I was tying at a show in Roscoe, NY this past Spring when a gentleman approached
my table to ask about tying Czech nymphs, referring the
article I wrote a couple years ago . Unfortunately I did not have any materials
for those flies on that day so I was unable to show him the methods in person,
but we did chat for awhile regarding the flies and the tackle and techniques
for fishing them. As I am certainly no world authority on the topic, I wish
I had a copy of this book to show him so he could learn from the masters.
In Czech Nymph, Karel Krivanec has given anglers around the world the opportunity
to learn about the history and techniques of this interesting fly fishing method
from the people who practice it on a daily basis. As you might guess, the origins
of this angling technique are rooted in the fishing competitions that are so
common in Europe. Reading through the history chapter, I was struck once again
at the ingenuity shown by fly anglers and tyers, a trait that certainly crosses
all borders. In telling of some of the very first Czech nymphs, Krivanec writes:
At that time [ed: 1986] Slavoj was tying the bodies of his patterns with
plastic foam, which he got from a sponge used for cleaning cars. Its disadvantage
was its short life span. Another of his proven patterns was the "Carrot",
which he brought from the Orava river region in Slovakia and for which he
used a beige chameleon substitute and strips from a red raincoat. All was
ribbed with horsehair.
I believe in the above passage, "chameleon" refers to a chamois which is used
to absorb water and dry off freshly washed vehicles. I don't think he was using
strips of little tan lizards to tie up his nymphs. I should say here the book's
original language is Czech, so the English version occasionally has some challenges
with the translation.
The book is split about half and half between fishing and tying discussion.
In the fishing section, it becomes clear that rods and reels are less important
than the terminal tackle, even though plenty of European rod makers offer rods
specifically designed for Czech nymphing. The author makes is clear that since
traditional fly casting is not a concern of the nympher, the important aspects
of the rod and reel are that they are strong enough to set the hook and land
the fish, are balanced and comfortable to fish with, and long enough to reach
the spots the angler needs to reach. Buying new rods are fun, of course, but
my guess is someone interested in trying Czech nymphing probably has one or
two rods already in his possession that will work just fine.
Far more important in Czech nymphing is the design of the leader, and Krivanec
draws on the expertise of several successful anglers to describe their typical
leader setup. This is one aspect where the American angler will be well advised
to pay attention, since from a distance the technique on the river looks like
"high stick" nymphing and it would be easy to think that the same heavy butt
tapered leader is used. Not so. The leaders are typically much thinner than
American anglers since "turn over" is not a concern. The aim is to get the flies
to drop through heavy current as easily and quickly as possible. A heavy butt
leader would tend to bouy the flies, a sure no-no in Czech nymphing.
Krivanec then goes on to discuss the water types and techniques used to fish
Czech nymphs. The support diagrams and photos are excellent and any competent
angler should have no problem learning the methods and applying them to their
Almost all Czech nymphs share the same construction techniques - a curved hook,
plenty of weight, a dubbed body, a shellback, and some ribbing - but the variety
of nymphs is almost endless. Some sparkle with flash and bright colors, and
some are very subdued using only natural materials. As you might guess, the
tying portion of the book is less oriented toward fancy vise maneuvers and more
toward fly patterns.
New to the American angler will be the hooks that have various weights molded
onto the shank. Not so much the micro jig, which is well known, but rather the
hooks that have different weights molded onto the shank itself. One hook has
a teardropped shape on the front portion of the hook which replaces the thorax
section of a normal nymph. My friend Pavel sent me some of these hooks and a
few flies tied on them, and I'm anxious to try them out on my own waters someday.
For anyone who wants to learn more about Czech nymphing, I can certainly recommend
Karel Kravanec's "Czech Nymph". It will answer all your questions, even if your
question is "where can I get some of those cool hooks?!?".