Is Euro-nymphing Fly-fishing?

Is Euro-nymphing Fly-fishing?: Heard something interesting today, from a reliable source. Yesterday, a conservation officer asked two anglers on Connecticut’s Salmon River¬† fly-fishing only area to leave. Why? They were euro-nymphing. Got you a tad puzzled? Okay, let me fill you in further.

In Connecticut, fly-fishing is defined as: “Angling with the use of a fly reel, fly rod, fly line, leader and a fly or flies….” The catch here, no pun intended, is the use of a “fly line”. Euro-nymphing doesn’t require a fly line on the water or even on the reel for that matter. That’s right, the whole rig could be mono-filament.

While this is the first time I’ve learned of a problem, I guess one might have seen it coming. Is Euro-nymphing fly fishing? Can you fly-fishing without casting a fly line? And if so, how does one separate it from spin-fishing?

Ready for more? Check this out. Here’s Pennsylvania’s fly-fishing definition. ” Fishing must be done with tackle limited to fly rods, fly reels and fly line with a maximum of 18 feet in leader material…” Notice anything?¬† Not only is Euro-nymphing done regularly without a fly line; the leaders can be in excess of 20 feet. Ahhh…the dilemma builds.

To learn more, I placed a call to Bill Hyatt – the Chief of Connecticut’s Bureau of Natural Resources. Besides being in charge of the state fisheries, Bill is a fly-fisherman, and I learned likes to euro-nymph. Perfect. So naturally he is interested in this matter. During our conversation he informed me that presently he has a bill in front of the legislature to change the regulatory definition of fly-fishing to include Tenkara -which doesn’t require a fly reel. Perhaps the Bureau will add more language to the bill to include euro-nymphing.

Update: I ended up researching this business in depth. No punt intended. I called just about every state and spoke with the fishing departments to ask how euro-nymphing fit into their regulations. It was a a very interesting journey, believe me. I published the results as “Fly-Fishing Outlaws”, in Fly Fisherman, Gear Guide issue, Oct 2017.




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2 Responses to Is Euro-nymphing Fly-fishing?

  1. Scott Black says:

    Hi Ed, If the angler is using a fly rod and has a fly on the end of the leader it’s fly fishing. If the practice of fishing Euro style left a trail of dead fish, then the folks worrying about such nonsense might have a case but, it doesn’t and it could be argued that a skilled practitioner of that style hooks their fish more cleanly, typically on barb-less hooks and returns them to the water quicker. Too many people want to split hairs and bitch about this and that in regard to regulations regarding fly fishing. If somebody enjoys Euro style nymphing than they should be allowed to fish as they wish. If it wasn’t whining about Euro style fishing then it would be indicators, split shot., articulated streamers or something else. As for leader length, it really only makes a difference if people are lining fish and snagging them, it’s another pointless regulation. There are far too many important things in the world to worry about, why do people feel the need to regulate every aspect of their and more importantly others lives. If 95% of people release their fish anyway worrying about leader length, fishing with or without a fly reel on their rod (Tenkara) etc.. just amounts to an exercise it nit picking. We should enjoy fishing not have to worry about the fish police pouncing on us for having a 18.75 foot leader or having a reel on the end of their rod. Just my 2 cents. Blacky

    • Ed Mitchell says:

      Hey Blacky,
      Yes, folks can get picky and likely always will. Opinions are just part of human nature. But the crux of this issue lies here: The advent of fly-fishing only areas required states, years ago, to define fly-fishing in their regulatory handbooks. In order to separate the sport from spinning, typically they wrote short sentences, outlining fly tackle as distinct from other gear. Made sense and worked okay until Tenkara and euro-nymphing arrived. Both of these can fall short of those original definition, leaving fly anglers in an embarrassing situation.

      Now it is up to fisheries managers to consider rewriting their handbook definition of fly-fishing. Connecticut is already in the process of doing that. In 2018 the regulations will cover Tenkara, and Connecticut will address euro-nymphing soon too. In the meantime, anglers in fly-fishing only waters must be aware of the present situation and adjust accordingly.
      Trust you’re well and fishing,

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