The Mono Rig and Why Fly Line Sucks

by | Feb 3, 2016 | 100 comments

For presenting nymphs and streamers to river trout, fly line sucks. There, I said it. Now I have to defend it.

Most underwater deliveries require weight, and using a very long, monofilament leader to cast that weight is more efficient than using fly line; it keeps you in better contact with the flies, and you’ll catch more fish. I’m talking about leaders with butt sections of 20 feet or more. For all but the most lengthy casts, the fly line never comes off the reel, and the thick monofilament butt section essentially substitutes for fly line while casting, drifting and retrieving — it just weighs a lot less.

— — — — — —


I wrote this article in the winter of 2016, and it immediately caught fire, provoking much conversation and even some intense controversy (which seems kinda silly). The interest showed me how hungry people are for this information, so I kicked off a series of articles detailing how and where I learned about the Mono Rig, what we use it for and how it developed into a full system. (All the Mono Rig articles are found HERE.)

I’ve fielded hundreds of questions about the Mono Rig, but I’ll quickly address these two:

Isn’t this just like spin fishing?

No. Spin fishing for trout is performed with thin monofilament lines. Fly fishing is traditionally done with a relatively thick and heavy fly line, then a tapered leader. The #20 monofilament used for the Mono Rig functions somewhere in between those extremes. It has some properties and abilities of both spinning line and fly line. It’s still castable like a fly line because it has enough mass to carry itself and some lightweight flies to the water, but it’s light enough not to sag too much. In essence, the Mono Rig is a fly line substitute.

Is using the Mono Rig the same as Euro nymphing?

No. What my Troutbitten friends and I call the Mono Rig is a full system for both tight line and indicator nymphing styles, and for streamers, dry-dropper and dry flies, all while using #20 monofilament as a fly line substitute.


— — — — — —


In a previous article, I detailed the Tight Line Nymph Rig and why it works, and I strongly recommend reading through the tight line post before this one. So if you’re going as far as a tight line nymph rig, why not go further?

I’m qualifying my proposition here by saying the long Mono Rig is better for almost all underwater presentation — just to leave the door open a bit, and because taking away fly line is shocking to some and appalling to others.The same principles that make the Mono Rig so effective for tight line nymphing make it just as deadly for all other presentations of nymphs and streamers (for trout in rivers and streams), including nymphing under an indicator, and fishing large streamers at distance.

Some fly fishers will take a few steps back from this rig, drop their heads and shudder disapprovingly. That’s okay. Others will see this rig as too much bother — reluctant to change and adapt. If you’re the kind of angler who tries not to get too technical when you’re out there, and you just want to enjoy what happens, this isn’t for you. And that’s okay too.


The Mono Rig works. And why it works really isn’t complicated. It’s all about weight.

Fly line is heavy, so it sags off the rod tip, and it sags in the guides, causing drag by pulling back on the leader and the flies, resulting in a bad and unnatural drift. If you’re fishing fly line at distance, it lays in the water. Then you have to mend it, and then you’re no longer in touch, resulting in bad strike detection and lousy hook sets. By contrast, with a Mono Rig, long lengths of leader can be held off the water at some pretty remarkable distances. There is no need for mending, and you can stay in touch with the flies — that’s a fantastic thing in fly fishing.

Illustration by Dick Jones

Illustration by Dick Jones

All fishing casts happen because of weight. Spin fishing relies on the weight of a lure to pull line from a spool and carry it to a target. The original purpose of fly line was to push wet flies to the destination because the flies were too light to get there on their own. Dry flies are also a natural match for fly line (they need to be pushed toward the target). Likewise, lightly weighted nymphs and streamers can be presented exceptionally well with a fly line (especially if they are swung across and downstream).

But I would argue that the upstream, dead drift presentation of nymphs (with weighted flies or split shot — and sometimes an indicator) is not the job for a fly line. The weight needed for the cast is already there — it’s in the weighted nymph, split shot, or the indicator itself — and using fly line for the cast simply adds more weight. In essence, it creates a system that is fighting itself: the push of a fly line and the pull of the weighted nymphs are what create the clumsy, clunky cast that nymph fishermen eventually try to get used to. So why the hell are we fishing fly line?

A long Mono Rig solves the problem, and with a little time and practice, casting weighted rigs becomes much more elegant, accurate and efficient.

How to Do This

The more years you’ve spent casting fly line, the more awkward casting a Mono Rig might seem — but only for a short time. You can easily make the transition in a few outings by learning and implementing one key principle: take the wrist out of the cast.

Loren Williams gave me that piece of the puzzle one wintry day on the banks of a good trout stream. He taught me to hold the rod with the index finger on top instead of the thumb on top (the finger points to the rod tip). Then plant the butt end of the rod into the underside of the forearm, and cast the rod by bending the elbow, not the wrist. In fact, holding the rod like this completely disables the wrist; with very little effort, even lightly weighted flies will sail easily to the target.

In time, I’ve worked a little bit of the wrist back into my cast for certain situations, but the basic principle is still there. It’s far more important than any fancy rod will ever be (Mono Rigs are effectively cast on a wide variety of rod actions, weights and price tags). Just take the wrist out of the cast at first.

A common misconception about tight line nymphing rigs is that there’s no real casting involved — that it’s nothing more than lobbing and drifting, then lobbing and drifting again. That’s simply not true. The finesse of casting is still there (20# mono is a fly line substitute). I still make back casts, I can still tuck a cast tight under a tree limb, but with the Mono Rig I have the controlled precision to either drive my flies hard into the water (with a tuck cast), or land them with a subtle plop.


A decade ago, when I first saw this rig, I remember being absolutely amazed by the simple, obvious principles that make it work. And I’ve enjoyed sharing this revelation with friends ever since. Together, we’ve explored the possibilities and adapted it to other presentations.

We started to see fly line as a handicap. Burke often says that fly line is the biggest detriment to fly fishers, and it was Burke who took our tight line system and started fishing indicator rigs and streamers with it. He’ll tell you that it was out of pure laziness (that he just didn’t want to change leaders), but I give him the credit for discovering how effective it is. For years, I had fished indicators and dry-droppers fairly close on a tight line rig, and I routinely fished smaller streamers on the end of my line instead of nymphs. But I eventually understood that a Mono Rig works at longer distances too, with indicators and with larger streamers. It is killer.

The long Mono Rig, however, is certainly not a Troutbitten creation. You can find it detailed in Joe Humphreys’ Trout Tactics, and I would assume that many others were using similar rigs through the years. (That’s fishing.) Humphreys used Cortland Cobra flat monofilament in place of fly line, eliminating drag and getting nymphs and streamers deep while maintaining contact and control. Eventually, he had Cortland manufacture what they marketed as the Deep Nymph Floating Line — a very thin running line of about .022” in diameter. I’ve used the line, but I prefer mono.

Fly Line Scale

This is a Scientific Anglers Air Cell fly line. The first ten feet of this four weight, double taper fly line weighs 2.9 grams. That’s great for  pushing dry flies , but it causes a lot of line sag while nymphing.


Chameleon Scale

By contrast, ten feet of #20 Maxima Chameleon weighs just .64 grams. It’s much thinner, lighter and stiffer than fly line. It would do a lousy job of pushing bushy dry flies through the air, but it’s an ideal choice for fishing weighted nymphs or streamers.

The specific material used for the butt section doesn’t matter so much. If it’s significantly thinner than a regular fly line, then line sag and fly drag will be greatly reduced. I often experiment with different materials, but I keep coming back to Maxima Chameleon in #20 because it’s thin (.017″), yet it’s thick enough that it still handles well. With an easy pull, Maxima stretches out and the coils relax nicely, even in winter weather. With most thicker material, I’ve had more coiling problems than I want to deal with.

Maxima Chameleon in #20 also has enough mass that it casts like a fly line when you want it to. It can help push small, light nymphs to a target.

I’ve tried Stren, Berkley, Suffix, Amnesia (a flat monofilament), braided mono running line, Rio Slick Shooter, and a one-weight fly line. I keep coming back to Maxima Chameleon. While many long liners agree, plenty of others have their own preferences . . .

READ: Troutbitten | Ask an Expert — For Euro Nymphing or the Mono Rig, what leader material do you like for the butt section?

If you are hung up on the idea of using mono, then try one of the competition fly lines now available. They are much thinner and lighter than an average fly line and can come close to the performance of mono. Finding your own favorite material is part of the fun.


You can find tight line leader recipes from a variety of dependable sources (Dynamic Nymphing by George Daniel is one of the best). Some like to start with a standard 9’, manufactured, extruded leader and build from that, while others like to tie their own leaders from scratch. Whatever you choose, though, the long Mono Rigs I’m writing about here need to be long enough so the fly line rarely leaves the spool of your reel. I use a 24’, one-piece butt section in my leader so that the connection from leader to fly line rarely finds its way into my guides where it could hang up or slow down any shooting line during the cast. The 24’ butt section also assures that no fly line sag will occur in my rod guides while nymphing either. Remember, fly line sucks.

The rig I use for nymphing is listed below. If I add a suspender/indicator, I do so on the first few feet of the tippet section. If I want to fish larger streamers, I swap out everything from the sighter down (using Loon’s Rigging Foam) for another smaller but stronger sighter and a tippet section of 2X.

A Simple Mono Rig Formula

24 feet — 20 lb Maxima Chameleon
2 feet — 10lb Maxima Chameleon
Tippet Ring (1.5 or 2mm)
12” — 12lb Red Amnesia
12” — 10lb Gold Stren
14″ — 1x Rio Two Tone Tippet Material (Optional)
Tippet Ring (1.5 or 2mm)
36″ — 4X Fluorocarbon Tippet
— Tag for upper fly —
20″ — 5X Fluorocarbon Tippet
— Point Fly —

Most long liners tweak their leader formulas through the years, adapting to their own goals. The above formula is where I am as of Fall 2019.

I added the Rio Two Tone material because I like the sensitivity in the limp material. However, in some cases, I cut out the 1X Rio sighter and go back to using the Amnesia and Gold Stren sections as my sighter (when casting indicators on a tight line at distance, for example).

The point is to adjust and adapt the leader formula above for your own goals — modify it toward what you want to achieve. Use materials that you can see well for the sighter section. Go shorter on the butt section, or go lighter and longer for the tippet section. It’s up to you.

Mono Rig formulas need not be complicated. I prefer to step down the diameters from my butt section to tippet, but elaborate tapers with multiple sections aren’t necessary.


I suspect I’ll take some flak about this long Mono Rig. “It’s not fly fishing!” is a pretty common response, and that’s fair. It’s certainly non-traditional. And even considering the current popularity of tight lining, euro-nymphing, and competition fishing styles, a long mono rig still raises eyebrows.

In my mind, fly fishing is defined in two parts: using flies, and retrieving by hand. What “flies” actually are is pretty blurry these days; beads, coneheads, molded heads and rubber fins on streamers are ubiquitous. Who cares? I say. Just fish what works. However, the line-retrieval aspect of fly fishing is more concrete. If you are cranking a reel handle after every cast to bring your offering back for the next cast, then you probably aren’t fly fishing.

Another common reaction to this rig is, “Why not just use a spinning rod?” That’s fair too. I’ve tried it, but it’s actually much less effective and a lot less fun. Retrieving by hand and using a long rod allows for more versatility and efficiency of presentation.

When I first saw the Mono Rig used for tight line nymphing, I was intrigued. When I first used it, I thought it was fun — and that’s where I’ve been ever since. I enjoy fishing the long Mono Rig because it presents me with more options for greater control over where my flies go and what they look like to the fish. And then I catch more trout.

Problems and More

Like anything else in fishing, there are untold numbers of intricacies, adaptation, and points to be made about this rig. I’ve addressed many of them on Troutbitten, and I’ll continue to add posts about the Mono Rig. There are specific challenges to be overcome: line coils must be handled, retrieves must be adapted, etc.

Tight line nymphing is the core tactic of the Mono Rig. But indicator fishing, dry dropper and streamer fishing are both dramatically improved by fishing with the long leader. And these variations complete the set of techniques that I refer to as the Mono Rig. I’ve written about all of them, and you can find details at these links.

READ: Troutbitten | Tight Line Nymphing with an Indicator — A Mono Rig Variant

  • close range and at distance
  • suspender types
  • dry-dropper
  • using the double haul
  • when to mend, how to mend
  • balance between weight of suspender and weight of flies
  • angles of drift, angles to nymphs
  • staying tight to the suspender

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing with Streamers on a Mono Rig — More Control and more Contact

  • Big streamers and small streamers
  • Old-school vs modern streamer tactics
  • water haul and double haul
  • advantages over a floating line
  • advantages over sinking line
  • creating and using drag with the mono leader
  • cannonballs
  • shooting heads

If you’ve read to the end of this thesis, let me commend your persistence. You are my kind of fisherman, with a heart for exploration and a head full of questions.

One more thing: I don’t think I would start a new fly fisher off this way. There’s something very special about casting dries on a fly line that should not be missed.


** Find all Troutbitten articles about the Mono Rig here **


Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. You nailed that one Dom….again! Can’t wait to adapt to this ‘same game’ but new approach to hooking more fish on a regular basis. I love casting a floating line but once it lands I am constantly fighting it. I have been doing this for so many years and all of this makes so much sense, I wonder why I didn’t try this myself out of desperation. Thank you!

  2. Well done….but you are probably going to get some flak on this. I began using a similar rig back in the 80s after Humphreys’s book came out. My first was 20-25# Cortland Cobra mono (flat) like Humphreys and a light, long tippet (think Humpreys used manufactured tapered leader on his) . You wouldn’t believe the criticism I got about it. I think most of it was due to fact I was catching more fish than my “Halfordized” fishing buddies. Anyway, a rig like yours or something close to what you have described works… far as I am concerned, the best rig to date for fishing nymphs in most waters, and I have tried a bunch of them. Not been long ago that an Amy’s Ant and many of the foam beetles popular today would have been illegal to use in many strictly regulated US trout streams. Ideas change, and the better ones usually prevail. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks, Don. Did you ever fish streamers on your mono rig?

      • No I didn’t, but you and John have me fired up to do just that. Looking forward to your future post describing your technique.

  3. Hi Domenick,
    Great post! Thanks for going into more detail and expanding upon your previous posts. I can see how you might catch some flack from purist/traditionalists, but I appreciate how it does not deter from your willingness to address obvious fly fishing issues. The sport can only evolve with people willing to think outside the box and be willing to experiment. All commonly used aspect of fly fishing today started with someone catching flack (ie, streamers, terrestrials, Spey rods, strike indicators, loop to loop connectors).
    Thanks and looking forward to the future posts!

  4. Hi Domenick,
    I am transitioning to a nymphing technique similar to yours. I am intrigued with how far you have taken this, and this will give me a leap forward in my progression. I use streamers often, and now have the courage to try them on a long leader.
    Have you tried giving up on fly line altogether?
    Great blog,

    • Hi, Walter. I use the mono rig a lot. In fact, I use it for most everything except for dry flies. Even for a lot of hatches, I like to fish nymphs, so I often use a dry dropper set up on the mono rig, and if I have the balance right between weight of the nymph and wind resistance of the fly, I can fish the dry dropper pretty far off. There are certainly times, though, where I switch to a regular length leader and let the fly line do the work of pushing the dry out there to get the distance. I also use a fly line and shorter leader to swing wets at night ….. usually. Thanks for the question, and good luck with your experimenting.

  5. I enjoyed this start to finish because, frankly, it’s new to my experience and employs some strategies that make you think (always a good thing, no matter what we’re studying or experimenting with). I’m interested enough to want to try the mono rig and, if it feels right to me and shows advantages over the traditional fly line approach, it could be killer. Thanks for a fine thesis.

    • It’s not for everyone, but it certainly has its benefits. I hope it works out for you, and I hope you enjoy the process. Thanks for the comment.

  6. There are a lot of positive comments popping up on Facebook in addition to what is showing up here. The ‘Like’ count is growing in multitudes! Many of our competition fishermen are adding positive vibes. I do not see any “flack’ anywhere. Here in CT there are anglers that have been fishing this method for a long time and the accompanying images of rather large fish are proof positive and astounding! Thanks again Dom. You started something good….and we like it. Looking forward to more.

  7. hi Domenick,
    first off i’d like to say that i thoroughly enjoy your posts and i’m super-glad i discovered your blog.
    as you say, the ‘mono’ fishing style for any subsurface fishing isn’t new, around here (France) its rather the norm where amateurs picked it up from the high-level comp scene 10-15 years ago. most haven’t figured out how effective this is with streamers but streamer fishing is typically shunned anyway… (their loss)
    anyhow, most of this info has either been hush-hush or only available through books and good on you for putting all this out to the general public.
    there is however a little something that i’d like to point out that doesn’t make sense. i hope you don’t mind ? (if you do just delete my comment, no sweat)
    it’s about casting in the ‘traditional’ sense and fly lines pushing flies towards the target.
    that’s simply not possible. makes for a good analogy. i hope that makes sense? when casting a fly line the line pulls the leader and flies. they trail behind the fly line until turnover and at that point its exactly the same as a mono rig turning over at the rod tip.
    in fact, as you wrote above, casting-wise there’s no real difference between casting a mono leader or a fly line because the physics are the same. we’re just doing slight variants of the same casting stroke.
    once again, i hope that’s ok.

    • Hi Marc. Thanks for the comment. I follow the the limp cobra too. Great blog!

      I precisely understand your point, and it’s a good one. It would be hard to argue against the idea that the fly line is pulling and not pushing when you look at it that way. So, I don’t disagree, I simply look at it differently.

      I tend to think of where the cast starts, let’s say, at the rod tip. And the way I look at it, the rod tip starts the push of the fly line, and pushing continues at the apex of the loop in the line throughout the cast. Eventually, that fly line pushes the leader forward, but (most importantly) pushes a dry fly to the end. The reason I use the pushing vs pulling analogy in the first place is to make the distinction between dry flies (or very light, unweighted, or wind resistant flies) needing to be assisted (or pushed in my view) to the target, rather than the weight of a heavy nymph pulling some monofilament along behind it.

      That said, I can absolutely see why you think of fly line as pulling, and I like considering the distinction. Physics may be on your side, but I’m not even so sure about that. I’m also not so sure that “you can’t push on a string.” Fly line is no ordinary string. 🙂 And, in my view of the situation, the mass of line behind the tip of the taper is what is pushing it to accelerate (caused by the rod tip). Fun stuff, huh?

      • yup, fun indeed ! in regards to casting stuff its the whole thinking process brought on by all of us that later generates different thoughts on other aspects, how we percieve them, try them out and how we can later use them to be more efficient on the water that really does it for me. (i know, that sounded a little hippiesh but i can’t help it… 😆 ) in other words maybe, we all have a whole bunch to learn from each other and that’s one of the most fantasic aspects of the blogosphere.
        i understand your push/pull analogy but i can’t really see it that way but that’s more than ok 🙂
        thanks a bunch for the kind words regarding TLC, that means a lot.
        looking forward to more of your good stuff.
        take care,

  8. oops, -one can’t push a string- got deleted because i put it between brackets and i can’t edit. it should have gone after ‘that’s simply not possible’. sorry. 🙂

  9. Around here in Utah anglers have used mono lines for fly fishing pretty much since monofilament became widely available after WWII. First it was used on bamboo flyrods with flies, bait and lures interchangably. By the early 50s many used spin tackle the same way. It was referred to as bounce fishing since weight was put on the very bottom and flies or other bait put on droppers above. The rig was cast up and across stream and allowed to bounce along the bottom with the current. If it stopped or wiggled funny, the hook was set. Many variations are used today.

    • Thanks for the input, flyfishxprt. Yup, the rig we use is similar to a bounce rig in some ways. I love that there’s always new things to learn and ways to improve.

  10. Why not just use a centerpin set up???

    • Hi Robert. The short answer is that I like the versatility of the fly rod, and I enjoy using it.

      Have you ever fished a centerpin setup? I haven’t, so I can’t confidently speak to the advantages or disadvantages. However, I don’t think it would be a good rig for casting and retrieving streamers, and I’m certain that it would not work for dries.

      On many days, I alternate between dries, streamers, and nymphs, and I would not want to give up that versatility.

      Thanks for the question.

  11. Thanks for the reply. Wish you could go into detail about the versatility and a video would be great too. I’m interested in your take. Plus it would save me money from gettin the centerpin rig seeing as I already have the fly rods and switch rod rigs. 😉

    • Robert, I don’t see a video in the near future, but there are a ton of great resources on the web for learning to nymph with a tight line method. Some of those resources are linked to in our recent articles.

      In the next few weeks I’ll probably write a little more about using the mono rig for indicators and streamers, but the best thing to do is just go out there and start casting. There’s nothing all that tricky about it.

      And with the fly rod, I can change to a standard leader in a few moments and be throwing dries with traditional fly line.

      • Thanks Domenick, great info.

  12. I fished in this manner over 30 years ago. Though extremely effective, I eventually gave it up for greater versatility. I found that the two best lines were Dai Riki shooting line and the running line portion of the old SA Mono Core fly line. The Dai Riki shooting line from Bailey’s was stiffer than the leader material and actually cast well but the running line was the best. Thicker than mono but handled very well and didn’t cut into your fingers as readily. It was a great line for fishing tight line with stonefly nymphs on the Big Hole and Madison.

  13. Can you give some details on how you use this setup for streamer fishing… I currently am using this setup for Nymphing but also like to streamer fish….

    • Hi, Jerry. Yeah I’ll eventually put that post together. It’s on a long list of things to write about. Best piece of advice I can give you is to use a weighted streamer and go out there and start slinging it. You’ll see that the weight carries the leader to the target, just like spin casting. However, you get to enjoy the benefits of the fly rod, hand lining, and line pickup and recast without a full retrieval.

  14. Mono is by far the best for nymphing! I have tried using about 20 feet before but I had problems with the mono get stuck under my fly line but when I’m nymphing I will add like 5 or 6 feet of tippet on to get down and reduce drag. I have a few friends that take the plunge and go staight mono which they do great with. In high fast deep water where the fish are on the bottom and the currents are conflicting this is really the only way to go. I don’t believe you can get the fly line down without drag even using the best sink tip. As far as the definition of fly fishing goes, I wouldn’t know because I’ve never used a real fly to fish with or have never fished for flys. I used to be crazy about trying to think of what real deal traditional fly fishing really is, now I just keep it simple and fish without bobbers!

  15. Domenick,

    I recently listened to the Orvis “Lord Of The Flies” podcast which covered tight line nymphing and Googled tight line nymphing afterward to better understand what a sighter was and looked like. You’ve done such a nice job of explaining and illustrating the method and I’m excited to give it a try. It makes a lot of sense and addresses some of the concerns I have had this season regarding traditional nymphing.

    One thought keeps coming up as I read through this post, and perhaps it is a topic worth addressing in another post: Would Tenkara style lend itself well to tight line nymphing? Consistent with this post, it seems it would, as “Fly line sucks” and Tenkara uses no fly line. In addition, the adjustable telescoping length of Tenkara seems like it would allow for greater flexibility in fishing across multiple currents with less drag and more depth control in varying levels of stream height.


  16. The mono rig really interests me, I feel like it would solve most of my issues when tightlining.

    I built a leader using your specs, and I have serious issues with coiling. How do you overcome this? I straightened the entire leader when I built it then reeled it up on my reel. When I get to the stream and peal out a few feet off the reel to fish its just a mess. After I get the small section straightened out, everytime I want to bring more line out I always have to restraighten it with a leader straightener. It becomes more of a pain then it helps.

    The only chameleon in the red color that I wanted was in #25, do you think the extra #5 really makes that much of a difference in coils?

    Any help or tips?

    Thanks a lot, I really enjoy reading this blog.

    Altoona, PA

  17. Just now ran across your blog and this post. As a nymph angler I’m intrigued. I’m an indicator guy (bobber). Very rarely do I fish at long distances. I’ve also switched over to 10′ rods for nymphing. Am I correct in saying that I can remove the 24″ of sighter out of the equation and find the right indicator for the job? Ultimately, it’s the 20′ of straight mono that’s the focus of this rig. Keep up the informative posts on this subject.
    Thanks, Chad!

    • Hi, Chad. Thanks for the comment.

      Yeah, you could take the sighter out, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You will find it extremely beneficial to be able to see where your line is above the indicator. Generally, you want to keep it up off the water and stay tight to the indicator. The sighter helps with that.

      I’d also suggest giving tight lining a try if you’re feeling ambitious. A good tight line game really improves the indicator game. You learn things from each tactic that apply to the other.


  18. Where can I purchase the 12lb and 8lb amnesia
    For the sighted?

  19. By God, I think this is for me! I already ordered all the stuff to knot this setup together and get busy. Many thanks for making me think again …… 250savage

    • Nice. Let me know how it goes. It’s a little odd at first, but stick with it. Email me if you like.

  20. Will mono work with a smaller 7.5 foot rod? I like to fish small brushy SE Appalachian streams. I switched from spinning to fly fishing about 3 years ago but every technique I’ve tried for nymph fishing on the bottom basically sucks in my opinion. I remember going into the local Orvis shop and the guy described a bobber/beadhead/split shot rig and I thought are you kidding me? I should be using a spinning rod for this. My initial thought on using mono was as you mentioned, that a spinning rod would be better. But I was encouraged when you said you tried the spinning rod and like the fly rod better.

    • Well, they are two really different approaches. I like the fly rod because it’s so versatile. I want that on a trout stream, especially on a small stream where I know I’m going to want to throw dries at some point.

      About whether it’ll work on a small stream: I think you’ll struggle to get the mono rig working on a small and brushy stream, especially with a 7.5′ rod. You said small and brushy, so I’m thinking about my favorite brookie streams that are rarely wider than 15 feet and usually smaller — the kind of places where I’m crawling around a lot. In such a situation, I would fish dry or dry-dropper. I struggle too much with the mono rig when there’s not enough room to sling it around. You need some room for that.

      • For me it’s the opposite. I feel my spinning rod is more versatile since I can fish so many completely different baits. But I like my fly rod better, it’s just that if I can’t catch them on a dry/dropper I don’t feel like there’s too many other options. By the way I’d say I’ve caught at least 90% of my trout on a dry/dropper.

      • Hey Dom, what kind of rod and leader setup do you prefer for those small streams? I also fish a lot of brushy blue lines in the Southern Appalachians, and I have yet to find a leader I’m really in love with. I’m currently fishing an 8’ 4wt. with a double taper line for those settings.

  21. Hi Dom,

    I have a couple of deep eddy lines that are productive during high water. Fish 6-8′ deep. Can’t get that close to it due to the depth.

    I’ve been fishing it with a bobber, but I’m wondering if it would work to tight line it. Does anything about these conditions make you think it wouldn’t work well?

    I’ve played with it but not successfully and I’m curious if someone more proficient would have more success.

    • Joe, you said you can’t get close to it, so I think you might have trouble tight lining it. If you CAN get close enough, then yeah I would tight line it. Might want to run a drop shot rig. I do that a lot when I figure I’m going to hang on the bottom and can’t retrieve the flies. The drop shot will save your flies, usually. You could just run a heavy point fly instead though.

      If you can’t reach it, then I would try tight lining the bobber. Maybe you are already doing this: I attach the bobber to the top of my tippet section, and I adjust it up or down there as conditions dictate. That way, only my tippet section is under water — no taper. I make the cast (with the mono rig and no fly line), and I do my best to keep the line OFF the water, staying tight to the bobber when possible. The bobber is tight to the flies, and you are tight to the bobber.

      Does that make sense, Joe?

  22. It does make sense thanks. Sorry I missed your reply for a while.

    Another question you probably have answered somewhere but, why not run only mono or 60′ so you never see the end of it?

    Btw been watching Devin and Lance’s video, really well done and super informative. Thanks for the recommendation, you should get a commission!

    • Hey Joe, I’m really happy to hear that it’s working out for you.

      To answer your question, I don’t spool up 60 feet of mono for one main reason … because I also like to switch to a standard leader and fish fly line. And when I switch out leaders, I don’t want to roll up 60 feet of mono. So I just use a butt section that’s long enough that I will rarely have fly line off the spool. For me, that’s about 24 feet of butt section, then the rest of my leader.

      Know what I mean?

      Part of the Mono Rig is the possible variations and the ability to quickly, efficiently adapt. I have things set up so I can swap out the long leader and go to my standard dry fly leader in about a minute. That’s extremely important to me, and it’s one of the main reasons I don’t use a comp line. Carrying extra spools or extra rods doesn’t work for me. It’s not a fast enough transition so I don’t do it. I know I’ll avoid adapting if things take to long, and that’s not good.

  23. Hi,
    Thank you for the article. I really liked this topic and it makes me consider how to fishing next season.

    I used to Czech nymph and still do it depending the spot. I just hate rigging the nymphs and that style with all the wading destroys my sore knees… When ever it is possible I dead drift large streamers for big trout in that kind of way. I seldom use indicators I like to do it by feel. Your mono rig pretty much matches French style. I never considered this kind of rig for casting&stripping streamers. Now I do.

    I would use 10′ or longer rod for this (11′ light&fast switch maybe?). When you don’t have the mass of the fly line to keep the feel and control it is mutch more possible to have that heavy streamer as an earing:) I think that 4/5wt 10′ would offer more swing feel than 6..8wt would. Fast 8wt, 8′ and double streamer rig could really make one hurt… What kind of rod are you using with streamers? Sage 5wt, 10′, fast?

    And yes this is nyt for everyone and nyt for every place. With no back cast room I still would choose a suitable line for spey&roll casts. And when longer casts are needed you can’t beat a real fly line. But then again you have to use heavier set up…

  24. Solid, thanks. Seems like you might have given this some thought…

  25. Have you read Nymphing the New Way by White? I think it is an easier read than Dynamic Nymphing but not as technical. Good stuff and absolutely beautiful photos.

    • Hi Joe.

      Yes, I recently finished Nymphing the New Way. I’d agree that it’s not as technical as Dynamic Nymphing. However, that’s what I love about George’s book! It’s all in there.

      In Nymphing the New Way, I find the distinction between sight fishing and not sight fishing to be a little overdone.

      I also think the term “indicator” as it’s used in Nymphing the New Way is a little distracting.

      Both of those objections, thought are a consequence of the book being intended more for a European audience, I suppose, and I get that.

  26. Dom, I have been using your recipe for the mono rig and I do like feel when nymphing. I recently tied on a size 10 weighted streamer on my 10′ 4wt and my casting suffered. It just seemed like too much weight and my casts were all over the place. I’m trying to figure out what to adjust.

    • Hi Tim, good question.

      The size ten weighted streamer shouldn’t be too much weight at all. We routinely fish with #10 and #8 stoneflies and small streamers. And as you know, we throw big articulated streamers on the same rig. I’m sure that you can get it dialed in. Here are a few thoughts.

      If you’ve only fished smaller nymphs on the mono rig, try going to heavy nymphs. Try tying on a good, chunky #10-8 stonefly imitation or beadhead Bugger, and then get comfortable nymphing that at short distances. Stay close and fish some heavy nymphs for a long time to develop that skill. It may take many trips to the river to feel comfortable, but once you do, then start fishing at medium distances, maybe 20 feet away at the most. You’ll notice that the casting stroke is the same, but you just have to wait longer between motions.

      When casting weight I find it best to still keep the casting stroke crisp and forceful with hard stops. I don’t like to lob (especially at much distance) because I lose too much control. Wait until you feel the weight of the nymph or streamer behind you and then immediately start the forward cast.

      So my advice is to learn to nymph with heavier weight before trying to sling the Mono Rig around with streamers. Staying close and then gradually adding distance is the way to go. Allow yourself time to adjust to the new distance. I suspect that in a few months of fishing you’ll be able to cast that #10 weighted streamer at any angle you like, shooting it under branches and stripping it back.

      Make sense?

  27. Dom, thanks for the advice. Something to think about next time out

  28. Just found this site, and having a great time running through the articles. Thanks!

    Question: How about a “Fluoro Rig”, as opposed to mono/maxima for the long butt?

  29. Domenick, I switched to your system last year and love using it. Thanks for the insight. My only question is this: I was fishing in PA this spring and came upon a sign that said the leader can only be a maximum of 18′. This was in a fly fishing only section of a stream. What do you do in such a case?

    • Good question. I just trim the butt section back to comply with that reg. Our “fly fishing only” waters are the only place you’ll encounter that reg. If it’s important to you to be in strict compliance, then just trim the butt section back. You can swap butt sections in and out in just a minute or so. Wrap them up on an old Maxima spool.

      Make sense?


  30. Domenick, thanks for the continued information through your articles. I plan on implementing your mono rig system this FY and was interested if you had experimented with braided mono where you suggest using the Maxima Chameleon. I have 20LB Hi-Vis mono by cortland on hand that I wanted to put to use and was uncertain if this product would turn over flies like the Maxima product?


    • Hi there. Yes, I used exactly that braided mono for a few outings. I still have the large spool of it. Don’t like it at all, really. I found no advantage to using it. I also didn’t like the way it felt in the line hand, and I didn’t like how it holds some water in the braid — that would be horrible for winter fishing especially.

      You asked, so I gave my opinion there, but I always encourage people to try whatever you want. You’re objectives and preferences may be different than my own. And it’s fun to experiment anyway.

      If you end up liking the braided mono, let me know. Cheers.

  31. In addition how does the Maxima Ultragreen tippet compare with the Chameleon?


    • The ultra green is softer and the chameleon is stiffer. I like stiffer butt sections because they perform more like fly line. I find that chameleon is the perfect blend of stiffness but low memory, once stretched.


  32. Love your site man. Thanks ! Question for those of us who don’t tie their own leaders… is there a mono rig I can purchase or should I just learn a few knots and tie my own up ?

    • Thanks Michael. Glad you found the site.

      Email me, and I’ll tie one up for you for a few bucks.

  33. I’ve been Euro nymphing for years before I even knew it had a name. This is a ray of sunshine cause fly line does suck. I mainly fish the Esopus creek in upstate New York and I’m very excited to try and adapt my own technique to this rig.

  34. Gary LaFontaine’s book ” Fly Fishing the Mountain Lakes ” describes ‘ floss blow line ‘ fishing using flat unwaxed dental floss when it’s windy and the lake surface is choppy. Might be fun to compare this to your Mono Rig method.

    • Thanks, Bob.

      As I understand it, the floss blow line method involves no casting.

      I don’t really see much similarity to the Mono Rig. The strength of the Mono Rig is how it performs very much like a fly line and yet sags so much less. We are truly casting the Mono Rig. The blow line method is an interesting technique for windy conditions, fishing the surface on stillwater, but I think it’s application is very limited. The Mono Rig, though, is extremely versatile.

      That’s my take.

      Thanks for bringing that up. I had never read about the blow line.


  35. Hello Dom:

    From a newbie:

    What knot (s) do you use to connect the parts of your Simple Mono Rig Formula?


    • Hello Maryellen,

      I use blood knots for the larger diameters and double surgeons knots for the thinner diameters. Hope that helps.

  36. Have you tried using braided superline, like power pro instead of mono? I actually made a dry fly leader by stepping down cheap braided line (150lb,100lb,65lb,30lb,20lb) and so far I like it better than mono. It floats, it’s flexible (less dry fly drag), and it turns over really well. I started experimenting using it for tight line nymphing and I really like it. It’s very sensitive and there’s no coiling and I can usually feel the strike before I see it. If you have a fast rod you might have a problem with breaking tippet though.

    • Yeah, I’ve tried braided lines and superlines, but they are too limp.

      One thing people tend to miss is that the Mono Rig allows you to still have a fly line style casting stroke. It’s not lobbing. If the line is too thin, too limp, etc., then all you’re left with is lobbing. Then it’s like a chuck and duck rig. Those things are fine, chuck and duck and lobbing, but that’s not really what the Mono Rig is about. The Mono Rig as I describe it here, gives you the benefit of fly line style casting but without the excess weight of fly line. It’s something in between the performance of fly line and, say, 8 lb spinning line. So to make that happen, you need a relatively stiff line, like 20 lb Chameleon. But you also need something that doesn’t hold a coil much. Again, Chameleon, and some others, fit that bill.

      More on butt sections here:


  37. Domenick I would like to know what type of knot/attachment you use to join the 20lb Maxima Chameleon to your fly line.

  38. It is hard to quantify just how appreciative I am for this. It has changed the way I fish and increased my success rate tenfold. I wanted to thank you for sharing it.

  39. Seems like French nymphing to me (with some modifications).

    • French nymphing — tight line at distance, upstream with light flies — is part of the Mono Rig system. But as you read above, there’s a lot more too it. We fish at all angles, with all weight of flies, split shot, dry dropper, indicators, streamers and more. Most of what we do out there isn’t much like French Nymphing at all.

  40. castable tenkara – I love it!

    I actually know a guy who has been doing this for years, i.e., using mono on his fly rods.
    Now, he didn’t know anything about Euro nymphing, or any of the other “system” jazz we all like to cook up. I doubt he has knotted together any nifty intermediate leaders sections, for example.

    He just started doing it as an expedient, and because it was a helluva lot cheaper than fly line.
    He had a fly rod and reel and needed to make it work.

    Now, he says, he doesn’t mess around with flies much any more. As he puts it, he likes to actually catch fish in his old age.
    But I like this idea.

  41. Is the Mono Rig legal within Pennsylvania’s fly fishing regulations?

  42. A few questions:

    1) Duh question: You tie the rig directly to the backing?
    2) I am assuming with such a rig you can get away with a much smaller reel?

    I find this all fascinating and completely germane to a good chunk of my fishing here in Oregon, so thank you!

    • Hi Mike,

      NO NO! Leave the fly line on your reel, so that you can change out from the Mono Rig to a standard leader and still use the fly line for what it does well. I change leaders a good bit, really, especially during hatch season. No point in taking away the ability to be versatile. Leave the line on the reel, is my recommendation — just like you see in cover photo above.

      Also, use a large arbor reel, not a smaller one. This because the line will coil less coming off the reel.

      Make sense?


      • Got it! That saves me a ton of headache. Thanks!

        • Sure thing, Mike. Lots of different ways to do this stuff, but that’s mine. Keep in touch.

  43. Hi Domenick,
    I’m a relative newbie to fly fishing; only been doing it for about 2 years. Much of my fishing is nymphing but just this year I started having success with dry flies. As a newbie should I wait to try the mono rig? By the way I’m coming out for a day trip with you so perhaps that might be the best way to try it out for the first time?

  44. First and foremost Dom…thanks. I don’t know if Ill ever nymph with fly line in my hand ever again.

    Now here’s where I (and probably many mono rig evangelists) need some help…

    …I’ve run out of witty responses for comments from guys who like to catch less fish.

    Please advise!

  45. Dom – Interesting article series. I have not read them all yet but will do so.

    It seems that we have been using mono fly set-ups here in South Georgia for around at least 60 years as far as I can personally confirm through recounts from my father’s own personal experiences and my own experiences fishing with him starting around my age of about 10 years old.

    Around 1960, my father was a Private in the fire department here working for Mr. Brady, Chief of the Fire Department. Mr. Brady was firm in his opinions and intransigent in his views as his thought was that a man with an argument could hold no sway over a man with an experience.

    We fly-fish the slow moving rivers here for bream, red-bellies, blue-gills and stump-knockers. These are four distinct species with quite different behaviors, physical appearance, environmental preferences and fighting abilities.

    You can tell in almost an instant which species has taken your lure.

    Power, speed, preference for structure, preference for depth, tell you right away who has taken your lure.

    The lure we use is top-water. It has a balsa wood body with a feather tail. The body is about 10mm long and the feather tail is about 15-120 mm long.

    Do any of your followers know this style of fly fishing?

  46. Hi Dom.

    Ran across your site about a year ago and have really enjoyed adopting and using the Mono Rig for nymphing. Lived in the SC area for about 30 years and learned to highstick/tightline nymph (without indicators) on Spring and Penns Creeks. But always seemed to be fighting the fly line sag. With the Mono Rig, the sag is almost entirely eliminated.

    The biggest problem I have is the casting. I’m using a 9′ 5wt rig with 20# Chameleon, 3′ of 12# Amnesia, 2′ of 15# Green/Red Amnesia sighter, 1′ of 3x, and more often than not, about 6′ of 5x tippet and just can’t seem to be able to do more than lob the line out there, even when using a couple 3.3 mm tungsten beaded flies. Are there videos that show the mono rig being cast? Lobbing/oval casting works ok for nymphing close, but there are times when I’d like to be able to get the flies out there and use a suspension system, or more importantly, get streamers out about 25′ to 30′ accurately. I’ve thought of using my Comp Nymphing line (Rio Euro), but hate to reintroduce sag into the system again, even if it’s less than that of my standard 5wt line. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    Great site, great info, and great articles. Keep up the good work!

    Tight lines!

  47. Google discover noticed I’m reading about fly fishing and showed me one of your articles and I’m really glad. I enjoy your writing style and your attitude. Thanks loads! I’m a rank beginner and I’m sure I’ll be reading your articles over and over.

    Allow me give back: in your recipe, the link to the two-tone to leads to the tippet rings.

    Tight lines!
    Enfield, NH

  48. With streamers, no need for a swivel in line?

    • Hi John,

      Good question. Actually, no. I never have any problem with streamers twisting the line. Do you have that trouble?

      The only time I experience line twist is with Harvey Wets at night. They have large wings that can twist even thicker tippet. I use 12 lb Chameleon for those!

      But for regular streamers, I never have that problem. None of my flies are tied in a way that they twist the line like that. I also like to use 2x or greater when fishing streamers.

      Also, don’t forget, that 20 lb mono butt section is pretty thick. It functions like a fly line much more than a spinning line. (We are casting and not lobbing.)

      Email me if you have any troubles.



  49. Thank you for this site. I’m learning a lot, and feel like I’m significantly improving as an angler. One question about the leader. Why not just go:

    24 feet — 20 lb Maxima Chameleon
    Tippet Ring
    14″ — 1x Rio Two Tone Tippet Material
    Tippet Ring
    Fluro and flies

    What is the middle part of the leader formula above (2 feet — 10lb Maxima Chameleon, 12” — 12lb Red Amnesia, 12” — 10lb Gold Stren) doing that the 20lb Chameleon and 1x Rio Two Tone can’t do? Why not just cut out those 4′ and go 20lb to 1x to fluoro/flies?

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the question. It has a lot of answers, really.

      First, if that is the formula you would like to use, then go for it. Try it out, and you may very well like going right from the butt section to a limp sighter and then tippet. But I don’t like that at all.

      The middle part of the Mono Rig as listed above does a few things:

      The middle parts are thinner than the butt section — so they sag less.

      Adding a taper helps transfer casting power better — and that’s where accuracy starts.

      Accuracy also comes from CASTING and not LOBBING. I argue this in these Troutbitten article all the time. What you see demonstrated in many videos at at clinics is too often a lobbing approach. There are many good reasons to avoid that and get back to casting. Here’s an article about that, with more links contained:

      Make sense?


      • Domenick,

        Thanks for responding. I’m a husband and father whose fishing time isn’t what it used to be, so when I get to be on the water I’d rather maximize the time with trusted methods, than waste the time tinkering too much. On behalf of all the guys out there like me, let me say “thank you” for helping us make the most of the time!

        The part about sag makes good sense to me. However, I can’t wrap my head around why the power transfer would be better with the taper. It seems like 8’ of 20lb would transfer more energy to the 2’ of tippet than a leader that is 4’ of 20lb and then tapers down over the next 4’ before reaching the 2’ of tippet. I read somewhere that the loss of power comes from a ‘hinge effect’ when the diameter changes too dramatically. I may just need to tinker in order to understand.

        • “I may just need to tinker in order to understand.”

          This is absolutely true. You should go play with it, because that’s the only way to see what works for you.

          Regarding the power transfer point. I could have stated it better. I said:

          “Adding a taper helps transfer casting power better — and that’s where accuracy starts.”

          The taper does transfer the power better. We aren’t trying to get MAXIMUM power from the but section. We actually want to take some of that power out. I find that a short taper helps dissipate the power of the butts section and improves accuracy. But you may not like that. Every situation is different. For example, when I cast dry flies with the Mono Rig, I take most of the taper out.

          Lastly, I’m not a big believer in the hinge effect until the diameters are radically different.

          Those are my experiences. Your results and preferences may end up to be different.

          Make sense?


  50. Enjoyed reading the article. What is a good substitute for the #10 Stren Gold in the mono rig setup?

  51. Hi Dom, I’ve been enjoying reading your articles on nymphing, it’s nice to read from somebody that really thinks about what and why they are doing what they are doing. I have a couple questions related to the long mono rig running through the guides:

    1 – how are you attaching the long mono leader to the fly line?

    2 – are you applying anything glue like to the larger knots above the tippet ring so that they run through the guides more smoothly? And if so, what are you using?

    3 – what knots are you using?

    I fish mostly bigger tail water rivers where the trout have plenty of room to run. Consequently the leader knots may go in and out through the guides several times during a fight with a nice sized fish.

  52. I was watching your two “mono” videos on youtube…awesome by the way! How do you manage to keep your lazar line straight and untangled? I used OPST 20lbs and it tends to “bundle”?? Thanks!


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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