You’ll have better control and contact with your puppet (flies) if you don’t let your line fall and succumb to the water's current.

What these 2 mistakes have in common is that they both deal with fly location, dead drift and close contact to the fly. It’s the primary reason euro nymphing is so much more effective than traditional indicator nymphing. If these problems are not corrected, the benefits of euro nymphing will never be utilized. When you improve your ESN skills your fish count will go up! Yay. But then, you’ll have another problem- how to successfully land your fish. Seriously, landing fish is a skill that you only get good at when you have hooked and fought lot’s of fish. In my next article I’ll discuss why people have so much trouble getting the trout in their net. Stay tuned!

By Jeff Sasaki

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