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Adventures in Fly Tying... November 2007

The Czech Nymph
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard

Czech nymphing is a style of fishing that originated in central and eastern Europe.  It was first introduced to western anglers through the cross pollination that is a natural by-product of competition.  The 1984 international fly fishing competition in Poland exposed the Czech competitors to the method, which is one of fishing at short distances.  It's said that most of the Polish competitors were forced to fish short, because they had no fishing lines at disposal and had to substitute them with thick nylon monofilament.  Necessity being the mother of invention, the Czechs adopted the killer Polish technique and refined it for use in the next round of tournaments. It has, in the intervening two decades, become a "go to" technique for trout fishermen faced with fast, shallow pocket water.

The Czech technique, and the compact heavily weighted flies required to successfully implement the method, are now a staple in many fly boxes around the world.  The system is seldom used in a warm water environment, though.  That's a shame because all the reasons for using it in cold water apply to our warmer fisheries, too.  Fast(ish) water running through a narrow cut funnels food and increased oxygen levels to fish holding in critical pockets of water.  These conditions are just as attractive to smallmouth bass (and carp) as they are to trout.  In the Czech technique a heavy fly is fished with just a bit more than a rod's length of line and leader. The fly must sink very quickly and, once on the bottom, it is "lead" through the run just slightly faster than the natural flow of the water.  This keeps a tight line to the nymph, negating the use of strike indicators (though many prefer an indicator to detect light bites) and even traditional casting.  The hardest part of using this system is wading with enough deliberation to prevent spooking the quarry.  Think "hunting" and you'll get a good idea of what's needed.  The system works very well during those summer flows when the fish are all looking for overhead cover (broken water) and increased oxygen levels.  It's also a great system during the higher flows of spring when searching the bottom of an eddy at the head of a pool is a good idea.  Tie a few of these versatile flies for your next outing!  I carry them in size 6, 10 and especially 12 in my warm water nymph box. You can see that I have a few more to tie to fill in the row - this row is almost always missing flies!


Hook: Curved scud hook or similar 1x-heavy wet fly hook, size 6 to 16.
Thread: Black 6/0, 140 denier

Weight: 10 to 20 wraps of lead or lead-free wire
Body: Dubbed with a spiky mix of light blue and dark blue Flashabou dubbing, light and dark gray hare's mask

Hot Spot: Seal fur dyed jungle cock orange or a similar substitute

Shell Back: 3mm thick strip of plastic from a heavy duty plastic baggie

Ribbing:  4x monofilament leader material

Head: Built up from black tying thread, well lacquered for a high gloss finish


Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



The primary characteristic of a Czech nymph is that it's designed to be fished on the bottom.  Because of that it's necessary to weight the fly. This is an excellent choice of fly when you are fishing a trout stream using very small midge nymphs.  Use a heavily weighted Czech nymph to take the size 20 (or smaller) caddis or midge to the bottom.  You'll be surprised how often a picky trout decides a size 12 Czech is more appealing that a size 24 zebra midge!  This is a killer technique for panfish and smallmouth, too!

Once the hook shank is covered with lead wire, tie in a piece of monofilament tying thread, 3x or 4x tippet and a slice of plastic for the shellback.  I like using a strip from the top of a package of fly tying materials, the plastic is tough and thick enough for the job, often features a reinforcing rib right down the center and, best of all, its free and you already have some on your tying desk!

Mix one part of light blue and one part of dark blue Flashabou dubbing material with two parts of natural hare's mask dubbing and one part of dark hare's mask dubbing to come up with a mottled, dirty gray blend that has bits of flash interspersed throughout.  Use this same dubbing blend to tie a bead-head hares ear if you're looking for an advantage on a trout stream.  Mad River browns just can't leave that flash of blue alone! Dub a body 3/4 of the length of the hook shank.  Don't use was, you want the dubbing to be able to "pick out" to form lot's of inherent "micro-motion" fibers.

Dub a hot spot for the upper 1/3 of the shank.  Leave plenty of room for a big head.  This is a fly that is very amenable to a quick tie, its easy and the proportions are obvious.  I like to use orange for the hot spot - here I'm using seal dubbing in "jungle cock orange."  You can also use any fur or even chenille or yarn for this little hot spot.  The contrast often attracts fish and I've found that orange can often be a very productive color.

Pull the plastic strip over the back for a shellback.  Don't trip the plastic or you are likely to pull it out from under the thread wraps when you wrap the rib.  Let the length hang over the eye.

Wrap a rib of monofilament.  About 6 to 8 medium-tight turns will be enough -more for a larger fly and less for a smaller one.  You can vary the thickness of the rib to match the fly. On a size 6 I use 10lb test, on a size 14 I'll use a very fine fly tying monofilament.  Tie the ribbing and the shellback off and trim them together.

Build up a big thread head and whip finish.  If you want to spin a bit of dark or black dubbing for the head, that's okay, too!

Whip finish to complete a secure fly and...

Coat well with head cement.

Once the head cement is dry, use the points of your tying scissors or a dubbing brush to pick out the fibers on the bottom of the fly.  These little fibers will add a lot of subtle motion to the tie.

The finished fly is a very buggy imitation, but it's also very easy to tie.  You'll want to carry a lot of these!

Till next time, tight lines and clear flows…

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