Euro Nymphing, How to Fly Fish, Nymphing 101 -


Lessons from Euro Nymphing We All Can Use 

European nymphing techniques are incredibly effective. It’s just true. Regardless of where you stand on the topic, these methods did not become popular by accident.

Fortunately, there is no requirement to go “full euro” to explore many of the benefits of these techniques.

In this article I want to highlight two concepts that any fly angler can implement to their current nymphing set up to see immediate results in their catch rate:

  1. Sighters “indicate” way better than floating indicators

  2. Adding weight to your flies rather than to your leader improves your strike detection & hook set response


Sighters “indicate” way better than floating indicators

As many anglers know, the top of the creek moves faster than the bottom. Because of this, trout tend to spend a lot of time closer to the bottom in the slower water where they can minimize their energy output while still scanning for food.

When using a floating indicator to detect strikes and maintain depth, the indicator is in direct contact with the faster water and the flies are (hopefully) deep enough to reach the slower water.

Because of this, mending your line to keep your indicator from dragging your flies out of “the zone” is a common technique. A simple solution to this issue is to use any form of indication that does not move along with the fast water on top.

Enter the sighter.  

The term sighter refers to any contrasting material tied into the leader to indicate takes, depth & speed. This small hi-viz section of leader is generally about 10-18” long & eliminates the need for a traditional floating indicator.

By controlling your rod and the amount of line between your rod tip & the sighter, anglers can hang their sighter at the waterline throughout the drift.

Fly Line > Leader > Sighter > Tippet Ring > Tippet > Fly

(In this simple leader recipe the components in bold are above the water line)


Why does this matter? Because when you remove components from your leader that are influenced by the fast water on top (ex: floating indicator) you can carefully guide your leader along at the speed of the flies in the slower water at the bottom.

When properly executed one can see clearly that the sighter is moving much slower than the water on top of the creek. Some advantages to this are:

  • The sighter speed during the drift reflects the speed of the flies and so when your sighter begins to slow down that indicates that your flies have reached the slower water. If the sighter does not slow down then you know that your flies are not reaching the zone and adjustments can be made (heavier flies, casting further upstream to allow time to sink, etc)
  • By hanging your sighter along the water line you still maintain the same depth control that a floating indicator would provide without top water influences and drag.
  • When your leader is no longer being pulled in two directions (indicator fast on top, flies slow along the bottom) there is a dramatic increase in strike detection. Even the slightest of takes will immediately create a visible disturbance to the sighter (indication) and therefore greatly lessens the time between the trout taking a fly and the angler setting the hook.


Adding weight to your flies rather than to your leader improves your strike detection & hook set response

      Not getting deep enough? Add some more shot. We’ve all heard the old adage that the difference between a rookie & a pro is just a little extra split shot.

While the idea that you need to make sure your flies are getting deep enough is an important aspect to catching fish, our friends across the pond have shown us that adding the weight directly to your fly in the form of tungsten beads or lead wire is much more effective than adding the weight to your leader via split shot.

      Why? When the actual fly itself acts as the “Anchor” keeping your offering at the right depth, even the subtlest of takes will immediately echo that disturbance to your sighter because there is a cleaner and more direct connection.

When split shot acts as the anchor, the trout needs to take the fly in a way that creates a disturbance big enough and for long enough that it is indicated up the leader and is not dampened by the weight of the shot along the way. This idea is mapped out in the comparison below:

Weighted Leader ( fly split shot leader indicator )

  1. Trout takes fly
  2. Fly is no longer drifting
  3. Weighted leader / split shot is no longer drifting
  4. The drag of the slowed leader then “indicates” contact
  5. Angler sets the hook


Weighted Fly ( fly leader indicator )

  1. Trout takes fly
  2. Fly is no longer drifting
  3. The drag of the stopped fly then indicates contact
  4. Angler sets the hook

Another way to think about weighted leader dampening is with punching bags. If you were to punch two punching bags, one lighter and one heavier, the lighter bag would move more from the impact. Think of the weighted leader as the heavier bag dampening the impact of the punch. 

            Whether you call it tight lining, contact nymphing, modern nymphing or just euro nymphing, these presentation techniques are rich with concepts that we all can use to improve our skills without buying new gear. To explore the benefits mentioned in this article all one needs is some flies heavy enough to sink quickly and some brightly colored mono to use as a sighter.

            If you have any questions or need help getting started please reach out to us anytime! You can call the Boombox office at (585) 531-4126 or email me at


- Tom Lankheet

Shop Tungsten Euro Nymphs



    • QWBlKkaF


    • BbiwXVkpvQzGsWOo


    • Bob Benzenberg

      Very informative. Thanks for sharing

    • Buck Ellis

      Hey Tom. Thanks for the post. Really great stuff. Just bought an Echo Shadow II, 4wt with the purpose of euronymphing, but not going all in with this technique, yet. What fly line would you suggest and setup for this rod? I bought it on the suggestion that I could use it for everything when setup properly—nymphs, dries, perhaps the occasional steelhead… thanks for any advice!

    Leave a comment