I love the mad scientist aesthetic of modern nymph fishing. No other form of fly fishing lends itself to so much creativity. Fact is, there are more variables in play with a nymphing rig, and there are more options for the angler to present the fly. A nymphing angler has the whole water column to use (bottom to top) while the dry fly angler has just one. The streamer angler can work the whole depth of water and can mix in a host of tactics, retrieves, lines and fly types. But let’s tell the truth — the streamer game requires a lot more cooperation from the trout. So nymphs (and wet flies to some extent) are the choice of anglers who want maximum control over the outcome — or at least for the fisherman who wants a good reason to believe his next adjustment will catch not just one trout, but a pile of them.
The best anglers explore constantly. They adapt their rigs and leaders, searching not just for the next great thing, but for the next tailored adjustment that makes their rig just a little more personal — tuned particularly for their own water and their own specific objectives.
All of this is part of the the joy in being a fly fisher. There are hundreds of ways to make things work. And because every angler brings a unique set of goals and conditions, that’s why there are so many solutions.
Knowing your own river variables and understanding your options at their baseline — that’s the key.
When I give presentations on the Mono Rig, I spend more time describing why it all works than how to fish it, because I think that’s more important. If you get it — if you really understand what’s going on beyond your rod tip — you can make your own adjustments and solve your own puzzles.
Such a thorough understanding only comes from time on the water — and a lot of follow-up, thinking about fishing all day while your boots are dry.
Thicker vs Thinner Butt Sections
The amazing thing about the Mono Rig is how much it casts like a fly line. Stand outside somewhere with casting room, and with solid casting principles you can throw 20# Maxima Chameleon with a sighter and tippet, just like a fly line. The only thing missing is a traditional roll cast (although there is a replacement).
Now change out the butt section of that Mono Rig to 8# Chameleon. Again with no fly — we’re just casting the leader. Give it a try. It doesn’t work. You can no longer cast the leader like a fly line.
Because there’s not enough mass to the leader. The 20# works because it weighs enough to make a cast even by itself — to propel it out there with a rod tip. On the other hand, the 8# line falls flat. (And I don’t know any Mono Rig anglers who fish 8# butts.)
Thinner butt sections sag less. But the thinner they are, the more they lose that fly-line-style performance. As most experienced long liners will agree, that cutoff is around the diameter of 10-12# Chameleon (.010” — .013”). But line stiffness is a factor too.
Does it Matter?
Sure it does. If I’m nymphing with a tight line all day, then I may benefit from a thinner butt section that sags less. But if I add a dry fly or a Dorsey Yarn Indy as a suspender, then an extra-thin butt section presents a handicap — because I might need some power in the leader’s butt section to help push the suspender through the wind.
Likewise, if I switch to a pair of medium or large streamers on the Mono Rig, I do not want a super thin butt section. Why? Accuracy.
It’s important to recognize that I do not need the thicker butt section for pushing those streamers to the target, nor do I need it for “turnover.” (The weight of the streamers will easily carry any Mono Rig butt section to the target.) But if I’m picking up for the next cast before stripping all the way in — if I’m casting 15+ feet of line on my backcast and forward cast before shooting even more line, I lose a lot of accuracy with a thinner butt section.
Some long liners sum all this up by saying that, at a point, fishing with extra thin butt sections becomes more like lobbing than casting. And that’s a fair way to describe it. But there’s also some real finesse to a good caster who can handle an extra thin Mono Rig and a single #16 beadhead. That’s not lobbing. But when you swap out to a pair of streamers with such a thin line, then yeah, you’re back to lobbing.
Me and You
It’s really up to each angler to form his or her own objectives, to measure them against the conditions and limitations of the water ahead. Adapt, solve the puzzle and then step into the river.
All of This
In the coming months (and years) I’ll dig a little deeper into more Mono Rig topics. I’d argue that everything you need to know is already contained in the other Mono Rig articles, at least in kernel form. But while many of the early Mono Rig articles on Troutbitten give a broad perspective of a full system, these coming articles will each focus on a single, key point and flush it out a bit.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N