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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19 Comments
  1. Reply

    Alex Argyros

    January 11, 2018

    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 be your eyes if you’re sight fishing. But, unless one is randomly striking hoping to find a fish at the end of one’s leader, there is always an indicator.

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      January 11, 2018

      That’s a good point too, Alex.

  2. Reply

    Ryan

    January 11, 2018

    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 aught to atleast TRY it if there serious about nymph fishing.

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      January 11, 2018

      “. . .its the direct result of real problem solving.” Right on, Ryan.

      Yeah, I get the same looks that you do sometimes. Occasionally, people are closed minded, but these days I mostly find that anglers who are really into fishing are up for learning anything new — learning about it at least.

      I’ve often mentioned that Humphreys wrote about the mono rig in Trout Tactics, and that he was using mono to solve nymphing problems for many years. But I decided to finally lift those quotes into a blog post to really try and make the point. There’s a lot more in Trout Tactics too.

      Cheers, Ryan.

  3. Reply

    Bill Ferguson

    January 11, 2018

    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 sucks” a lot of the time. Transitioning to the mono rig once I read about it on your blog just made sense and I’ve discovered that it is really a liberating way to fish as I can do most things better with the mono rig than I could fly line up through the guides. Like you, it’s how I fish nymphs, streamers, wets day and night, and I also use it to throw streamers and mice at night. I still go back to a shorter leader and the fly line for dry flies though, but I’m planning to try some dry dropper fishing with the mono rig as hatch season heats up.

    So thank you Dom for keeping the great information flowing on your blog. It’s been a fantastic resource as I’ve learned the mono-rig approach.

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      January 11, 2018

      Cheers, buddy!

    • Reply

      Charles E Phelps

      January 11, 2018

      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

      • Reply

        Domenick Swentosky

        January 12, 2018

        I love Chris Stewart’s site! Great ideas on there. I just take the ideas and use them on a long fly rod and reel. 🙂

  4. Reply

    Jay Mandino

    January 12, 2018

    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 gotten so tangled I’ve had to take off my spool. Is that something you’ve experienced? If so, what have you done to keep that from happening? Perhaps it’s just getting a better feel for how to manage a line with different properties. The mono certainly has a memory that fly line does not.

    Even if some extra tangles are a drawback of the mono rig, I’m going to stick with it. I’ve been focusing on using it with nymphs, but I really do need to heed your advice to get more versatile and overcome laziness out there. It’s really not hard to snip off above the sighter, tie on some 3x and send out the sculpins.

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      January 12, 2018

      Hey Jay,

      I’m glad it’s working for you.

      Couple things:

      About the mono pull through on the reel. You can prevent it. I wrote about that here:
      https://troutbitten.com/2017/07/19/tight-line-tips-stop-mono-pull-fly-reel/

      Second, though, no need to clip off that sighter when going to streamers on the Mono Rig. I like having the sighter on there for all the same reasons I like it for nymphs.

      Make sense?

      Good luck out there.


      Dom

      • Reply

        Jay Mandino

        January 13, 2018

        Thanks again! I’m glad to find that I’m not the only one that has suffered the “pull-through.” I’ll try those tactics from the post you linked next time I get out…hopefully tomorrow!

        About leaving the sighter on for streamer fishing, how long do you tie your tippet from sighter to fly? I always figured it was best to remove the sighter because when it’s underwater the fish might see it. Do you use more than 3-4 feet of tippet to your streamer? It does make a lot of sense to use the sighter to register strikes just like with nymphing. I’m excited to try it.

  5. Reply

    Rick

    January 12, 2018

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

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      January 13, 2018

      Hey Rick,

      We aren’t just flipping and lobbing the Mono Rig. That’s a misconception about euro nymphing and the Mono Rig both. It is much more than just lobbing weight around. For example, watching a guy cast a pair of light nymphs from a distance, it may look very much like he’s casting fly line. I keep stressing this point: it is a fly line substitute. And to actually use the Mono Rig well, the casting stroke needs to be tight. Truth is, yes, anyone can fish at ten feet of fifteen feet with a Mono Rig by just lobbing it upstream over and over, but to cast any further out, the casting stroke needs to be good and tight.

      Make sense?


      Dom

      • Reply

        Rick

        January 13, 2018

        Makes sense to me, thanks for clarifying. Do you have any video?

        • Reply

          Domenick Swentosky

          January 15, 2018

          There’s a Troutbitten youtube channel with a few videos. I plan for more in the future.

          • Ryan

            January 23, 2018

            A compromise between the mono rig and a traditional set up would be to use what I call the George Daniel rig, which is a 9′ 0x tapered leader, to sighter, to tippet. The end result is a leader anywhere from 15-18′, not the best for nymphing, not the best for dry flies, but it can do both with very little leader change. You also cast a bit of fly line when targeting fish further away, I used this set up when I first started (and still use it on days I plan on throwing dries and nymphs both equally) and its a great way to get used to longer leader set ups. Just a tip for guys looking to step into euro style nymphing but dont want to jump in head first.

  6. Reply

    Lindsey Flexner

    January 28, 2018

    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 who were not snagging fish. I also know that fishing mono rigs off of mono lines was popular when I was a kid (a half century ago) in Maine on the lakes where the bait was live frogs and the target was smallies. So after reading several of your posts I have decided to drop my bias and try nymphing this way. I will probably go out next week here in Oregon. I was going to wait to post until after I tried it but I’m sure it will work well as my current nymphing method has evolved from 9 to 11 ft. leaders with indicators and weight to 14 to 16 foot leaders with indicators and weight (that weight being either a fly or putty) and often I hook up close just on the leader with no line out of the reel. So a short version of what Dom described. My question to all of you converts is this. Forget dry fly fishing as you will have to tear my fly line and braided leaders out of my cold dead hand. I assume Dom fishes the Delaware as did I for years when I lived in PA. It was actually the only river I fished in PA for the past 25 years. This river is full of Jerkules trout but most of them have PhDs when it comes to inspecting flys on long thin leaders in slow water. My experience is you have one chance with these fish and presentations are critical ofter 50 to 60 ft- most of the time there are no second chances. I get how the long mono could help with my drift on these fish but I am very confused how I push a number 18 BWO 60′ with nothing but mono? I’m not being snarky I’m asking a question. Same with mouse patterns. How can I cast a mouse 70 feet in the dark without fly line? I get weighted streamers and nymphs being all you need and I get that the mono is line and can be cast. I’m just missing the part where you have to cast 60 ft. Am I underestimating the distance I can cast with just mono? Anyway great articles and thanks for convincing me to try something that I have been meaning to try ever since Joe wrote his book. Keep up the good work Dom!

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      January 29, 2018

      Hi Lindsey, thanks for the comment.

      I don’t think I’ve suggested anywhere to try to throw drf flies 70 feet with a Mono Rig. I agree with you — that’s not at all practical, or even fun to try. I like the Mono Rig up to about 50 feet (and that’s pushing it). You need good, tight casting form, enough weight, and/or flies with little wind resistance to cast Mono Rigs much past 30 feet.

      Keep reading through the Mono Rig articles here on Troutbitten, and you’ll find a lot more about the specifics. It’s not a silver bullet. The Mono Rig is not a solution to all problems. But it does solve a lot of them.

      Feel free to email me if you need more specifics.

      Cheers.

What do you think?

Domenick Swentosky
BELLEFONTE, PA

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, writer, musician and fisherman. I fly 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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