I field a lot of questions about the Mono Rig. It’s a little different than a standard euro nymphing setup, because the Mono Rig is intended to handle every tactic and every type of fly that you might cast on a fly rod. For me, instant versatility on the water is a necessary feature. And anything less is a deal breaker. So I’ve adapted the Mono Rig through the years, modifying it slightly (and sometimes dramatically) to meet new challenges and handle new objectives. And many of those modifications are in the sighter section of the long leader.
I don’t like trying to force a one-size-fits-all approach into leader design. So, long ago, I resigned myself to the couple of extra minutes it takes to swap out full leaders or leader sections. Efficiency on the river is about keeping your flies in the water, and unnecessary rigging is time wasted. I change what I must — but only when the performance of the flies would suffer if I didn’t make those change.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my choice for a Mono Rig butt section. Specifically, I made the point that thinner leader butts do sag less, but they lose the ability to push anything to a target — a concept generally thought of as turnover. And if we think of the Mono Rig as a fly line substitute, if we want a performance similar to fly line with far less sag, then 20# Maxima Chameleon is an excellent choice. (There are others.) The Mono Rig, as I like to tie it, can push small or wind resistant flies to a target, but it can also be pulled by heavier flies during the cast. It’s really the perfect middle ground.
But here’s something that many anglers overlook: The material used for the sighter can enhance the Mono Rig’s ability to function like a fly line — or it can strip all of that away. Let’s talk about it.
Years ago, no fishing companies manufactured the type of sighter material that is now commonplace. So we all bought whatever colored line we could find. We learned that every mono had subtly different properties, and we kept buying and sharing these lengths of leader.
My first experience with modern sighter material was an opaque line from a Czech company. I paid more in shipping than I paid for the line, and I waited a couple weeks, wondering if the package would ever arrive.
It did. And I immediately noticed how different it was. The material was extremely limp when compared to the same diameter of the Gold Stren and Amnesia that I favored. And at the tying desk, where I’d opened the package and inspected the line, I loved how visible the new bi-color was — it was opaque, not translucent. So I was eager to fish with the new line, assuming it would become my new favorite sighter material.
It didn’t. Instead, just a few casts in, I realized what I’d given up by using the new material — turnover.
Certainly, there was no problem while tight lining nymphs. But as soon as I added a Dorsey Yarn Indicator (one of my favorite Mono Rig variations) or even a Parachute Adams for a tight line dry dropper style, the leader’s anemic response was a hindrance. The extra-limp line simply didn’t have the backbone to comfortably push those rigs to the target.
The Good and Bad
Rio, Cortland, Umpqua, and others now offer their own bi-color sighter material. And for better or worse, it’s all quite similar in design to that first line I bought from the Czechs. It’s opaque (great). And it’s limp (great only sometimes.)
I find all this extra-limp sighter material to be beneficial while tight lining nymphs. Soft, flexible mono shows contact a little better than the stiffer stuff. Hell, that’s why I loved my first sighter so much — a ten inch backing sighter constructed from orange and yellow Dacron backing, tied together with a blood knot and black barred with a permanent marker. But for the same reasons that I eventually moved away from the backing sighter, I don’t find modern sighter material (bi-color) to be a good, all-around, versatile choice. It’s just too limp for me.
And so it remains
My favorite Mono Rig formula still has Amnesia and Gold Stren for the main sighter, because I don’t like trading away turnover for soft mono material. I do use the modern bi-color material, but not all the time.
When I plan to do more tight lining than anything else, I often add 12-16 inches of Rio Bi-Color, because for tight lining nymphs, I like the softness. I like its extra ability to jiggle and show a little more sag in the sighter.
And when I plan to change tactics a lot, when I know my day on the water will include multiple changes from the sighter down, swapping between tight line, dry dropper, indy rigs and streamers, then I often leave the bi-color material out of my leader altogether.
Yours and Mine
Much of this comes down to personal preference. Sure, this all might seem a lot easier if you could simply copy someone else’s design and expect it to suit your own needs. And yeah, building a Mono Rig to the specs here on Troutbitten, or using a leader formula that your buddy really likes, is a great place to start. But your casting style, your rod choice, your rivers and your own objectives should push you toward your own adjustments and leader design.
Just be aware that super soft mono is not the only choice for a sighter. And sometimes, it may not be your best choice.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N