The urban myth is that French Nymphing was developed on crystal clear French streams where crack fly fishers outnumbered the super wary trout by 10 to 1.
Like all urban myths there maybe elements of truth in it, but fishing nymphs at longer range was developed independently by others including the Czechs and Poles.
French Nymphing is a modern often FLY LINELESS form of fishing nymphs at longer distances from the angler (anything from 3-6 + metres) using a tapered leader often called a French leader.
For a picture and video guide to the actual fishing technique please visit this page.
This gives a huge advantage to the competent fly fisher in terms of stealth and in the right hands can be a devastating technique. Indeed the technique is a logical extension of the Polish or Czech nymphing styles already covered. Long nymphing is perhaps the politically correct name but French nymphing sounds better and more interesting.
OK first the logical question...Why cant I just stick some nymphs on my tippet and fish my 9 foot with a 2 or 3 weight line at the same range? Well obviously you can.
However you will not catch as many fish and maybe lucky to catch any at all. The fly line contains mass or weight. Even a light fly line is difficult to hold above the water without dragging the flies backwards unnaturally. If fly line lands on the water it can spook fish. It makes good presentation at range impossible
in many cases.
Why FLY LINELESS? Fly Line adds weight. Instead a long tapered leader of a monofilament/co-polymer material is used which may be 3 to 15 metres in length. Because this is practically weightless compared with the same length of fly line. In fact unlike in standard fly casting when French Nymphing Fly fishers use the weight of the nymphs rather than the fly line to load the rod and execute the cast. To this end specialised light rods (typically 2 or 3 weight) are used of at least 10 feet in length. The rods are very sensitive and this helps the fly fisher feel as well as see the takes. Here is the technique demonstrated.
French nymphing gives the modern fly fisherman a way of fishing nymphs at range with control. The technique can be phenomenal for fishing deep pockets on large rivers and in the heads of smaller streams. In high summer when the river is low and hatches are sparse or non existent the technique really comes into its own.