This technique developed in the Czech republic with its origins in Poland (see Polish nymphing) is a form of fishing weighted nymphs at close range (short fixed line) usually in streamy water with depth.
For a basic explanation of the principles of Czech nymphing click here.
Czech nymphing was a term first used by the innovative English angler Oliver Edwards after being taught the technique by guides on the Otava/Vltava river in the Czech Republic. The technique itself was developed through competition angling and a great deal of swapping of ideas particularly with Eastern Europeans like the Poles.
This is a short line nymphing technique. In early forms of Czech Nymphing fly line was extended either a few inches beyond the rod tip or just below the rod tip. Many modern nymph fishers don't use any fly line at all and it is not even on the reel.
A long tapered monofilament/copolymer leader of around 10 meters is used only and whipped to backing.
At the business end this tapers down to around 6-10 lb breaking strain. However where the angler handles the line the diameter is thick enough to allow handling of the line without fear of burn or cut under tension.
These leaders are widely called French leaders. They are now widely fished on specialised rods of 10 feet or more in length which are usually 5,4,3 and 2 weights.
The catching end of a Czech nymph rig is 2 or 3 weighted nymphs on level strength nylon. Stroft is a widely used nylon for this technique. Some anglers prefer Fluorocarbon.Two of the nymphs are tied on droppers which are tied 18 inches or so from each other- that's about 42 cm for the metrically educated, and the same distance from the point fly.
The WEIGHTS of the flies are the most important aspect in Czech nypmhing. Under many circumstances the ideal weight is when the nymphs are "tickling" the bottom of the river bed. Evidently that depends on the particular river and flow rate conditions. As long as streamy water between 18 inches and 5 feet deep can be found this can be perhaps THE most effective method of catching fish. It is important that the river bed is not too rocky and gravel is the best bottom. The nymphs will be touching the stream bottom during the drift.
Many modern stream fly fishers use tungsten bead headed flies when Czech nymphing from 2-5 mm in diameter. A typical set up might contain a heavy 3.5 mm beaded fly on the middle dropper a lighter 2.5 mm tungsten beaded nymph on the point and a 2 mm tungsten beaded fly on the top dropper. This is ideal for streamy water of around 3-4 feet deep that are the best for the method on most medium sized rivers.
I fished the beautiful Crowsnest river in Alberta, Canada way back in 2005. The river was something like 2 and a half feet over normal level. On the website it was obviously a small pretty mountain stream. In reality it was a raging torrent. High river conditions are ideal for this technique for several reasons. Mainly that the extra flow (and or colour) in the water gives added concealment to the angler. This is a close range technique so this is important. Secondly in high water fish don't waste energy swimming against a strong current but move into slacker water which is often near the edge of the stream.
On the Crowsnest the high water had obviously kept the locals away and we had the entire stream to ourselves. We have a wishful saying known as "fish a cast" meaning every cast results in a hook up. On this particular day that wish became reality in a spectacular fashion. The trick with Czech nymphing is to find water with the correct depth and pace. Optimum is 2 and a half to 3 and a half feet and moving at a brisk but not breakneck pace. The stream had provided plenty of habitat that matched this. Moreover in these conditions fish are often concentrated in these zones as proved to be the case. The first cast resulted in a double hook up of Cut-bow crosses that had my 9 foot 5 weight Loomis GL3 tested to the limit. The fishing never slowed all day. Double ups were common. It was spectacular, arm aching but very enjoyable. Days like these are very scarce in fly fishing; When conditions are heavily in favour of the fly fisher not the fish. So we tend to remember them.
On this day the conditions that kept many of the stream were in fact perfect for short line or Czech nymphing. And few techniques are as deadly as short line direct contact nymphing. Yes we might have caught fish under an indicator but practical experience tells me far fewer. Surface currents in these high river conditions can be many times faster than the bottom currents where fish congregate. The upshot is the indicator drags the fly which is swept away by surface currents above the fish. The in line indicator used in Czech nymphing is only used as a sighter not as a float or bobber. The angler is in close contact with the flies and the moment the sighter twitches or darts can react.
With experience and today's much lighter 10 feet rods the czech nympher can discern the gentle plucks of the flies on the bottom from that of fish taking a fly. I prefer a 2-3 weight rod which is very sensitive to takes. Experienced nymph fishers often react to barely susceptible takes. John Gierach's piece "Zen and the art nymphing" demonstrates how experienced nymph fishers can be in the "zone". Fly fishing in an almost trance like state able to anticipate takes before they seem to occur. It can be a mesmerizing and highly enjoyable form of fly fishing as well as one of the most successful.