Tight Line Nymphing with an Indicator — A Mono Rig Variant

by | Feb 14, 2017 | 73 comments

I dislike arbitrary limits. Placing restrictions on tackle and techniques, when they inhibit my ability to adapt to the fishing conditions, makes no sense to me. I’m bound by no set of rules other than my own. And my philosophy is — Do what works.

I guess that’s why I’ve grown into this fishing system. Most of the time I use what I refer to as the Mono Rig. It’s a very long leader that substitutes for fly line, and I’ve written about it extensively on Troutbitten. Tight line and euro nymphing principles are at the heart of the Mono Rig, but there are multiple variations that deviate from those standard setups. Sometimes I use split shot rather than weighted flies. Sometimes I add suspenders to the rig. I even throw large, articulated streamers and strip aggressively with the Mono Rig. All of this works on the basic principle of substituting #20 monofilament for fly line.

Tight line nymphing is my default approach on most rivers. I like the control, the contact and the immediacy of strike detection. But sometimes adding a suspender (an indicator that suspends weight) just works better.

Often, I add a dry fly to my tight line nymphing rig. “The Duo” (European fishermen’s term for dry/dropper) is widely popular because it’s a deadly variation of the standard tight line approach. But dry/dropper rigs have their issues. And choosing a Thingamabobber or a Dorsey Yarn Indicator for the suspender not only solves those issues but also includes extra benefits.

This isn’t about which method is better. Invariably, the answer to such questions in fishing is, “It depends.” Everything has its place. This is about how to use tight line principles with a suspender rig. I hate arbitrary limits. Do what works.

Chris Kehres brown trout

Photo by Chris Kehres

What’s wrong with bobbers?

The standard method of fishing suspenders has some major drawbacks. Using a nine foot leader, a bobber and fly line requires mending. That mending puts anglers out of touch with the nymphs, and it disturbs the water surface, potentially spooking the trout we’re trying to catch. Worse yet, we have less contact, less control and less strike detection.

But fishing suspenders on the Mono Rig eliminates most of those troubles.

By using tight line principles to fish with suspenders, we regain control, dramatically improving strike detection and virtually eliminating surface disturbance (especially with the Dorsey).

Here’s the setup

Mount a slidable suspender on the top of the tippet section, just below the sighter. Then make a cast that lands the nymphs upstream of the suspender and in the same current seam. Keep the leader off the water and stay tight to the suspender. The suspender stays tight to the nymph.

Troutbitten Mono Rig and Suspender, Indicator

Mount the suspender on the tippet section of the Mono Rig. Slide it up and down to adjust for depth.

Troutbitten Tight Line Indicators

On the left, a Thingamabobber mounted to a tight line, mono rig. And on the right, a small Dorsey Yarn Indy mounted to a tight line, mono rig.

What’s the Difference?

First, compared to tight line nymphing, this setup takes the lead point from the rod tip to the suspender.

Without a suspension device the nymphs are guided by what we do with the rod tip (I wrote about this here). By adding a Thingamabobber (or Dorsey, or dry fly, etc.), and keeping the leader off the water, the nymphs are largely controlled by the suspender. The nymphs are on a leash, and the suspender is boss.

Keep the leader off the water — stay tight to the suspender.

Second, the amount of tippet under the water is fixed in a suspender rig. Maximum depth is set by sliding the suspender up or down, not by raising or lowering the rod tip, as in tight line nymphing. That’s more predictable and perhaps more consistent for all but the most expert tight liners. This is especially true in slower water.

There are many reasons to switch to a suspended drift. Wind is perhaps the most common obstacle to tight lining, and it’s easily tackled by adding a suspender. Whatever the reason, there are times when trout respond to nymphs drifted under a suspender over tight lined nymphs.

Who knows why? Sometimes it’s best to let the fish decide.

Photo by Chris Kehres

Here’s what a suspender does better than floating the sighter …

… It actually suspends things. Mono sighters laying on the water surface can only support a few grains (about a #16 tungsten beadhead nymph). So while floating the sighter, it starts sinking when the load of the flies reaches the tip. Suspenders, though, can float as much weight as you want.

Floating the sighter is an excellent and versatile technique, often used without the intention of suspending the nymphs below. However, when I do want to hang nymphs underneath something on the surface, I usually opt for a suspender.

Why? Because it can support all the weight I need it to. And because when I stay tight to the suspender — when I keep the leader off the water and in the air — I have just one point of contact on the water. In most situations that amounts to less drag than having my whole sighter on the surface.

Impossible lead angles

This one is important.

With a suspender rig, you can get lead angles not possible with tight line nymphing. You can fish below (downstream of) your position and still have the flies tracking behind the suspender on a dead drift.

I cast up and across, carefully landing my nymphs in the same seam as the suspender. The nymphs gain contact with the suspension device within a few feet, and with a high rod angle, I keep all of the leader off the water that I can. I’m in touch with the bobber but not affecting its course. As long as I don’t bump the bobber, the position of the nymph tracking behind the suspender remains the same. It’s the same when it passes across from me, and it remains the same below my position. For as long as I can stretch the drift downstream without bumping or dragging, the nymphs continue to track behind the suspender.

A suspender on the leader effectively extends the range of a tight line drift. Here, the cast was started with an up and across presentation, and the drift is finishing at a down and across angle. Importantly, the nymph is still tracking directly behind the suspender. Such angles are impossible without the suspender.

I’d love to be able to wade into position and tight line every great spot on my favorite big rivers, but too frequently that cannot be done. However, by casting and drifting with a suspender rig, I get very long drifts at great distances. I cover more water with every cast. My effective reach and fishing radius is dramatically extended. Less casting. More drifting.

These kinds of suspension drifts are possible with the standard leader and fly line approach, but the Mono Rig offers the substantial advantages of control, contact, improved strike detection and stealth.

Short Range

When fish approval ratings are lower than expected with tight line tactics and I’m not convincing trout like I think I should, my first adaptation is to attach a suspender to the top of my tippet section.

I make it a habit to fish as close as possible to the trout. And I’m commonly within a fifteen foot range. Even at distances right under my rod tip, I often find success by just adding a suspender.

At short range, very little about the casting stroke needs adjustment. Simply add the suspender and keep slinging it. Stay tight to the indy, keeping all leader off the water.

Long Range

After dialing in the short range game, you’ll inevitably want to go further.

For many years, if I needed to cast a suspender with nymphs more than about 20-25 feet, I swapped out the Mono Rig and fished with a more standard approach — using fly line to push the rig to the target. But one September float trip with Pat Burke convinced me that I was wasting my time changing leaders.

Pat and I had been discussing the differences in both approaches for months. Once I saw it first hand, I was thoroughly convinced.

From my seat at the oars, I watched Burke attach a Thingamabobber to the tippet section of his Mono Rig. Then he started launching long, deadly accurate casts — one after the other. All the leader was held off the water, and the bobber performed insanely long drifts parallel to the boat. There was no fly line on the water to mend, and the bobber bounced along, untouched, in one perfect current seam, nymphs trailing behind.

The next day, I waded into position near the top of a large, deep hole. Instead of swapping out to a standard leader, I stuck with the Mono Rig to fish the long range water that I couldn’t wade. In a couple hours, I learned the necessary casting adjustments to sling suspender rigs at significant distances.

It takes swift, forceful motions. Slight double hauls and open loops help. But it’s not hard. Water hauls can also be helpful (using the tension of the rig stretched out on the water downstream to load the rod and then cast upstream). Generally, if you start at short range and graduate to long range, the transition is intuitive.

Note: a long range suspender rig can be heavy, especially with a Thingamabobber and a pair of weighted flies ready for deep water. And it may not be well suited for extra long and light euro nymphing rods. This is one of the reasons I prefer 4 and 5 weight rods for the Mono Rig rather than 2 or 3 weight competition nymphing rods.

Differences: Dorsey | Thingamabobber | Dry fly

I use three types of suspenders: Thingamabobbers, Dorsey yarn indicators, and dry flies. I’ve used everything else too. Honest . . . everything. I’m a tireless tester. But I know when I’ve found what I’m looking for, and I don’t carry much excess in my vest.

I like dry flies for suspenders during a hatch and when fish are likely to come to the surface. It’s a really fun way to fish dries, and trout take both the suspended nymph and the dry. But dry flies as suspenders aren’t easily slidable (although it’s possible). They also require more maintenance to keep  floating, so I often find it more efficient to fish a yarn indicator.

“The Dorsey”

The Dorsey yarn indicator is not the standard yarn indy that’s crafted with rubber O-rings and wound thread. It’s altogether different — just macrame yarn and a small orthodontic rubber band. Nothing more. It’s infinitely adaptive: just use more or less yarn. It easily slides when you want to adjust for depth, but it stays in place while casting. The Dorsey is extremely sensitive, it lands like a feather and doesn’t spook fish. Nothing could be lighter, and the hydrophobic yarn sheds water on the backcast. Yes, the Dorsey is nearly perfect.

The trouble with both yarn and dry flies is the air resistance. With the Mono Rig at long range, the resistance of yarn and hackle can be too much to push through the air — especially when the nymph payload is light. When that happens I switch to a Thingamabobber.

Troutbitten Thingamabobber Hack

Bobber mounted with the Troutbitten Slidable Thingamabobber hack

The weight of the Thingamabobber helps to chuck the rig out there at distance. Ummm . . . yeah, just like a bobber. The medium Thingamabobber weighs in at about ten grains. That’s just a little more than my #10 tungsten beadhead stoneflies. Kinda hard to be believe, I know. Sure, that weight makes the Thingamabobber less sensitive, but the extra weight on the line helps the Mono Rig carry the nymphs to some pretty long range destinations.

The Thingamabobber also sticks into the water surface better than yarn or dry flies. That’s good and bad. Because of this feature, I use it for the super long drifts that extend below me. It’s not so easily knocked off course by a little drag.

For years I worked on a way to make the Thingamabobber easily slidable on tippet sections but still quickly attachable. Finally, I got it. I pre-rig all my Thingamabobbers with a short stem of DMC embroidery floss, and I mount them with the same rubber bands used for the Dorsey.

Troutbitten Thingamabobber Hack

The Troutbitten Slidable Thingamabobber hack

A couple more tips for suspenders with the Mono Rig

— Balance the suspender type and size with the weight of the flies: e.g., small Dorseys with light nymphs. They’re more sensitive that way.

— Use the smallest suspender you can. They’re more responsive to strikes and cause less surface drag. The little things matter.

— At long range, some of the Mono Rig will have to lay on the water for the first few feet of the drift. That’s fine. And don’t forget that you can mend the Mono Rig on the water. Use a reach mend. Grease the sighter and some butt section with green Mucilin.

— It’s easy to give the flies just a bit of slack by pausing, mending, or holding back the suspender.

— Adjust for depth! Slide the suspender and/or add weight. When conditions change, so must your rig.

The New Zealand Strike Indicator system is a great alternative to the Dorsey. But it’s not as adjustable. The small rubber tube in the system limits the size of yarn to be used. You can use both smaller and larger chunks of yarn with the Dorsey. The New Zealand strike indicator is also a bit heavier, but not by much.

— When casting up and across, use a push mend to line up the suspender and flies in one current. Stop the rod tip high and forcefully. Then push the rod just a little further forward. With luck and practice, the suspender will kick ahead of the flies, landing both in the same current seam. This is easiest with a Thingamabobber.

Chris Kehres Troutbitten Waterfall

Photo by Chris Kehres

Or … just go back to the fly line

Fishing suspenders with the Mono Rig is easy, up to about thirty feet. It may take some practice to get into the forty foot range, and fifty feet is really pushing it. It’s all about the weight at the end of your rig, the rod length, how tall you are, and in how deep of water you’re standing. From a boat, you can achieve far greater distances than when you’re waist-deep in the river.

Personally, I don’t push it much past thirty-five feet. At that distance, I’d rather swap out the Mono Rig for a standard leader and let the fly line do its job.

Everything has a useful purpose. Do what works.

Fish hard, friends.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky



Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 1000+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

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.

More from this Category

VIDEO: The Dorsey Yarn Indicator —  Our Best and Most Versatile Indy Choice — Building It and Fishing It

VIDEO: The Dorsey Yarn Indicator — Our Best and Most Versatile Indy Choice — Building It and Fishing It

For over a decade, my Troutbitten friends and I have fished a small yarn indicator that weighs nothing, is extremely sensitive, versatile, cheap, doesn’t affect the cast, and flat out catches more trout than any other indicator we’ve ever used. What we call “the Dorsey” is a daily-use tool that is integral to our nymphing system. We mount it on a tight line rig or a traditional leader with fly line. It floats like crazy. It signals takes and information about the drift like no other indy we’ve ever used, and it’s an unstoppable fish catcher.

Tippet Protection and Nymphing Rods

Tippet Protection and Nymphing Rods

Here’s the bottom line: You do not need an extra-soft rod tip to protect delicate tippets while nymphing. Skip past that selling point in the marketing jargon, and make your fly rod decision on the other factors that matter.

Patagonia Nymphing

Patagonia Nymphing

I don’t know another time when I approached a slot with so much confidence. Better. Slower. This was it. At the end of the fishless drift, my certainly wasn’t questioned, it was simply re-informed. “Need more weight,” I said. It was an unforgettable, prove-it kind of moment . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.


  1. Hi Domenick,
    Your mono-nymph rig could also be called an European rig, correct? I’m going to fish it as soon as the water goes down enough to get on the water. Has the mono-nymph rig leader formula changed from what you have posted here? I have some indicator tippet I’d like to incorporate into the leader. Would a 2-foot piece of indicator leader as the last section work? I would attach my 2mm tippet ring to the end of that. thanks

    • Hey Bruce,

      No, you couldn’t fairly call the Mono Rig a Euro nymphing rig. The leader is about the same, yes. But when you start adding in the suspenders, occasional split shot, trailer flies, and big streamers the Mono Rig goes further than euro nymphing principles would allow.

      Yeah, my leader is still very similar to the ones I’ve posted before. Remember, the most important part is to replace the standard fly line with something much lighter. I like #20 Chameleon, but you could also use a competition fly line (though you won’t have the versatility to switch out to a standard leader and fish regular fly line).

      Right now, I’m using some Rio Bi-Color material for my sighter instead of Amnesia and Gold Stren. In my opinion, it makes very little difference. So yeah, after your long butt section, I’d add a 2 foot transition piece, maybe another step down piece and then your indicator mono.

      Good luck!

  2. Great article, Dom. Thanks.

    Although I have, and use, both Dorsey and Thingamabobber indicators, here are two more ideas.

    Corqs are very easily removed and moved up and down the leader. And Floatmasters slide up and down a leader very easily. And both stay put, even when attached to 4 or 5X tippet material.

    Both Corqs and Floatmasters are heaver, and float lower in the water, than Thingamabobbers, but I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. One feature of Corqs is that the bottom is a natural cork color (the whole thing can be that color if you wish), so they don’t look like a threatening object to fish.

    • What’s up, Alex?

      I’ve used Corqs and Floatmasters a lot. I like Floatmasters a little better. But I like neither as much as the Thingamabobbers. Both Corqs and Floatmasters are MUCH heavier than Thingamabobbers. Since the TB is just air inside, you get the most flotation possible for the size.

      Weight is very important to me in a suspender. The heavier it is, the less sensitive I find it to be. That’s why my first option is usually a dry fly or a Dorsey.

      I don’t have a problem with the color of the Thingamabobbers. I use white ones and yellow ones. But I don’t think it’s the color that spooks them. It’s the splash. But again, if I’m in a situation where the fish are spooky, I use the Dorsey.

  3. One more thing that needs to be mentioned. With a Euro rig, the flies can, in principle, flow with the speed of the current along the stream bottom. A bobber will pull the nymphs along faster than the bottom current because the current at the surface is usually aster than the current at the bottom.

    One way to compensate for this is to suspend the nymphs below the bobber (i.e., use enough tippet so that the nymph are just above the steam bottom, but not bouncing on it) and fish downstream. The advantage of fishing this way is that you get an instant tuck cast, a pretty natural drift, and you’re doing something no one else does. The disadvantages are that it’s tricky to get the proper depth and you’re striking fish that are downstream of you.

    • Alex, you said: “…A bobber will pull the nymphs along faster than the bottom current.”

      I understand why you say this, and it’s an important consideration, but I disagree with it.

      The suspender CAN pull the nymph along at the surface speed if things aren’t set up right. But when the rig is balanced and the cast is set up well, you will frequently see the suspender slow down once it is in touch with the nymph. A light suspender will float at the bottom speed, slower than the surface current.

      To your other point, I prefer to avoid nymphing downstream whenever possible. It’s just not in my game very often.

      • Great point, Dom. In fact, if you get the balance right, the nymphs (or split shot) can slow down the indicator so that it’s flowing at the same speed as the water at the bottom. In fact, you can frequently see the little “tick-ticks”s at the indicator that are caused by the weight at the end of the leader (nymphs or shot) bouncing along the bottom.

        I frequently fish like that and like it. There is nice tension between the indicator and the nymphs, making a strike easy to see. My only problem with this method is that it involves a balancing act between the bobber and the nymphs. If you get it right, (if the bobber is the right size and you can the appropriate amount of weight on) the nymphs move pretty naturally. If not, they move too fast or too slow. Do you have a rule of thumb or some other method to find this balance?

        BTW, thanks for wonderful article. There’s more useful information here than in most books.

        • Thanks for the compliment, Alex.

          About the rule of thumb on the balance: I guess it’s just kind of experience and experimentation. Honestly, I don’t find it that fine of a line. I think a lot of different weights will work in a particular situation.

          I think of what’s going on under the water as Depth, Angle and Drop. I wrote about that a while back.

          I approach it very much like tight line nymphing to start. My first priority is to get the nymph and the suspender to land in the same current seam, with the nymph upstream of the suspender.

          I feel like if there’s sufficient weight and enough depth the suspender usually slows (once it’s in touch with the nymphs) to meet the speed of the nymphs. Granted, there is some push and pull there.

          I’d rather start with a little too much weight, see that that my rig is hitting the bottom too often, and then dial back the weight. I like that method more than starting too light and then having to go heavier … usually.

  4. Needless to say, another disadvantage of a downstream presentation is the likelihood of spooking trout. Ways to minimize that possibility are fishing downstream but casting across stream (preferably with a long rod) and fishing pocket water.

  5. Good article. Thingamabobbers, NZ Strike Indicator & Dorsey’s Indicator are my favorites as well. I’ve tried Airlock Indicators but they are heavier than Thingas, don’t roll cast as well, and still can dent your leader or tippet (even thought they say it doesn’t). Anyway, one tip I read about for Thingas is to take a pair of needle-nose pliers and carefully pull out the metal grommet–it’s the metal that kinks your leader badly. I’ve found the kinks are not nearly as severe with just plastic–they should just manufacture them w/o the grommet. I’ll have to try the Dorsey style way of attaching a Thinga…

    • JP,

      Nice. I agree with removing the grommet. I used to do that before I started attaching the TBs with the hack. I found that they still slid around on tippet too much, and still caused some line damage. I also had some trouble with the line really digging into the plastic too much, making a tiny trench that pinched the line too much when I did want to slide it. Does that happen to you?

  6. Could you please provide instructions regarding the adjustable thingamabobber setup?

    • Hi Tony,

      Yeah, I will do that in the near future. It needs it’s own separate post.

      It’s just a DMC embroidery floss tag, looped into the hole of the TB. Then I tie a stopper knot at the end. I attach the rubber band to the line the same as Pat Dorsey does in that video. Then, instead of inserting some yarn, I insert the embroidery floss tag. I pull it tight. You can feel a little “pop” when the line straightens out like it should under there. Then it’s on right.

      Materials are linked in the post above.

      It can be a little fiddly. But once you get used to it, it works very well.

      If it doesn’t slide easily, just don’t force it because you’ll burn the line and damage the rubber band. Just redo the attachment of the band and get it right.

      For forceful casters, the medium and larger TBs will tend to slide down a bit over time. I always have a Backing Barrel on the top of my tippet section, so I just use that as a stopper next to the TB if it wants to slide.


      Make sense?

  7. Yes, thanks for the explanation.

  8. Hey Domenick,
    You mean connect the #20 Chameleon as my butt section to the fly line, correct?

    • Bruce,


      Permanently attached to my fly line with a needle nail knot is a six inch piece of 20# Maxima Chameleon and then a clinch knot to a tippet ring. That six inches coming off my fly and the tippet ring is permanent. I then swap out leaders (mono rig or standard leader) with a three turn clinch knot to that tippet ring. I can swap out my mono rig leader for a dry fly leader in about a minute.

      There are pictures and more explanations in my article here:

      The needle nail knot I didn’t include in the pictures there, but I should have. Look that knot up. A nail knot is good, but the needle nail knot is cleaner .. the leader comes right out of the fly line.

      The three turn clinch knots on both sides of the tippet ring end up being no more cumbersome going through the guides than a blood knot. Keep the tippet ring small. I use 1.5mm. Maybe even go with the oval rings. The tippet rings end up being smaller than the knots. You can see that in the picture.

      I should note that my other leader (the one I use for dry flies) also has a butt section of #20 Chameleon.

      Does this make sense?

  9. Good to see this in print. I played around with a bobber sighter last season doing some short upstream tight lining with good results. In faster water I felt I could control the depth easier than by lifting the rod top or pulling in line with my non dominant hand. I will try the angle rig this year and see. Good post. Thanks

  10. This is awesome info and I wish I could take it all in. Many times I just get overwhelmed and it starts to sound too complicated. I try to fish mostly leader now when nymphing keeping as much fly line off the water as possible. If I do make a long cast and need some line on the water I have to watch the fly line like a hawk for any irregular movement. I’ve gotten pretty good a predicting when strikes are going to happen. I don’t really think you can teach fish intuition. It’s just something that comes with experience. I do like how bobbers some times help you get a drift right when there’s a bunch of different currents. If you plop the bobber in the right spot it will act like your rod tip, tight lining the fly over the strike zone.

    • Right on. Good stuff.

      Also, I know that was a dense article. A lot of these technical ones end up that way. I thought about breaking it up into two parts just because of the length but decided it was best to keep it all together. I could have easily been ten times as long, too. LOL.

    • Hi Alex, why make the simple thingamabobbers so difficult to use? That would be very hard to do with cold fingers. I use them, and to me, they are easy to put on, re-position, and take off, just the way they are. Just my opinion. No disrespect intended. To each his own. As long as you like it, that’s all that matters. As they say, there are no absolutes in fly fishing.

    • Thanks for the link, Alex. A few years ago, I did exactly this for a couple outings. It works, but I found it too time consuming to take on and off the line. I found it especially tough to take off. Do you have trouble with that?

      TheThingamabobber hack that I listed above really works pretty slick, and it’s very quick. I guess I’m used to it too, so I like it better.

      • I’m going to take the idea in the link fishing tomorrow and I’ll report. But, I played around with at home and it’s very hard to take off. So, I’m just taking a bunch of pre-banded Things with me and if I want to switch from bobber to Euro nymphing I plan on just cutting the band off. I have a million orthodontist bands because my daughter’s orthodontist gives them away like free samples at Costco, so that’s not a concern.

  11. I hear ya’ Domenick. I always keep an 18-24 inch piece of red amnesia butt section nail-knotted to my fly line. I used to use a perfection loop-to-loop connection between my butt section and leader, but those loops aggravated me by always getting hung up in the guides. I figure your rig with the long butt section will eliminate that.

    • Yeah, it will help to take those loop connections out of there. Basically, you are replacing the loops with a tippet ring. Keep the tippet ring small. And those clinch knot wraps are just as clean as a blood knot.


      So yeah I go real long with the butt section so the connection is hardly ever off my spool, but when it is off the spool and in the guides, that connection is about as clean as it can be. It’s not bad at all.

  12. Don,
    Thank you for your content. You and Devin are my favorite for technical gear posts. These posts are great and they must take quite a bit of time. I just want to tell you that you are much appropriated!
    Tight lines buddy!

  13. I am definitely going to be trying this out very soon. I didn’t read all the comments as I need to get to bed but have you tried Air Lock indicators? I switched to them last year and love them. They are very similar to thingamabobbers but don’t kink your leader and are simple to slide.

    • Hi there.

      Yeah, I’ve tried the Airlocks, but I feel the same as what some others have posted: they are a little heavier, and it’s easy to lose that thumb screw.

      Overall, for me, they just don’t adjust as quickly as the TB hack I listed above, and they aren’t as sensitive.

      I think it’s a really individual decision, though, and the AirLock indicators can be a great choice. The important thing, in my opinion, is to have something you can mount on the tippet sections and adjust very quickly for the conditions.

      • I can’t agree with that. I am going to try your hack for the TB as I have a lot of them left from when I switched to airlock. Thanks for all the great articles.

        • That’s OK! Definitely a personal preference. That’s probably why there are so many types of indicators out there.

          • That was supposed to say can not can’t. I should proof read comments.

  14. I tried the rubber band idea for attaching a Thingamabobber yesterday and it worked great (as opposed to the fishing, which was, well, somewhat less than stellar). I was attaching it to 3X tippet and it stayed in place pretty well (when it slipped, it slipped just a little, and that was stopped by my backing barrel. Furthermore, it was really easy to put on and not hard at all to take off, as long as I remembered the direction in which I had rotated it to install it). All in all, very successful. I’ll try your hack next time I go out.

    • Nice. In the next couple weeks I’ll do a dedicated post to the Thingamabobber hack.

  15. Excellent article! Tons of useful ideas. Also enjoyed your articles on suspenders and the dorsey yarn indicators. Gonna try them. I even already have a big spool of the yarn already. I tried to use it before and failed miserably (I made them the wrong way and were too heavy). I can see them being extremely useful. I am aweful at nyphing without an indicator (but I’m practicing) so these will probably help me alot.

    Thanks again!

  16. Hi Dom,

    Thanks for the article. I took your advice and have started adding an indicator to my mono rig instead of changing out my rig. It has really paid off and made things feel much more versatile and efficient. I fish the S Platte around deckers and in Cheeseman Canyon (Colorado) and there are definitely some stretches of water that just fish better with an indicator. I was just looking over the article again for tips I missed the first time and noticed that the pictures and diagrams are missing. Thanks again!

  17. Another use for indicators is as a depth gauge. When I’m tightlining, sometimes I’m not sure if my nymphs are on the bottom (assuming that’s where I want them to be). So, I put on a bobber just to see where my nymphs are. I can clearly see that they’re on the bottom if the bobber “ticks” along the surface of the stream. Once I know that I have the proper amount of weight either in the flies or on the leader, I can take the bobber off again and continue tightlining.

  18. Hi Domenick. Is it possible to show or explain how you fasten the bobber with the floss and rubber onto the line. Thank you.

  19. Very interesting read! I was just recently steelhead fishing in Northern Wisconsin and came across an older gentleman who was using a similar system. Judging by his gear and vest he had been using this method for decades with great success which he demonstrated by catching a 25 inch steelhead on about his third cast!

    He was using an older glass fly rod and a medalist reel that was rigged with 8 pound monofilament line and no fly line at all. He fished a single, rather heavy split shot and a chunk of yarn that he connected to the hook right on the river by what appeared to be some form of snell knot. The mono served as fly line and leader all in one.

    So a few questions or maybe just a perspective; what is the value in tapering your leader when you are using weight to propel your line versus fly line/leader converting the energy created?

    I get the idea of a sighter and its function but I am trying to limit any potential weak spots by reducing as many knots as possible. Just before I spoke with the gentleman on the river I had lost a large steelhead due to a bad knot. To be completely honest, I got lazy and tied 2 pieces of leader with a surgeon’s knot instead of taking the time to tie a blood knot.

    So if you where fishing large, aggressive steelhead what adjustments would you make, if any, to your leader?

    Thanks again for the great read!

    • Interesting questions, Brian.

      I guess I never let a fear of bad knots limit my leader and rig options. I use blood knots in thicker material, double surgeons’ in the rest, and often an Orvis Tippet knot for the last piece of tippet. They all hold. They’re all strong. And I can’t even remember the last time I broke off at any knot other than one on my tippet section.

      While fishing for steelhead, I would only change the tippet section to something stronger.

      The taper is just a way of stepping down from 20 lb butt section to the light tippet section. Taper length is a compromise between thinner material to affect less drag, and thicker material to preserve power in the cast.

      The gentleman that you met who was fishing 8 lb for his leader was doing something very different than what can be done with this Mono Rig. Spooling up a bunch of thin mono on the reel certainly works, but the options for how to fish it are then limited. With 8 lb mono, casting is now lobbing, and there is no other option. It’s close to the chuch and duck concept. All of the casting happens by way of the weight of the fly or split shot pulling the leader behind it. 8 lb mono cannot function like a fly line, meaning that you cannot use fly line casting principles. You might think, so what? But here’s why that’s important . . .

      A leader with an 8lb butt section cannot cast a single #16 nymph. It also cannot cast a well-balanced dry dropper rig. But the Mono Rig, with a 20 lb butt section can do both. Importantly, the 20 lb butt section has enough mass to push light flies to the target, while 8 lb mono does not. 20 lb mono functions like a fly line — it’s just a lot lighter. You can cast it much like fly line because it does have enough mass to do so. And yet, once the flies are in the water, the leader of the Mono Rig sags very little.

      It’s a compromise. The 20 lb Mono Rig butt section is a fly line substitute. The Mono Rig can be used like a fly line, or very much like your friend was using the 8 lb butt section.

      Make sense?


  20. Just wondering, best way to cast long range without a suspender. I’ve just started using your mono rig and currently have a case where we are fishing out on a large river to the bank. On high water the water is running 1600 CFS. Running two flies with two #4 shot and two #1 shot to get the flies on the bottom. Presently have 20 feet of 20 pound maximum, 24″ of 12 lb maximum, 12″ red amnesia, 12 lb, 12″ 10 lb green amnesia, then approx 6 feet of 4X tippet. What is the best way to cast this if I am letting drift stretch out all the way down stream of my location? I have been water hauling back up stream, them picking up and firing cast towards the bank. Should I strip in some of the the line before water hauling and then let the cast to the bank take the leader to the bank? My fly line is just off the reel or in some cases up the 11 foot rod in the guides about halfway.

    I have enjoyed learning with the mono technique, just trying to speed up the learning curve.

    Thanks in advance,


    • Hi Ralph,

      Sorry for the late reply. I missed this one.

      I would not let a tight line drift stretch out all the way below me. The nymph starts to lift and swing once it’s past your position, and most often it is wasted time in the water. That’s what the tight line to the indicator method is for, described above.

      If you are casting a longer ranges upstream. just recover the slack a it comes back to you with your line hand. Keep the rod in a place where you will have room to start the backcast once the flies are across from you. Then pick up, backcast strong and shoot line on the forward cast.

      Make sense?


  21. A couple of insights I hope fit with your system. I make macrame (Bonnie 4mm yarn ) suspenders (borrowed your word) by melting bi-color, looped strands (melting the loops pushed through an small I-bolt) then squash flat with pliers I keep in a jar of water. No rings or any other components needed. I then use a bodkin to melt a small hole in the “tab” formed from the fused loops. Easily trimmed if irregular with scissors. I then make a nail knot stop, using 25# mono, onto the 20 # leader (10 ft), add the yarn suspender, then another nail knot stop. Now I can easily adjust the suspender. I also make these yarn suspenders long and cut them as needed for fly floatation on the water, fuzz them out with velcro, and add a little silicone grease (which I also use for sealing my swimming pool gaskets). They never get swamped, and the whole suspender section costs pennies, so when I change them out, I never need to re-use them. So I’m essentially making a disposable, adjustable indicator section, and knotting it in as needed to the longer 20# leader as you describe here.

    • Thanks, Bob.

      I’m gonna need a picture. I got lost . . .

      Email me. Sounds intriguing.


      • Let’s see if I can post a YouTube..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMMhqMAyHs8&t=15s
        I guess Dorsey didn’t realize that Macrame yarn can be heat fused. I’ll assume you know how to make the nail knot stops, an idea I got from a vid where they used fly line to make the stops for Thingamabobbers because the grommets are so big.

        • Hi Bob.

          Thanks for the link. I appreciate the ingenuity.

          Check out the write up on the Dorsey yarn Indy:


          I think you’ll see that there are a lot fewer steps to just using the yarn and band. Also more adjustable: add yarn, take it away, easier sliding. I think the fusing part that your doing is neat, but it seems to just add steps to an already simple process. Know what I mean?

          Regarding stoppers for things like bobbers, try the Backing Barrel:




          • I’m pretty aligned with your instruction. I just use a nail knot tool for making stops…and attaching Dacron sighters. It’s a tool I find reasons to use. I now realize I watched your Dorsey tutorial a while back when I first bought the Macrame yarn, and while I’m a decent tier, I usually like what I tie with a bobbin to be in a vise. That dental band knot was also a challenge for me (maybe cuz I substituted the tiny rubberbands my great nieces use), so I explored fusing. Net-net….same-same. Enjoy your stuff…thanks for the reply.

  22. Dom, taking this a step further, you could swop out the fly-reel for a small Center Pin no drag reel and utilize what we call in UK a chubber type float and utilize split shot heaviest nearest the bobber/float gradually reducing down in size to you get to the tippet around 10 in from the fly. Then “trot” the float with nymph downstream to the trout. I know this is kind of heresy but in conditions especially on large deep fast moving rivers in windy conditions where tight line or a yarn/bobber just gets taken everywhere with the current it maybe a solution. Not tried it but giving it serious consideration. Thinking out the box – how far can we take it?

    • Hi Nigel,

      I understand where you’re coming from. And I have no hang-ups about what “fly fishing” is. My friends and I went through the same thing you are considering. Like you said, how far can yo take it?

      For me, bringing a center pin reel to the equation is far too limiting. First, even the smallest ones are too heavy for a fly rod. But more importantly, going that route makes you all in on one tactic. Would it be great for big, long drifts? Sure, if you had the right river bottom. But then all the other tactics available on a fly rod are gone. Likewise, going thin and light for the butt section to make your tactic work will also drastically limit the casting options. Basically, it’s back to lobbing and not casting. That’s fine when the drifts are real long, because the indy and the fly can eventually line up and get to depth, but it’s a poor choice for most trout river fishing (in my opinion), where the drifts should be shorter and more targeted to be effective.

      Those are just my thoughts.



      • Dom, agreed carrying a centre-pin around is not flexibility (it was the idea of trotting your nymph downstream which was alluring). Last Sunday I had a real tough time fishing the Youg (the dam was releasing extra water). With wind, fast current (even in the pockets/slow moving water) and depth I was at a loss. The thrust of my thinking is about split shot patterns and different style of indicators (heavier streamlined) in certain conditions allowing us to exploit fishing a nymph for longer drifts/trotting downstream. Match fishermen back in UK on large rivers, when float fishing use split shot patterns and type of float as important tactic considerations. When using an indicator or even tight lining in certain extreme situations having a shot pattern graduating the weight of your shot down the line towards the tippet may help the nymph to get down to the strike zone fast ensuring the line is straight vertically, and allowing some give near the dropper to enable a better drift. Having all the weight concentrated near my point fly I believe had the leader above the weight getting thrown around in the current, precluding a natural drift. I was unable to present something convincing to the trout. Counter argument could be having more shot on your leader causes more friction pushing the line around even more. The jury is out. Thoughts and tips welcome from you and your readers.

        • Hi Nigel,

          Thanks for the discussion.

          Two things there:

          First, I would point out that just because a drift is nice and long doesn’t mean it’s effective. I’ve fished the Yough a good bit, for example. And the river bottom there is far to varied to get long AND effective drifts. It takes short to medium length drifts to catch tout on nymphs in most situations. We need to set our nymphs in the strike zone, near the bottom, but not on it. But soon enough, we run into a larger object, a rock, a tree part, or the river bed simply rises up. So we touch, set the hook and the drift is over. Or we touch and hang up. Again, my point is that long drifts are not my preference. I prefer to be more targeted.

          Second, regarding the shot placement: I am not a fan of spreading the shot out on the tippet. I understand the concept. And I have tried it extensively. I simply don’t find any benefit. And there’s too much downside — casting troubles and out of touch with the fly. I do quite well by placing the shot 5-6 inches from the point fly. If the rig is set up properly and cast into ONE seam, the tippet will slice through the water column.

          Those are my thoughts and not necessarily the facts. Cheers.


          • Dom, I cannot argue against any of your reply it is full of common sense. I do enjoy debating things through. Keep up the great work, this is like post graduate research for fly fishing love it.

  23. Hi Domenick,

    Love your Troutbitten articles. We Flyfishers appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

    I’m rather new to fly fishing (3 years). I belong to a fellowship fly fishing group in St. Louis, MO called Flyfishers at the Crossing (FATC). Anyway, we as a group with the pandemic have been doing weekly discussions on zoom. Your articles have come up in our discussions. Through our discussion and your website. I’m becoming a big fan of the mono rig. I’m going to set up a mono rig to try this technique. I was looking into starting euro/tightline nymphing. But, feel the mono rig is the way to go. A lot more versatile than the other techniques. Maybe, once we get through this pandemic and figure out what the new norm will be. I would enjoy a guiding trip with you to help my learning curve with the mono rig.

    Sorry for the long introduction. The main reason I contacted you was a question concerning your brilliant hack on the Troutbitten slidable thingamabobber, using DMC embroidery floss. Please for us visual learners is there a diagram or more details on your site about this hack? I tried searching your site but couldn’t find anymore detailed instructions about the thingamabobber hack. I guess I’m challenged!?! I couldn’t figure out how to do this hack. Trust me I tried!

    I appreciate your time and effort in responding to my juvenile question. We all appreciate what you do to help the fly fishing community!

    Stay safe, healthy and tightlines.

    Thank you!

    Ever think about joining us for a FATC zoom discussion?? If interested what would be your fee for about an hour of your time??

    • Hi Mike.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Email me, please.


  24. Hi, Dom. Thanks for the awesome content.

    I recently tried this tactic for the first time – attaching an indicator to my tight line nymphing rig. However, when conditions called for longer casts on flatter water, I was worried that the colored sighter line laying on the water would spook the fish (probably because I’ve been trying to keep traditional fly line out of a trout’s line of sight for years). Can the colored sighter spook fish when laying on the surface of the water? Is there any value in additing additional clear flouro, so that the indicator isn’t so close to the sighter line? Would you answers to these questions change if I were using a dry fly as an indicator instead of a dorsey?


  25. I loved this. Great stuff. Keep writing!

    • Hey thanks for another great article. I saw in another article you mentioned plans for a thingamabobber hack article but I can’t find it. How exactly are you attaching it?

  26. Domenick,

    First off, TroutBitten is my bible these days. I refer to it like a dictionary for all of my questions. I have a few thoughts racing through my head as I approach a mid-winter trip on Wednesday to chase some Steelhead or Lake runs…whichever you prefer. I desperately want to chase these fish on a tight-line in deep slower pools – I know this goes against the norm. So I am preparing a tight-line to the indicator setup to be ready for anything. This began to raise a few questions for me – as a former centerpin angler, I am deciding to try a gram weighted centerpin float for my tightline with indicator approach. Have you ever tried this? It seems to be a great way to increase sensitivity as the entire rig can be dialed in for strike detection. My next question or set of them is, have you ever tried feeding line for a longer drift below you? After casting, you keep an extra pool of line at your feet to let slip as your indy continues down below you? This will be my first time out trying tight-line to indy tactics so my mind is racing right now – but I do know, I have moved away from centerpin as I don’t see value in 100 yd drifts, or even 50 for that matter…but I do see value in extending my tight-line drifts but an extra 10, 15 or 20 ft…

    Any and all insight is considered gold to me.

    Stay fishy!

    • Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks for the question. I appreciate your enthusiasm too. And since you’ve read a lot of Troutbitten, then you know that my philosophy is to try anything.

      Yes, I used all types of floats. I find that the lighter the suspender, the better I like it. I do use Thingamabobbers and Airlocks, but both of those are a good bit lighter than your lightest centerpin float. I think the weight of the indy is too often overlooked. Extra weight takes away subtly and sensitivity both.

      Second, your waters may be different than mine. But I am not aiming for long drifts. I’m aiming for accurate drifts that get the flies down in the strike zone. Around here, we don’t have long stretches of water with the same depth and flow. Sooner than later, a good bottom ride runs into something. And the way we have this tight line to the indy rig set up, we’re ready to set the hook. You COULD wait for the indy to fully stop or be taken underneath by a trout, but you will miss a LOT of strikes and will be taking away the advantage of this rig in the first place.

      That said, yes, I do feed leader/line to the drift below me sometimes, just by mending.

      You make a good point — there’s definitely value to getting a little longer drift.


      • Thanks a ton for your response, Dom! I am going to have to try the airlocke indys and see how they feel for me. I ended up running a tight line to indy setup on Wednesday and pulled out a nice 16″ brown! Not the target as they are out of season here, but a solid surprise.

        I am really learning the value of presentations closer to myself along with stealth. That’s where most of the takes happen, along with the Brown I got Wednesday.

        Take care.

  27. Hello Domenick, In your “Monor Rig w/Suspender” visual I see tippet rings above and below the sighter. Your Mono Rig breakdown, however, shows the Maxima Chamelon knotted to the sighter. Any difference? By “sighter” do you mean the Amnesia and Stren sections of the leader or the bi-color 1x indicator mono you say is optional? BTW, what’s the benefit of the latter given the Amnesia and Stren sections. Is the suspender always placed on the tippet section? Thanks for any clarification.

    • Hi there. Thanks for your question. That upper ring is optional. I often don’t include it anymore, as I keep my standard sighter intact, regardless of the tactic used. And yes, that Amnesia and Stren is my sighter. The 1X bi-color is used when I simply want a thinner leader. For every foot of skinny line before the tippet, that’s one foot less of thicker line (butt section) out of the guides. Lot’s more on those modifications is here:

      Design and Function of the Troutbitten Standard Mono Rig


  28. I’ve gotten my mono rig up and running, and had really good success my first day with it! I also find it to be very engaging fishing, which is what matters most. I’ll be mostly fishing the Deschutes in Oregon; not easy to wade far out, and I expect I’ll be using an indicator maybe more often than most, to extend my range a bit, and also drift downstream to areas I can’t wade.
    I did have two thoughts/questions that I didn’t see addressed in any of the comments.
    First, have you tried the Oros indicators? I find them great. Don’t kink the line, easily adjustable, no little plastic nut to lose. Heavier than the Thingamabobber and splashier than the Dorsey, but so simple. Kinda pricey though at like $2.50-$3 a pop.
    Second, you say you aim to land the nymphs in the same current seam, and upstream of the indicator. Why not try to land them in the same current seam, but downstream? This may be harder to do, but when it happens to me, I feel like the nymphs use that slack to drop directly down as the indicator sort of floats over the top of them. Is it just because that’s difficult to do, or another reason?
    Thanks for all the great content!

    • I like what you said about the system being engaging. Nice. That’s the point. You are in control of almost everything. Less hoping. More fishing.

      “First, have you tried the Oros indicators? I find them great.”

      — I don’t like them very much because they are so much heavier than a Thingamabobber. Trouble is, they are heavier than almost every fly or pair of flies and split shot you will ever tie on. Hello lobbing! They encourage poor casting, in my opinion.

      “Second, you say you aim to land the nymphs in the same current seam, and upstream of the indicator. Why not try to land them in the same current seam, but downstream?”

      — NO! Because you will be completely out of touch with your flies for a very long time. You will NOT register any takes on your flies eaten on the drop. And once you do get contact (halfway through the drift) most likely things will be dragging, and NOT in one seam, because of all the slack given on the way down.

      What we’re doing here with the tight line to the indy concept is take tight line principles over to the indicator style. And one of those principles is contact and strike detection.

      I fish this system on big rivers all the time. The flies will get down if you STICK the landing — no line on the water up to the indy. There will be no tension on the indy, and the flies will drop quite well, if you land them in one seam.

      Make sense?


      • All makes good sense, yes, thank you.
        I confess to more lobbing (including the dreaded water haul) because it is so seldom I can make that nice back cast you demonstrate in the middle of that 2.5 foot deep river (). And sometimes that extra weight actually helps. Not elegant, and maybe not even proper or the best way, but in my early stages of this method, it’s getting the flies where I want them most of the time, and for now I’ll take it!
        Thanks again for the constant engagement, even with the newbies asking the silly stuff. It’s much appreciated.

  29. Hey Domenick, I’ve followed a lot of your tips and they are great, including the use of the rubber bands for the Dorsey. But I’m having a problem with using the rubber bands with the embroidery floss hack and thingamabobbers. I tried it using the same size bands from the source you recommended, and embroidery floss with a knot at the end. Attached with 4 wraps of the tippet around the band. It seemed to seat ok. But after a few casts with a 3/4″ TB, the band slipped past the knot and the TB flew off. I tried again using 5 wraps around the band, as well as using 3 overlapping knots in the floss to build up its size, hoping that would make it more difficult for the band to slide past it. Made sure it was seated correctly as you described. It seemed secure. But again, after a few casts, the band slipped off and the TB went sailing into the sunset. Any tips for this? Have you experienced something similar?



    • I’ve never dedicated an article to the TB hack, because it is fiddly. It works great if you get everything just right. But I suppose you have to spend a little bit of time learning the details, and you have to be picky. Sounds like you have everything right, but I doubt that you are seating it right. All it takes after the band is on there is to pull on both ends. Honestly, if you look at it, you can see if it will slide off or not. Remember to use enough yarn. Remember to have 5 wraps in the rubber band. Remember to have the correct size and gauge of rubber bands. All of that matters. Once you get it right, you’ll like it. It’s definitely better than the Oros and other styles for me, because it’s so much lighter.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

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.

Pin It on Pinterest