The art of French nymphing

The fish  were not responding to the usual techniques, leading Stephen to try the French Leader method.
The fish were not responding to the usual techniques, leading Stephen to try the French Leader method.
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A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to a French Leader and a French Nymph. You will not be surprised to know that it wasn’t Emmanuel Macron but a method of fishing rivers with very fine lines and heavy flies originating in France.

On the day of my induction into this method I was invited to fish with a couple of good friends, Stephen and Peter, who are members of Appletreewick, Burnsall and Barden Angling Club, a very prestigious club with some wonderful water on the River Wharfe.

Arriving at the beat just below Grassington I noticed that the river looked extremely “fishy” and I set to with my usual method for such beautiful water. However, the fish were not responding and I don’t think the other two were having much luck.

Eventually I sat down on the bank with Stephen to discuss other ways of enticing the fish and he mentioned the French Leader method.

Obviously being worldly wise in fly fishing (cough), I had heard of this method but never tried it, so when Stephen, a recent convert, offered to show me and to let me have a go I jumped at the chance.

Without going into technicalities, for short distance fishing a very long rod and a short line of about the same length of the rod is used. On the line are two flies, and an indicator which gives notice of any bites to the fly.

Suffice to say, second cast Stephen was into a rather nice brown trout. My go.

On my third cast in the same spot I was into a lovely grayling, a big and beautiful fellow. I was hooked too!

At home I found a French Leader that had been given to me so I set this up for my next outing together with my pink headed French Nymph.

Last week I was guiding a gentleman at Bolton Abbey into the ways of fishing our Northern spate rivers. Finding a likely spot I mentioned the French Leader method and he was eager to have a go. And would you believe it? Fourth cast a big brown trout followed by quite a few grayling! Now he was hooked too.

The last day of September sees the end of the trout season in Yorkshire, so to celebrate I was invited to join another friend Steve who fishes at Kilnsey Angling Club and we decided to look at French Nymphing at a favoured pool of Steve’s.

Third cast, the line stopped moving, I lifted the rod but I was firmly stuck on the bottom. The only way to release the flies from what they were caught on was to give the line more pressure. The flies came out, springing over my head into a tree above and behind me. Suffice to say there is one fly firmly stuck in an unreachable branch at Hawkswick.


With the French Leader, one fly is very heavy, it has a big tungsten bead head and slim body and sinks to the bottom quickly. The other fly is lighter and fishes higher up in the water so the fish can take either.

Casting is more of a lobbing action upstream. The whole idea is to get the flies into the water close by and let the current sweep the flies downstream.