In the face of it “French nymphing” sounds like a highly dubious activity that might appeal only deranged perverts. Thankfully it is not quite as dodgy as it sounds. French nymphing so no more and no less than a simple and very effective way of extracting trout from rivers. I knew a little about it before receiving some instruction a little over a week ago on the Upper Guadalquivir.

French nymphing pushes the boundaries of what you might imagine fly-fishing to be. For one thing there is no fly line in use. If you have some conventional fly line it is likely to remain on your reel attached to a “leader” some 8 metres long. This in turn is attached to a short length of fluorescent braid that acts as an indicator. The “business end” is 5 or 6 feet of thin fluorocarbon or other leader material of about .12mm in diameter with a point nymph and another on a dropper.

The rig is not cast in a conventional style since there is no fly line outside of the rod tip. The working line outside the reel is held and gathered in at the start of the cast when the raised rod begins to feel the weight of the two little nymphs. The cast sees these being lobbed or pitched upstream or upstream and across while letting go of the loose line.

It´s all pretty sort range stuff but the line is kept clear of the water allowing little drag. The nymphs work downstream with the current with the indicator just above the surface and loose line is paid off to allow the drift to continue downstream. The idea is to drift the nymphs down close to the bottom where the trout are for as far as possible and to keep the line off the surface of the water between the rod tip and the indicator.

It all seems to make perfect sense. Trout spend much of their time feeding close to the bottom and this method allows us to deliver something tasty looking right to them. From the trout´s point of view it is like getting some fast food home delivered when you lack the inclination to go out for a meal.

Steve Lawler and I discussed the French nymphing approach and decided that it has the potential to be very effective on the “hard” days when the trout are not looking up, or when the river is carrying a lot of water. In fact it is likely to be very effective most of the time. Given the option, and often we may not be, our preferred option would be dry fly or conventional nymph fishing to sighted fish. Having said this, French nymphing is so effective that it would often be the “go to” approach.

Here´s a question: what would you call a fanatic devotee of this approach? A French nymphomaniac?


Antonio Lloreda is showing Steve Lawler the ropes.


Here are a bunch of us out on the water learning the technique. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of water in the river due to water release from an upstream dam.


A team of two nymphs like this make up the business end of the operation. I will write something about these flies in another post.