Seven Different Ways On A Mono Rig

by | Mar 12, 2019 | 34 comments

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’s pretty dramatic. But I don’t know any angler who wishes she 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.

READ: Troutbitten | Winter Fishing — The Go To Nymphing Rig

#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.

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

#4: Crossover

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.

So we swapped over to a 1/16 oz Bunny Flash Jig. We removed the indy, added a #18 BHPT and tight lined the streamer at long distances upstream.

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 off the stream side 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 just 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 stonefly 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 — 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.
Domenick Swentosky


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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.

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  1. Dom, do you think writing these pages and especially guiding has made you a more effective fisherman when out on your own?

    • Hey Justin,

      That’s a cool question.

      Because good writing begins with thinking hard about what you believe, writing has made me a better angler.

      Guiding probably hasn’t made me a better angler directly. But it’s made me a better communicator, which has made me a better writer.

      Make sense?


      • Yeah that makes complete sense.
        “Because good writing begins with thinking hard about what you believe”….I like that.

  2. This is a bookmark article. All of the stuff at Troutbitten is compelling, don’t get me wrong, but this one for me is a great reminder to consider alternatives (which I don’t do well), and what those alternatives are other than simply changing flies.

    BTW – this blog is the best source for flyfishing info I’ve seen on the Internet. I’m on a couple of fly fishing groups on Facebook and they are absolute rubbish; some guy showing his purple epoxy perdigons, a random fish pose, which reel should I pair with this rod?, etc…trash. There is no discussion of technique or approach. Troutbitten has stuff I can ruminate on, marinate in, and hopefully put into practice when I get on the water (if I slow down enough!). TB has definitely upped my game.

    • +1 Tomas. I struggle with the same. It’s a challenge to get over the feeling that “adapting” means less time with a line in the water. Dom taught me to appreciate that the time spent “not adapting” is wasted time. More importantly, when you have as many methods as Dom does – it’s fun. It was an exceptional day and if you have the time to spend a day on the water with Dom, do it.

      • You’re the Marc in question, eh?! Cool. I live outside of Philly, so the next time I’m in Central PA I will take your advice and get some time on the water with Dom. I almost did last year but we went our with our usual guy, who we like (and who is also a mono rig/ESN guy). But, it’s good to get different perspectives.

        • Good stuff. I live outside of Philly too. Was my first time to Central PA, believe it or not!

      • You fished really well, man. It’s important to make the casting adjustments as well as the rigging adjustments, and you certainly did that. Fun times.

  3. I read your posts because you speak to our shared avocation with a righteous passion, though I won’t claim to share your ‘zealotry’ for the mono rig. I use it, I like it, but variety is still the spice of life. Call me a cafeteria fly fisherman, a man for whom the buffet line of fly line tactics is epicurean as opposed to ecclesiastical. Feeding our souls: it’s what’s for dinner. There are many disciplines within the structure of the Mono Temple that can speak to my need for variety, and I make use of several of them just as you have written, …but sometimes a guy just wants to swing a soft hackle in the film.

    • Hey, could you guys stop using all these big words…?! I fly fish on mostly privately owned land in the North Georgia mountains, and if I use epicurean and ecclesiastical in the same conversation I’ll either get shot or asked for proof of vaccination… Just kidding: I love this blog, and especially Dom’s enthusiasm and willingness to share, and everyone’s contributions. I’m really trying to work a business trip up near Dom’s home waters so I can get him to guide me. I’m still afraid to try a 24′ leader butt because I’ll probably wrap it around my neck 3 or 4 times and hang myself in the mountain laurel. That, or folks will think I was strung-up by a local for using ‘zealotry’ in a sentence and thinking I was in ISIS… (Also trying to Fish Hard!)

      • I hear you. I live north of Caribou, Maine and if talked like this out in public they’d accuse me of being Canadian. It’s the passion that Dom puts into the blog that keeps me here.

    • Agreed. I use a fly line a lot as well. That’s why I rig the way I do — so I can quickly change to a regular leader.

      I tend not to write about regular leaders and tactics much because a lot of that has been said.

      • Exactly why we enjoy hanging out here with you; we get something different. Thank you.

      • Dom, you’ve previously written…”The only times I use a shorter, traditional leader are when I’m dry fly fishing at distance”…. I’m wondering if you would be willing to share the formula /modifications made to the mono rig when casting dries at distance? Thanks!

  4. Catching fish 5 different ways is one way I define a great fishing day. Growing up with InFisherman taught me versatility. Some outlier species spices the pot.

  5. Sounds very complicated to me. Can’t we fish for fun!

    • We all have our own definition of fun. I would fine a day like Dom describes as lots of fun. You may not. There’s no reason why each of us shouldn’t fish the way we want to.

    • Absolutely! I wouldn’t recommend that you do anything that takes away the enjoyment of fishing for you. Seriously. If you are perfectly happy out there, why change?

      I only change because I like to. I enjoy the game of figuring out what is the best way to keep catching trout as the day changes.



  6. Great lesson for Marc, and for us readers! Thanks again Domenick! I learn something every day thanks to your thoughtful approach to fishing. Tight lines all.

  7. I have fished this system fairly heavily for 3+ years now. I will admit that 95% of the time I use it for tightlining nymphs, either with or without a suspender, and 5% for streamers. For either of these applications it is far superior to anything else. I would like one improvement (which I have been working on): more visibility of the actual leader line. Chameleon disappears in the forest and above the water (to me), however the dark contrast of the brown compared to the sky probably makes it highly visible to the fish (speculating here). In low light conditions I would like something to help me find the sighter quickly, a colored leader line helps immensely with this, more so than a backing barrel (which I am also not crazy about for other reasons). It is also helpful with following your backcast on choked streams, etc. I think a bright green line is the best of both worlds – easier visibility for me, allowing me to find my sighter and also helping track drifts, etc. while also (i think) being less likely to spook fish (less contrast with the sky than a dark brown chameleon line). I have tried most hi-vis mono (e.g. amnesia, BBG solar collector, stren – all the ones I use for cheap running line for spey casting) and they cast terribly compared to chameleon, I have spliced in high vis sections but that creates more knots to hang up in guides. I finally bit the bullet and shelled out 35$ for the OPST this week, hoping this will perform like chameleon.

  8. Dom,
    With the egg patterns do you pinch the split shot above the egg patterns on the leader or tie droppers off and pinch them at the end of the leader? maybe you explained it but sometimes I can be a bit slow on the uptake.

  9. You are preaching to the choir with this one. Love this article and this really hits home with why I switched over. I’m a devout follower of the church and drink the kool aid 🙂

    A lot of what you wrote reminds me of our day on the water, before we switched to streamers. But that goes to show you yet another way to catch fish. This list is not just to show you all the ways to catch fish. Moreso, how to follow the pieces of the puzzle the fish are showing you and adapt. That’s what makes this sport so rewarding and challenging all in the same breath.

  10. Great stuff! Your short articles provide a good education. On windy days I also use an indicator (Thingamabober) with a couple unweighted flies dangling on tags with a decent amount of split-shop fasten in a drop shot setup. It seems to slow the drift down and keeping the line off the water helps to eliminate slack so your ready to set on a grab, twitch, or pause. Catching up on your writings…, always a good read.

  11. Dom,

    You wrote: “I don’t know any angler who wishes she…”

    If you substitute they for he or she, both genders will be covered.

    I’m referring to this definition of the word they:

    used to refer to a person of unspecified gender:
    “ask someone if they could help”

    not this definition of they:

    used to refer to a person whose gender or sexual identity does not correspond to the traditional binary opposition of male and female:
    “Asher thought they were the only nonbinary person at school until a couple of weeks ago”

    It would be great if more women fly fished, but I rarely see them on the river. I remember seeing three in the last 52 times (since July 2019) that I went trout fishing. And I’m not counting one who is a very good guide on my home river.

    • Nah. “They” in such a case is grammatically incorrect. Not sure why the use of “she” mixed in with “he” throughout the pages of Troutbitten would be an issue with anyone.


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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.

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