Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Two Loves - European Nymphing and High Sticking

Below is a modified article about European style nymphing (a.k.a Polish nymphing) and High sticking from a member_SilverCreek_ of the forum of flyfisherman.

I think he did a good job in summarizing the European nymphing style and compare them to the similar American Style (high sticking). To me,both techniques are all elegant, joyful and deadly fishing technique. I use them in different river habitats. Basically, I use European style for fast pocket water, nymph them deep. On the other hand, I use high sticking for slower waters,e.g good runs, shallows and pools. I love those styles so much as some of friends call me a nympher... I think the main reason to do nymphing,to me, is not about catching! (althogh, catching is very important to me as well) The main reason is the "zen factor" (as cheech describeb), there is "no obvious" visual cue between you and fish, just a connection of a fine line and feel. I have to image what my flies are doing under the surface, what fish are doing, what current and lines are doing... all mystery are enclosed under the surface... "THE FEEL", Yes, I am pursuing the feel! It's a ZEN. (More information will be coming soon) Now... see what other people say...

This system of nymphing was first introduced at the World Championships of Fly Fishing by a Polish fisher, Wladyslaw Trzebunia ("Vladi") in the mid 1990's. I think it was in '94 or possibly '95 when he won the World Championships by the largest margin in history. The Czechs and later the Spanish copied his method and the methods became better known as Czech Nymphing and a modified version for deeper waters called Spanish Nymphing.

It is not high sticking which originated from the earlier Brooks method of nymphing. High sticking was a well know method of nymphing at the time Vladi introduced Polish Nymphing. Do a Google Search on Polish, Czech or Spanish nymphing and you will find the appropriate history and articles.

The difference between high sticking and Polish nymphing is that the rod is kept low and is not raised as the nymph comes toward you as the "high" in high sticking does. There is no mending in Polish nymphing. Instead, the nymphs are led and, if necessary, gently pulled downstream. This maintains a tight line to the nymphs and the rod leads the flies. In high sticking you try to keep a drag free drift, mending as needed and the rod does not lead the flies, but is kept directly above the flies. The rod is gradually elevated well above your head (hence the name - high sticking) to keep the line off the water as the flies drift toward you. The high rod position is then lowered as the nymphs pass you and go downstream from the angler's position. In Polish nymphing the nymphs do not pass the anglers position but rather the rod is picked up with a wrist twist at that point and another cast is made. The drifts are very short, 5 ft. long at the most, whereas the high sticking attemps to prolong the drag free drift as long as possible by casting well above the angler's positon and extending the drift well below the angler.

The Polish method was developed for the restrictions of the World Championships which allow no strike indicators and no added weight to the leader such as split shot. And for more difficult fishing conditions where the fishing pressure is much greater than in the USA and the fish are more difficult to find and catch. As a result, it is the most effective form of nymphing yet developed. It is not uncommon for the top competitors to C&R 50 or more fish in the 3 hours of competitive fishing. That includes hooking, fighting, and landing, the fish in difficult fishing conditions. If you subtract the time it takes to do this, the best fishers are hooking a fish for every few minutes of actual fishing time.

If you look at the pictures of the URL below, you will notice that in none of the photos is the rod angled "high" above the anglers head. It is kept parallel to the water and notice also that the rod is leading the flies (photos 3 and 5).

You will also notice that in every picture the water is knee high or lower and that the water is riffle water. Obviously picture 2 is not a Polish nympher.



Here is Oliver Edwards article on Vladi. Notice that Vladi is releasing the fish in riffle water also and it is only mid-calf deep.


Since the Polish method is limited to relatively shallow riffle water, you know why the Spanish developed a technique for deeper water. They use 13 to 14 ft rods and 25 to 30 ft leaders with a section of coiled optic yellow 14 lb. test Stren as a visual indicator. To make the coiled mono, wrap the Stren around a pencil and use a cigarette lighter to heat it and "set" the coil. The coil then acts as the "indicator". Here's the article on the Spanish technique:


Jeff Courier is the first American to win an individual medal in the World Championships and he used the Polish method. Here is a short article:


Podcast episode 15 of Fly Fish Radio Radio interviewed Jack Dennis on the US team and on the Polish Nymphing Method. He mentioned that a regionial trial for the US national team were held in California on a very difficult river(?Kings River?). One resident fly fisher, who fished it regularly, had never caught more than 6 fish in an entire day of fishing on that river. The top finisher in that regional competition caught almost 30 fish in under 3 hours using the Polish Method.


For those that are interested, there is a recent podcast interview with Doug Palmer at Ask About Fly Fishing internet Radio dated 6/4/06 at the National fly fishing Championship in Colorado. Doug is on the Steering Committee for the Championship and was a beat monitor. He describes his experience viewing the effectiveness of Czech nymphing during the competition and gives short explanation of what he saw.

It is at this URL


Josh Stevens, who just made the US National team is a professional guide. He won one of the regional competitions on the Fly Fishing Master's competition which I think was on the OLN network.

He calls Polish nymphing much more effective than other forms of nymphing. This is from a guide that won a regional Master's competition using strike indicators. He no longer fishes with strike indicators during his personal fishing both because Polish nymphing is more effective and his need to practice what he has learned.

His podcast is on this site: http://odeo.com/channel/87191/view

It is important to realize that this is a form of nymphing that is different from any previous style of nymphing practiced in the US. It is NOT steelheading or high sticking or any other non-indicator nymphing. If you believe it is, then you will never open your mind to the differences and learn this new technique. I'm certainly not an expert in this technique. However, from what I've tried and read it is a very specific form of nymphing that requires:

(1) A specific leader design and way of attaching flies.

(2) Specific flies designed for this form of nymphing - slim heavy flies that will sink quickly.

(3) A unique cast, downstream sweep, and wrist flip that keeps the fly "in the zone", induces strikes, and covers virtually every inch of the river - hence the term "vacuum cleaner" to describe how this system catches just about every fish in its path.

Modified by SilverCreek at 4:36 PM 6/28/2006


flyfishingunlimited said...

Excellent post Mark... I do love nymph fishing and fish nymphs very often. You are right about the Zen factor, it is very gratifying to tighten and feel the fish at the end of the line without any visual clues-nymph fishing can be sort of a "deep trans" state of mind.


Thanks for the nice comment! Vlad,

I am so glad to hear you love to nymph too! Yes! "deep trans"... that is another state of mind. Good Call! Vlad.

I am not a "focus" or concentrate person of any sort. Usually when I fish streamers or dryflies... I am thinking so many other things which is not good. But when I nymph, I became very focus, I am constantly feeling "the feel", the zen! I did really enjoy that state of mind! Enjoy the subtle signal from the other end of the line : )

Henry said...

Hi Blueangler,

My name is Henry Kanemoto and I wrote the original post under my Silver Creek identity at:


I'm glad you found the expanation helpful. You can help me by citing the location of the original post and adding my proper name as the author.

I also wrote the Flyfishing FAQs for Flyfish@, the original internet mailing list for fly fishing.


I just returned from Montana. I posted photos of my trip on the SEFF Bulletin Board:

Montana 1: http://tinyurl.com/6pqb2g

Montana 2: http://tinyurl.com/6p4eu7

Montana 3: http://tinyurl.com/5wg9db

I hope you have a great summer.