River Seven, Yorkshire

Sacre bleu! It works!


For the past year or so I’ve been seeing a lot about so-called French nymphing, a mysterious Tenkara-ish system where you use a long, light rod, long leader with no need for fly line, and a heavy nymph with a dropper. You don’t cast the fly in the conventional way – you can’t because you haven’t got any fly line – rather you kind of lob it into the water, hold the rod up high and let the nymph bounce on the bottom while watching a strike indicator.

I’d mulled over whether trying it properly – I’d attempted it with no success with a 9ft 4wt set up – so decided to take the plunge and risk wasting some cash. I bought a 10ft 3wt Snowbee rod and a new spool for my 3wt Snowbee reel, which I loaded with heavy nylon and no fly line. The idea is to use it mainly for grayling in the winter.

The kit had been sitting around for a few weeks when I bit the bullet and took it to the Seven this morning. The idea was to give it a go in the weir pool. I did not have especially high hopes, particularly in view of the current heatwave and boiling, bright sun. Still, nothing ventured nothing gained and all that.

I thought the river would be low but it was positively skeletal as I tackled up with a copper tungsten-beaded hare’s ear on a jig hook on the point and a partridge and orange on the dropper. I’d made a coiled nylon bite indicator which I place around five feet above the fly. There’s usually a decent depth of water running up the weir, with hefty fall of white water coming over the top. Not today:

I worked my way up towards the pool, gradually improving with the ‘lob’ of the nymph. Fish were rising in the shallower water and I could see small ones come up to the nymph before shying away. As I got to the deeper water the coil opened suddenly and I struck. It was a nice fish, and as it came towards me I saw it was a good grayling of about a pound. Frustratingly it slipped the hook before I could land it.

A few minutes later I had another take and this time brought a nice little  brownie to hand:

I was getting into some kind of rhythm with the casting, but was still not confident of distinguishing between a possible take and the hook simply snagging. Anyhow, I bagged a couple of small browns before a bigger one of about a pound came to the net:

Had a couple more as I approached the deepest part of the pool close to the weir itself, which looked like this from the other side – dry as a bone:

I got the fly close into the lowermost stone step and had a take almost as soon as it hit the water. It felt like a good fish, but as I played it all I could see was a tiddler. Crikey, he’s putting up a struggle I thought, then spotted a bigger one apparently chasing him. Of course what had happened was that the big one had taken the point fly and the little one the dropper. Managed to get them both in the net:

That brought the tally to nine for a couple of hours’ fishing a method new to me. The experiment was a success; it was particularly pleasing because with conventional dry or nymph I’ve struggled on this bit of the water. I’m looking forward to the winter when hopefully I’ll be able to use the French system on other parts of the river when the vegetation recedes.

PS – a nice little perch from the Derwent down the bottom of the field last night:


Only registered users can comment.

  1. Good work!

    I must admit that I was skeptical when I first ditched the fly line for a French leader, but like you say, you sort of grow into the casting side of it. The main thing I find is that you’ve got to get the nymph down straight away as the period for takes is only a few seconds. Did you subscribe to that e-mail tutorial on the subject. It taught me a lot.



  2. Good tip Dave, thanks. It’s the takes that’ll take me a while to start to pick up I think; the idea is mainly to use the technique for grayling in the autumn and winter so we’ll see how it goes. Yes, I did look at that tutorial – actually probably worth taking another look. Cheers!

  3. No probs.

    I am still unsure of when a take is a take but I may go down the coiled indicator route myself. It’s a bit like trotting without a float (which is never to be recommended). I only use the technique in the Winter as I’m normally occupied blanking on the dry fly in the warmer months 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.