While exploring a few U.S. sites re Czech Nymphing, I came across a piece in Field & Stream (2007) that alluded to Czech Nymphing being nothing more than snagging and that further, only dry flies or streamers should be utilized. Well, living in the NW I have had many opportunities to observe salmon on their redds as well as Deschutes R. redsides on their redds and that gets immediately to the point: if you can observe the fish and move in close to holding fish and present your weighted offering in such a way as to line the fish’s mouth or snag the body then I would agree that is snagging and is unsportsmanlike. If, however, you are fishing blind and suspect fish holding in an area, I do not believe that is snagging or unethical if the fish’s mouth is lined.
Now, if you have observed any footage of czech nymphing then you know that at the end of the drift the rod is jerked downstream prior to the pick up and reslinging back upstream. That move is a sketchy one, but again if you can’t see the fish then not sure if that is unethical. But it’s close isn’t it…if I am on some back feeder stream, which flows into Katlian Bay near Sitka, that stream at low tide is going to be black with salmon backs and of no sporting value to a fly fisherman interested in a cast, fish follows and takes approach. But wait six hours and that stream is up considerably with the tide and now the fish are not visible….yet they are still wall to wall beneath the surface out of view. I know they are there. Now, because I can’t observe them should I cast, drift and set at every bump knowing they are there. I guarantee the vast majority will be snagged. So my ‘observe’ standard is possibly flawed. What to do? I think it comes down to the behavior of the fish: are they spawning or stacked up moving in to spawn? If so leave them alone. If not, then it is unlikely fish will be so confined as to be subject to snagging (at least not so easily).
Is any technique not employing a dry fly inherently unworthy to the dry fly purist? I think the Czech or Polish nymphing technique or the standard strike indicator nymphing technique are all subject to snagging a fish that slashes at our offering now and then. But that is rare. I have had fish rise and miss or attempt to drown my dry fly and snag themselves on the fly as they descended from the surface. Mierda happens! So it is, as always, an ethical question for the fly fisher, often encumbered by looming enforcement.
It is my ethics, my intent, my obsessiveness that really determines how this plays out. What do I intend and what do I do when I inadvertently snag a fish….especially a salmon. Personal ethics should dictate. Just be careful if the Fish & Game/State Trooper is lurking nearby that your technique does not suggest something unsporting.