A decade ago I learned about euro-nymphing, and I was impressed with the rig. I gradually made the switch from a Joe Humphreys nymphing style, worked my way through the short line tactics, then lengthened the leader and learned to fish at distance. I believe Humphreys was close — real close — to euro nymphing, with his deep nymphing system which is detailed in his books and videos. The major change from a Humphreys deep nymph rig to a euro nymphing rig is the removal of the taper under the water. While Humphreys’ rig is tapered to the flies, a euro nymphing rig (ideally) has only one diameter of tippet underneath the surface.
After years of experimenting and fishing nymphs with a tight line / euro nymphing setup, I branched out. I started attaching suspenders to the leader for the times when they provided an advantage. I swapped nymphs for streamers on the same rig instead of switching leaders. And during the hatches I learned to fish dry-dropper styles on the same long leader with no fly line. This hybrid, bastardized, do-it all system is what we call the Mono Rig.
These three elements of the Mono Rig are what make it so effective:
— No fly line. Use 20# monofilament (Maxima Chameleon) as a fly line substitute.
— Sighter. Tie colored monofilament into the leader to provide better drift tracking and strike detection.
— Just one diameter of tippet under the water. Different diameters resist the currents at different degrees. Thicker line is pushed around more than thinner line, causing more drag and less contact. Using just one diameter of tippet under the water solves the problem.
After removing fly line from the equation, the biggest game changer for me was adding a sighter. Previously, I’d used half-inch sections of bright orange fly line with the core removed that I bought at Fly Fisher’s Paradise. I pushed them over the knots in a hand-tied leader. That’s a sighter — sort of. The small sleeves certainly gave me something to reference where my line was. But a full fledged sighter is better. By building colored line into the leader right before the tippet, I instantly had excellent leader visibility and a lot more information about what was happening with my drifts. Usually. Sometimes. Alright, so I couldn’t always see the damn sighter either. And along came the backing barrel.
I took the idea for the backing barrel from the gear fishing world, where carp and stinky-bass fishermen use pieces of string to mark their lines for depth. I use 20#, orange Dacron backing (Gudebrod is my favorite) attached with a sliding stopper knot. Sometimes I clip the tags close, leaving just the barrel. Other times I leave one or two hanging tags for even more feedback about the drift.
The backing barrel has two purposes: improving visibility, and as a slidable stopper.
I think it’s important to be able to locate your sighter immediately after the cast. Quite often bad lighting conditions make that a tough task. The backing barrel solves that issue for me. Sometimes it’s visible enough with no tags, but I’ve really taken to using the barrel with one tag intact. Not only can I locate my actual sighter sooner after the cast, but it dramatically improves the visual sensitivity of my sighter by twitching and shaking at times when the straight sighter indicates nothing. Fish on!
I also like having a small backing barrel (with no tags) on the upper part of my tippet section. I keep it about 12-18 inches below my sighter. The small barrel is amazingly bright. If I can locate my sighter, I can usually locate the small barrel. The barrel on the tippet serves as an extension of the sighter. It’s often underwater, and it points directly to my nymphs or streamer, giving my even more information about where my flies are and what they’re doing.
I use this same barrel, mounted on my tippet section for another purpose …
A Slidable Stopper
In essence, I use the backing barrel as a knot that I can move. When tied tight, the barrel holds snug on nylon or fluorocarbon material and only moves if I purposely slide it. I often mount a backing barrel on a portion of my tippet while dry-dropper fishing, then add a dropper loop of mono around the standing line, above the barrel. When I want to adjust the rig for depth, I simply slide the barrel and tag up or down, creating a slidable dry-dropper system.
The backing barrel is also a key element of the slidable Thingamabobber rig that I often use. Someday I’ll do a dedicated posts for each of these two rigs.
Material, and How It’s Attached
After trying many other materials, I now use orange Gudebrod 20# Dacron backing. The orange is extremely visible, and the Gudebrod Dacron is just the right mix of flexibility and stiffness. I also like that their braid doesn’t fray much compared to other brands. I sometimes use an off brand of black backing for a dry-dropper setup because an orange barrel might spook fish away from the dry fly. Maybe?
I use a six-inch section to tie the knot and then trim it for my purpose, and when I want more visibility, I leave the tags longer. About an inch always seems to be enough in even the worst lighting conditions, and I clip the tags close when I’m using the barrel as a stopper . I attach it using the knot seen below. Incidentally, the barrel is easily removed from the line with nippers.
So What’s the Downside?
I wondered if the backing barrel would add weight to my sighter, and most people I’ve shared it with seem to have the same instinct at first. My opinion is that the barrel with one inch tags doesn’t add enough weight to my sighter to notice any extra line sag. I often grease the barrel and tags with Mucilin first, but even when waterlogged it causes me no problem. I’ve weighed equal length pieces of .017 chameleon and 20# backing on a gram scale, and the mono weighs more. After it’s clipped, even with two tags, we’re talking about a piece of dacron that’s about two inches long. Basically, that weighs nothing, even with a little water in it. The only real problem with the backing barrel (with tags) might be a strong wind moving it around a bit, but at that point my sighter is being blown around too, and I’ve usually switched to some kind of suspension method by then.
The backing barrel is so useful that I always have one or two on my leader.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N
More Troutbitten articles on nymphing
The Mono Rig and Why Fly Line Sucks
Tight Line Nymph Rig
Sighters: Seven Separate Tools
Learn the Nymph
Tags and Trailers
The Backing Barrel
The Add-On Line
One Great Nymphing Trick
The Trouble With Tenkara — And Why You Don’t Need It
It’s a Suspender — Not Just an Indicator
Stop the Split Shot Slide
Trail This — Don’t Trail That
For Tight Line Nymphing and the Mono Rig, What’s a Good Fly Rod?
Depth, Angle, Drop: Three Elements of a Nymphing Rig
Over or Under? Your best bet on weight
Modern Nymphing, the Mono Rig, and Euro Nymphing
Resources for Tight Line and Euro Nymphing
Split Shot vs Weighted Flies
Tight Line Nymphing With an Indicator — A Mono Rig Variant
Bill Dance and Jimmy Houston go fly fishing — The Mono Rig for streamers
Get me back to my fly line — Connecting and disconnecting the Mono Rig
The Dorsey Yarn Indicator — Everything you need to know and a little more
Finding bite windows, fishing through them and fishing around them