Commentary Tips/Tactics

What is Euro Nymphing? And What is the Mono Rig?

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January 10, 2018
Language is complicated. The words we choose have enormous power to shape and communicate what we think about things. The particular words matter. Our chosen words carry an intended meaning, but they bring some baggage with them too. Along with what we might really mean, our words are accompanied by restrictions, connotations and unintended relations. Those add-ons sort of get inside a term and shape the perception of a concept as soon as it’s presented in print or spoken aloud.

Such is the case with the term euro nymphing.

First, the term euro nymphing is inherently restrictive. And that’s unfortunate, because euro rigs are excellent for throwing streamers too. Second, euro nymphing carries the baggage of being something “other,” something specific to a certain region of the world. And I dare say the term subtly adds to the (unfortunate) undertone of elitism in fly fishing.

READ: The Mono Rig for Streamers | Troutbitten

Lastly, the tactic known as euro nymphing comes with certain exclusions, namely the absence of split shot or a traditional indicator attached to the line. That’s bad too, because the basic euro rig is an excellent place to attach split shot and/or indicators that will (at the right times) out-fish a tight line presentation. Euro nymphing is a wonderful tactic that catches a lot of fish; I’m just saying that it has limitations that, to me, are unnecessary.

The term euro nymphing appeared on the fly fishing scene a little less than a decade ago, and interest in the tactic has spiked in the last couple of years.

Euro nymphing (the term and the tactic) grew from the competitive fly fishing circuit and is generally used to define a group of upstream and cross-stream nymphing tactics, mostly presented tightline, with leaders long enough to eliminate the influence of traditional fly line. The “euro” part is a reference to four specific varieties of nymphing: Polish, Czech, French, Spanish. Once thought of as separate techniques, the styles are all mashed together into the term euro nymphing. (You can learn more about the detailed differences here.)

For my money, none of those specifics matters a lick. I don’t care where the tactics came from or how far across the river I need be fishing to call what I’m doing Spanish nymphing. I just want to use whatever leaders and techniques give me the most control, precision and accuracy to catch more fish. And I think a lot of anglers share that same sentiment.

The eternal jockeying for who-came-up-with-what-first is silly to me. Fishing is like songwriting — it’s all been done, and there’s nothing left to do but rearrange and combine chords and lines into something no one has heard or seen for a while. Therein lies another weakness of the term euro nymphing. “Euro” is a regional attribution for a technique that has probably been used since 1938, anywhere fishermen had access to monofilament and long rods.

Now, I really don’t mean to sound grumpy about this euro nymphing term. Like any word, language grows as people use it, and the meanings of words change and are shaped through that usage over time. I’m just trying to provide some clarity to the confusing terms of “euro nymphing” and “euro rigs,” both of which are thrown around in ways that complicate their own definitions. It’s confusing, to say the least. And there might be better ways to think and talk about our leaders and tactics.

I won’t attempt to cover euro nymphing, tight line nymphing, or mono rig techniques here. That’s a much larger job for a full Troutbitten series that’s on it’s way (probably this summer). If you need a primer on these techniques, please read: Resources for Tight Line and Euro Nymphing | Troutbitten.
I will, however, mention again that euro nymphing (and euro rigs), by definition, are restricted to weighted flies, no split shot, and no indicators.

That brings me to a more liberated term and fishing method — the Mono Rig.

Photo by Pat Burke

The Mono Rig

While euro rigs are restricted to weighted flies and tightlining without traditional indicators, the Mono Rig is not.

READ: The Mono Rig and Why Fly Line Sucks | Troutbitten

Over time, I’ve found the benefits of the Mono Rig to be available in almost every river fishing situation. I use a Mono Rig about ninety percent of the time. And I know other guides and good anglers who’ve come to the same realization — that the Mono Rig is extremely versatile and opens up the fly fishing game to a world of possibilities.

I use the Mono Rig to tight line nymph and to fish nymphs with indicators. I use it to throw big and small streamers, to strip and dead drift them. I use the Mono Rig to cast wet flies and mouse flies at night, for dry dropper, and even the occasional single dry fly. I don’t think the term euro rig accurately encompasses all of those styles, and if it is used as such, that certainly creates some confusion.

The Mono Rig encompasses everything — all techniques in one leader. No limitations. Streamers, indicators, split shot, dry-dropper — nothing is off the table. With the freedom to fish whatever works best, there are no restrictions; do whatever you enjoy most at any time.

However, the term Mono Rig has its own baggage. “Mono Rig” sounds like we’re not fly fishing anymore, right? We must be knuckle-dragging, just slinging and lobbing weighted rigs around with long rods. Surely a Mono Rig can’t cast like a fly line, right? And how can a Mono Rig still be fly fishing? The truth is, we use the Mono Rig as a fly line substitute. The casting approach is very much like casting a fly line, only now the added weight, the sag and drag of fly line, is defeated.

Perhaps the term “long leader” would be more preferable, less knuckle-dragging, than “Mono Rig.” But, no. I think “long leader” is deceptive. “Leader” implies something that’s attached and used in partnership with something else (a fly line, for us). But the way we use the Mono Rig is an effort to eliminate the fly line as much as possible.

So I use the term Mono Rig. And I learned the tactic from Joe Humphreys. In his 1981 book, Trout Tactics, Humphreys writes this:

. . . Actually, my ace line system for deep nymphing and line sensitivity is monofilament. . . . nymphing with monofilament is a very effective way of fishing deep, fast water — about the most effective there is. When you want to shoot for distance and get your nymph down to the bottom, I feel monofilament is the answer.

. . . Any technique employed for nymphing with a fly line can be aptly accomplished with flat monofilament. The tuck cast, the tuck and mend, and the conventional cast can all be done with monofilament.

. . . The advantages of monofilament for nymphing (and for fishing streamers) are many. But, above all, the diameter of the line is small, so there is minimal air and water resistance, which means less drag. And that means better sensitivity to the fly.

. . . When weighted nymphs or additional weight is adjusted properly on the leader, and the line is tight from rod tip to fly, you can feel almost every rock and pebble on the stream bottom through the monofilament, even at distances beyond thirty feet.

— Joe Humphreys, Trout Tactics, 1981

— — — — — —

I read those words about a decade after Humphreys wrote them. And long before the introduction of the term euro nymphing, Humphreys introduced the effectiveness of the Mono Rig to a generation of fly fishers.

Humphreys, famously, does not use indicators. But I do. I’ve learned that the effectiveness of using a Mono Rig with an indicator is a tactic I’ll never be without, particularly from a boat.

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

Each anglers draws his own lines in the sand regarding how he chooses to fish. For me, I draw no line that might separate me from whatever is most effective, provided I can safely catch and release trout without harm.

The Mono Rig works because the traditional fly line is replaced with a long leader. Because, in most situations, fly line sucks. That’s it. It’s not because of any lack of split shot, and it’s not any absence of an indicator. Euro nymphing, though, by definition, eliminates both split shot and manufactured indicators, and for me that’s too limiting.

Or . . . Whatever

Call things what you will. Can you add split shot to a euro nymphing rig? Can you add a Thingamambobber to a euro nymphing rig? Of course, but by the common understanding of the term, that makes things pretty confusing.

And as the general understanding of these fly fishing techniques grows, it’s probably helpful to consider the terms used to describe things.

I sincerely hope that my argument here doesn’t come off as grumbling and crabby. I’m not trying to change the fly fishing world or force my own terms into an ongoing dialogue. I’m just trying to inject a little clarity, to draw some distinctions and hopefully clear up some confusion around the terms euro nymphing, tight line nymphing and the Mono Rig.

I hope it helps us all catch more trout.

Fish hard, friends.

What are your thoughts? I invite you to share in the comments section below.

 

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

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

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Alex Argyros

Great entry, Dom. Thank you. I often hear about one specific line in the sand: using indicators or going without them. I know what people mean by that: by “indicator,” they mean a thingamabobber or some other kind of bobber or suspension device. But, if you take the word “indicator” literally, all fishermen use an indicator, even the most orthodox practitioners of Euro-nymphing. After all, something has to indicate a take. The indicator may be the end of the fly line (a la Humphreys), a sighter, or the line on your fingers (if you’re fishing by touch). It can even… Read more »

Ryan

When I talk about fishing a mono rig to some of the older guys they often roll there eyes and mention something about it not being “fly fishing”. My response is often, do you think Joe Humphreys knows what “fly fishing” is? If so, you aught to read trout tactics and realize that the god of pennsylvania nymph fishing fished a mono rig way before the popularization of euro nymphing in todays fly fishing culture. The mono rig isnt a fad, its the direct result of real problem solving. Its just common sense, the guys who look the other way… Read more »

Bill Ferguson

To me, if it is legal, ethical, and doesn’t harm the resource, then do it if you want to. If you want to place angling limitations on yourself, that’s fine too. Just have an open mind to those whose self-imposed limitations are different than your own. I started reading about “euro nymphing” and lengthening my leaders maybe 5 years ago. But even with a 15′ leader, I often found the fly line/leader connection catching in guides or tip of rod and also realized that fly line sag between guides causes a loss of sensitivity. As you put it: “fly line… Read more »

Hi Bill,

I share your thoughts.

…As an aside, I reluctantly gave Tenkara a shot two summers ago and now fish both Tenkara and ‘western’ style fly fishing. Dom is not a fan of Tenkara – just as many aren’t fans of euro nymphing – but I was surprised how much I quickly got enamored with Tenkara and I am having a ball with it!

Chris Stewart and his http://TenkaraBum.com site have a wealth of information on Tenkara and other forms of fixed line fishing. If you’re curious, check out his site.

Best,

Charlie

Jay Mandino

Thanks for the excellent commentary and advice. I recently tied up a mono rig and have fished it three times: once on the Little J and twice in the Cumberland Valley. All three times have really surprised me as to its effectiveness. I think the difference-makers for me are that I can nymph runs that used to be too distant and getting that extra distance has allowed me to catch more trout that are easily spooked. Two out of three outings I did find that the 20# chameleon got snagged up in my reel. Twice, inexplicably, the mono even has… Read more »

Don’t you miss the fun of fly casting when lobbing or flipping a Mon-Euro rig?

Lindsey Flexner

So I was inspired and built a rig as described and have attached it to a fly reel with just mono running line. As I’m sure most of the PA and NY readers realize this is how many people “fly fish” the Salmon River in NY for lake run steelhead and salmon. I discovered this years ago but at the time just thought it was reserved for short line “snagging” something that was so prevalent on the only occasion I visited the river I never returned. I never thought that maybe it was also a legitimate technique used by anglers… Read more »

Domenick Swentosky
BELLEFONTE, PA

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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