The Taff Demise? I think not.

Fly fishing on rivers has become vastly popular over the last eight to ten years, I remember days when we were the only anglers on the river. You could go anywhere, on any river and not see ten other anglers throughout the whole winter! There would seem to be just the few hardy grayling fishers, standing in the river with the water below 3 degrees and the air temperature even lower. Then, we had two techniques. Czech Nymphing and the Indicator.

Overtime, our flies and techniques have evolved, the Czech nymphing has more or less turned into french nymphing, using tapered leaders with short indicator pieces. The indicator, superbly impressive on its day – using a foam indicator (fish pimp.etc) has become the ‘Duo’ and ‘Trio’ fished with a dry fly as the indicator. All, very, very effective.

The lower Taff is designed to relieve the valley of water quickly. The steep banks and pools gather the water and lets the water flow  uninterrupted downstream in theory reducing the risk of flooding. Over the years, pools have changed and water flow has increased and subsided in some areas, obviously pushing the fish around into more comfortable areas.

Fish caught czech nymphing Mid winter 2009

But. There’s always a but. Especially on the Taff, the numbers of large grayling getting caught have dropped dramatically. Fish in access of 1.4lbs, which were very common in previous years. There is much speculation on what has caused the decrease of large grayling, angling pressure, cormorants and their life cycle.

I fished a tributary of the River Wye, the Irfon on the weekend with two friends last weekend, Tim Hughes and my usual fishing buddy, Jon. Tim has been around for some time, representing Wales at Rivers and Lake internationals and World-championships.

Tim had observed anglers from European countries fishing the Czech nymphing style whilst fishing the World Championship in Wales 1991 –  The Euporeans swept away the glory through fishing deep with heavyweight nymphs, something he wanted to master, and went on to qualify for river teams and take top welsh rod at one international on the Dee too.

We got talking at the bank about techniques, flies, fish, the usual stuff when on the bank and holding a rod. Tim had opted for a Czech nymph set-up, the way we used to do it, two heavily weighted, pretty large czech nymphs – Pink on the top dropper, a hotspot pink & hares ear in the middle, and a tungsten headed red tag hares ear on the point. Me and Jon, the usual, french leader setup.

Looking for a pool which the three of us could fish, we walked from the mouth of the Irfon upstream and eventually broke off the path into a long run. The kind which is only up to your knees, easy to wade and has plenty of pea gravel… The perfect grayling tertiary, right?

I pitched my fly into confluence of the slow & fast water on inside seam, and within a few seconds, I struck into a feisty browny on a pink bug… skill eh? Into the same crease, Jonathan made the same cast, and the indicator shot forward… it was a lady of around a pound. Again, third cast, I had another brown. A small shoal was located and as we move upstream it was obvious why, a small depression in the bottom with a dip of around 10 inches. Only if all pools where like this? We met up with Tim after he ‘bugged’ his way downstream to no apparent avail.

From there up, the water started to deepen, pools started to get larger and our catch rate seemed to go down, many trout but less grayling. This is how we usually fish the Taff, two nymphs.. change the weight and leader length accordingly to the depths. Tim on the other hand was ‘whacking ’em’ – Fishing these pools with heavy czech nymphs and double tungsten caddis patterns. I had heavy bugs on, 4mm tungys, I seemed to be fishing the bottom, but I couldn’t get them.. I quick change from the french leader to a braided fly line and three heavy bugs went on. A few casts in I was into a lovely grayling. We continued fishing picking off grayling and the odd trout in the fast and powerful water.

Talking to Tim later in the day we were discussing the lack of larger grayling in the Taff, their there, because their caught sometimes.. Usually when the waters low.. When we can reach them. It suddenly hit me, with the same situation happening that day, Jon and I would have had a pretty dower day for grayling if we hadn’t switched to the Czech style of nymphing. When fishing the Duo, Trio and the French Leader – Our flies are naturally lighter – Its our mind set. Dryflies can only suspend so much weight before being submerged, and two flies are never going to be as heavy as three.

Maybe we’re not catching any large grayling because were not fishing like we used to? Our flies may be too light, and not getting down to them. Trout don’t usually feed on the bottom unless grubbing, maybe that’s why trout and small grayling catches have increase.

Are we REALLY getting down there?

Written by Kieron Jenkins

Czech Nymphing

Whilst Czech nymphing, I generally tend to concentrate on fast, poppily water with a fair depth. This distinguishes quite easily where the fish (you’d think!) would be lying up. Any little crease in a run, boulder with a back eddy or where two currents meet, should hold a fish or three.

Making sure your flies travel downstream at the same pace of the river is crucial, this is called dead drift. If a nymph is moving faster than the current, it becomes unnatural and most educated fish would leave it alone. But, sometimes, if there are stockies in the river, or its a hard days fishing, leading your flies downstream a faster than the current can sometimes provoke a take depending on the situation.

‘Jigging’ is one of my favourite ways to induce a take. By casting the flies upstream, and leaving them trundle along the bottom downstream can become pretty repetitious, to you and the fish. If there’s a fish in the run your fishing that’s already seen or had a go at your flies, it can become put off. By jigging the flies, lifting the rod tip a few inches, causing the flies to come up from the bottom to about mid level, and allowing them to drop back to the bottom can provoke the fish into taking again. There has been many a time where I have been fishing the river Rhymney and caught the same fish in the same pool, on the same fly, twice! Just simply by changing the behaviour of the flies.

Czech Nymphing is a generally a sight fishing method, so casting short and keeping the rod high, at about a 45o angle, will give you a good view on your fly line. Each take you have whether fishing dries or nymphs,  you will always certainly see before you feel as most takes by the time they are felt, they are missed. This is why I think this method is so effective. If the fly line does anything – pull, flick, stop, dart or delays, LIFT. Any movement on the end of the fly line could mean fish! Eight out of Ten times, its probably the bottom, but the other two times, it will probably be a fish.

A Typical set up for Czech Nymphing is a long fly rod – the ideal being up to 10 feet in length. Rod weight should be around a 4 or 5 weight although for smaller rivers a lighter and shorter rod may be more appropriate for this method. Czech Nymphing is quite intensive work, the physically lighter the rod the better. Personally I use  Airflo Streamtec 10ft 4-5weight fly rod. A good sight indicator will also help, be it braid or a czech nymphing leader.

Leader setup is also crucial. Having your flies to far apart, or to close could mean the difference between a few fish or a bag full. I tend to have my droppers around 16-20 inches apart. This means that I can fish shallow runs and also deep pools without changing the length of the leader, only the weight of the flies. By keeping the rod high and the fly line out of the water, having a considerably longer distance between flies could mean that in shallow water the top dropper could evidently be out of the water and not fishing.

Czech nymphs

Czech nymphs are probably one of the most varied flies available. They come in many different sizes and colours. But most czech nymphs seem to all have one similarity, its shape.  Their shapes all tend follow one trend, thin at the ends and fat in the middle. Profile is everything with Czech nymphs. The thin profile helps the fly cut through the water layers, sink fast and smoothly to get to where the fish are lying.

Below is one of my favourite and easiest Czech nymphs to tie.

Fly Tying materials

Hook: Kamasan B110 Grub hook

Silk: UTC shell pink

Under body: Small Lead

Rib: Airflo Sightfree G3 3lb + UTC copper wire Small

Shell Back: Body Stretch Pink

Back Strip: Pearl Opel Med

Body: Pink Marabou

Head: Clear Varnish

Mount A hook in the vice and run one wrap of thread down the shank. This acts as a base for the glue to set and lead to be wrapped onto without slipping.

Apply a drop of super glue to the hook, and wind an under body of Lead wire. Taper each end by building up layers of thread, Just to give it that “grubby” shape.

Tie in all the essentials. Firstly the 3lb G3, the shell back, copper wire, pearl tinsel and finaly the marabou for the body

The order in which the materials are tied in will help here and in the further steps as you will see.

Wind the Marabou up the body in touching turns, covering the lead and tie off.

Apply a small amount of varnish along the underside of the pearl (the side that touches the back of the fly), pull over and tie off. (The varnish helps secure the pearl in place so it doesn’t twist/turn when you wind the rib). Wind the copper rib, the opposite way to the body as it aids it’s durability.

Pull and stretch the shellback over the back of the fly. Try and judge so that the shellback sits evenly on each side of the fly. Tie in, cut off and do a small half-hitch at the head to avoid any unwanted accidents and the whole fly unravelling.

Finally wind the nylon through the fly in touching turns with the (underneath) copper rib, tie in, whip finish and varnish.

The colour intensity of the marabou does not fade, wash out or get water logged and loose its colour like some dubbing does. Ovcourse, tying with the appropriate colour thread as a base beneath any of the materials used for a body will have a massive impact on its colour once wet.

Marabou is strong and very mobile. The ‘legs’ created by its herls give great movement and also give it a very lifelike look, albeit pink.

This fly works extremely well fished on the point of a team of three flies. If I was Czech Nymphing, id generally have three Czech Nymphs on my cast, the middle dropper being the heaviest, to get all flies as deep as possible without causing too many snag ups.

photos courtesy of Steffan Jones at

photos courtesy of Steffan Jones at

Personally, I prefer to use this fly whilst Czech Nymphing for grayling. Through the winter grayling tend to switch onto brightly coloured flies, pink being their favourite but this can only be determined by trial and error. To fish all day comfortably through the winter, the appropriate clothing is needed. Fishing in the winter can sometimes mean standing in water at around 4-8oC and sometimes colder!

This fly works extremely well fished on the point of a team of three flies. If I was Czech Nymphing, id generally have three Czech Nymphs on my cast, the middle dropper being the heaviest, to get all flies as deep as possible without causing too many snag ups.

Written by Kieron Jenkins