My buddy, Stephen, doesn’t even fish. But he apparently reads a good bit of my work here on Troutbitten. We were at a Little League baseball tryout, watching the diverse and rich talent pool of six, seven and eight year olds trying to hit a ball with a stick, when Stephen and I got to talking about life and careers for a little bit. At one point, I mentioned the multiple avenues that Troutbitten has presented for me (and I’m thankful for that), when Stephen said, “Yeah, and you have your Mono Rig evangelism . . .”
That was too much. I cracked up.
What a way to put it! Stephen’s right. I’m a zealous preacher of the long line — a fierce advocate for the gospel of the Mono Rig — because it changes lives. That sounds pretty dramatic. But I don’t know one angler who wishes he caught fewer fish. And nothing improves your catch rate more than dialing in all the options of a Mono Rig. I also don’t know any angler who wishes to go fishing less often. And the surest way to inspire a follow up trip to your favorite river is a banner day with a bunch of fish in the net. We all want to be successful on the water. We want to feel like we’re in control of the outcome — at least in part. And nothing brings that kind of control to an angler more than facility with the Mono Rig tactics. So I am reverend of the thin line.
I took my new friend, Marc, out on the water today for a guided trip. We were focused on dialing in long line techniques and enjoying a day on the river. The trout were cooperative, but the day was challenging. And that’s a great combination for someone like Marc. Because every new condition required another adjustment, another approach, and sometimes new tactics that Marc was more than eager to employ. Every change yielded results (trout in the net) almost immediately. And at the end of the day, on the long walk out, we realized that we’d caught trout in seven different ways on the Mono Rig. Fun times.
Here are the seven ways . . .
#1: Tight line with split shot and unweighted flies
Eggs for breakfast began the morning. We paired Nuke Eggs and Sucker Spawn with likely nymphs, running some of them from a tag and others from a trailer. Because I believe eggs fish better when unweighted, we used split shot. Trout mostly hit the eggs, but they took the nymphs occasionally too.
#2: Tight line with weighted flies
When the egg bite tapered off, we took the signal and didn’t fight it much. Swapping out the egg and shot with a small beadhead stonefly got us down without dragging bottom. Again the trout took the main fly more than the tags or trailers. And the idea that they would be more turned on by larger or brighter flies in the high and off color water was not a surprise.
#3: Tight line to the indicator
Strong winds moved in around late morning. And it changed our possibilities. Tight lining was suddenly not the best option. So instead of forcing a good tactic that had met its match, we added an indicator to the tight line rig.
We changed nothing else, not the nymphs nor their spacing. But we added a Dorsey Yarn indicator to the top of the tippet section (below the sighter). The indy served as an anchor to the surface. Now the Dorsey did the job of leading the flies down one current seam instead of the rod tip. And once the flies and indy landed on the water, the wind didn’t matter.
We later swapped the Dorsey for a small Thingamambobber to make casting into the headwind easier.
We caught trout both ways.
Sometime after lunch, the regular nymphing approaches grew stale. The wind continued to strengthen, and blue winged olives were prevalent enough to expect some takers on nymphs close in size and shape.
The weight of the jig was enough to hold the seam, even against strong winds. It anchored the drift, and allowed us to fish any depth of water, from ten inches shallow to three feet deep. We focused on covering more water rather than getting perfect dead drifts. Marc picked up the pace and reached further with each cast. And on one upstream bomb, Marc fooled a good wild brown trout on the Bunny Flash.
Then he broke his fly rod on a snag and changed the mood for a minute — glad I brought the extra rod along.
#5: Tight Line dry-dropper on the nymph
After a good walk on the side trail upstream, and a few more casts with the crossover rig, there were enough olives in the air to finally draw the attention of a few rising trout. Not eager rises, but somewhat half-hearted swipes from cold, late winter trout.
But hey, these were rising fish in early March! So I asked Marc to try a tight line dry-dropper rig. And with a few knots in just a couple minutes, Marc was tied up with a single #16 France Fly under a #18 Sledgehammer — tightlining it on the Mono Rig.
Targeting soft water where we’d seen the risers, the next few trout took the small nymph, riding about ten inches under the surface.
#6: Tight line dry-dropper on the dry
Okay, the sixth way did not result in a trout at the net, but we were close. Targeting a single rise, just inches in-stream of a wet log, Marc hit the seam just right. The dry floated in perfectly. A good trout slashed hard, and Marc set the hook. But he somehow pulled back with nothing attached.
“That’s the way she goes. Sometimes she goes, sometimes she doesn’t. She didn’t go. Cause that’s the way she goes.” — Trailer Park Boys
#7: The Trio Hack
Working upstream and nearing the end of a productive day, Marc picked up another trout on the small nymph dropper while riding the dry fly down some juicy seams.
However, the olives seemed to die off. I saw no slashes near the surface and very few in the air. So to the right of the water we’d been targeting, I suggested we go a little deeper.
But this was a trial balloon. I wasn’t convinced that the production on olives near the surface was over, so instead of re-rigging for a regular tightline system, we quickly added the beadhead stone on a two foot trailer below the France Fly.
Could the #18 Sledgehammer support all that weight? Certainly not. But it didn’t matter. We tight lined the rig as if the dry wasn’t there, catching a couple trout on the stone underneath, as the small dry dangled in the air. And in the likely looking spots, Marc allowed the dry to touch the water, just enough to make contact, as he supported the weight of the stonefly with his rod tip.
After one more trout from underneath, we called it a day.
Marc and I used seven different tactics on the Mono Rig. There are dozens more variations, of course — all ways to use a Mono Rig and meet the trout on their own terms. Some are common while others are unconventional. Everything works sometimes.
Mono Rig evangelism — I like it.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N