Fly Fishing the Mono Rig: It’s Casting, Not Lobbing

by | Jul 7, 2019 | 24 comments

Most of my weekday mornings start somewhere in a gravel or dirt space that’s large enough for a couple of cars. Surrounded by hemlocks, ferns and flowing water, it’s a privilege to guide the wild trout rivers that I’ve loved and fished for much of my life. Most anglers come to me because they want to learn something. These are wild waters, public creeks with no setups, harboring trout that respond only to quality presentations and a persistent approach. So my guests are ready for that. And more often than not, they are interested in refining tight line tactics — Mono Rig stuff.

I love teaching dry fly fishing too. Watching friends refine the elegant manipulations of fly line is rewarding. In a few hours they learn to use the last hitch of the wrist. It’s deliberately emphasized to send a Parachute Ant into a six-inch pocket with an extra bit of slack tippet, just upstream and into the neighboring current. Fish on. Smiles all around.

Having the opportunity to guide every day and teach these tactics has made me a better communicator of the ideas. People come with all different skill levels, with different biases, preferences and desires. And I find myself emphasizing many of the same points over and over, searching daily for the words and sentences that might connect the concepts with the fly fisher who accompanies me. Long ago I realized that it’s much easier to show some things rather than speak them. And there’s one major point about the Mono Rig that’s much better seen than heard: Good angling with a Mono Rig comes from casting, not lobbing.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly fishing the Mono Rig — Thicker leaders cast more like fly line

Watch This

As my guests and I gear up in that gravel lot, tying boot laces, checking the material remaining on tippet spools and replacing empty slots in fly boxes, I often grab a fly rod and cast the Mono Rig.

With no fly attached, and with no fly line off the spool or out of the guides, I cast about twenty feet of butt section, sighter and tippet. And I emphasize the following: back-stop-forward-stop, accelerate between two points and stop crisply. These are standard fly casting principles. And if you really want to use the Mono Rig, if you want to do anything more than tight line a pair of heavy-ish nymphs, then good casting principles are more important than ever.

My new friends easily notice the difference when I show them a crisp, clean casting stroke vs a slow one (without the speed or hard stops.) When cast properly, the Mono Rig easily shoots to the target. Loops build and unfold exactly like the loops we throw in a fly line. That’s where accuracy originates. It’s where contact and control of the fly begins.


I show them how effortless, how compact, a good clean casting stroke is. And they watch the Mono Rig easily achieve whatever targets I find next to our parked vehicles and hemlocks. With no fly or fly line, the Mono Rig shoots to the target with loops identical to the ones we’re used to seeing while casting fly line. And this is a result of its design. The butt section is thick enough and stiff enough to perform like a fly line, yet it weighs a quarter as much and sags far less. The sighter section is built not just for visibility, but for turnover. And even the tippet section is adapted for the same goals. All of this matters most when you ask the Mono Rig to do more — when you cast small yarn indys mounted below the sighter, go tight-line dry dropper or throw a pair of tiny nymphs.

Ironically, it takes refined and excellent fly casting skills to cast a Mono Rig. And I see the surprise on my friends’ faces when they watch the loops unfold, and the Mono Rig sails straight to the target.

READ: Troutbitten | Ask an Expert | For Euro Nymphing or the Mono Rig, what leader material do you like for the butt section?

READ: Troutbitten | What is Euro Nymphing? And What is the Mono Rig?

Wrong Way

After casting those tight loops on a Mono Rig, then I do it the wrong way. I remove the speed and the crisp stops from the cast, and we watch what happens to the leader. Inevitably, it falls ahead of the rod tip in a pile. So I cast again and reach far out with my arm on the forward cast, because surely that will get the leader out further, right? But no, it makes things worse.

So we watch for the loops again. We watch what happens to a Mono Rig that’s cast without crisp acceleration and hard stops. The resulting wide and open loops have no energy. It’s lobbing, not casting. And that can work (to a point) with enough weight at the end of the line. But try going tight line to a yarn indy or dry dropper. Try using ultralight flies. The rig will fail without enough power in the cast. Furthermore, try casting under the next tree limb without solid, tight casting loops in the Mono Rig. Absent the speed to turn over the leader with direction and authority, you’ll be into the limb every time.

Speed and power, crisp stops and a compact delivery equal accuracy and control of the Mono Rig. This is casting, not lobbing.

Fish hard, friends.


** Find all Troutbitten articles about the Mono Rig here **


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. Would be great if one day you did a short video of your casting techniques.

    • I would love to see that too. Just one cast (back and forward) without a fly on.

      • Do you mean without a fly, because you don’t think the Mono Rig will actually shoot out there?

        • Yeah. I believe you can effectively cast only the Mono Rig. I can effectively bend the rod on casts with a fly line. I struggle to do so with the Mono Rig. Thanks for considering a video.

          • Greg, in my opinion, the rod doesn’t even need to flex much. You can do this on a fast seven weight if the cast is crisp. It really doesn’t take much. I think people rely far too much these days on specialized rods designed to load under the weight of just a leader. But there are major downsides to those rods. And they simply aren’t necessary. Point is, you can get that cast on a Mono Rig without much rod flex at all.



    • Videos are in the works, for sure. Quality stuff just takes time.

      Also, that one would not be a short video. Ha!


  2. Actually, I have a question. If you fished nymphs exclusively, what kind of “line”/leader setup would you use?

    • Hi Alex. The rig that I’m nymphing with right now is about 27 feet of 10 pound test Maxima Chameleon clinch knotted to the loop in my flyline then about 40” of 8 pound Chameleon then about 18” of 2X Rio bicolor slighter then 2mm tippet ring then roughly, depending on the depth I’m fishing about 5 feet of 4X tippet with a dropper tag roughly 20”up from my point fly. I’m no expert but this is working pretty good for me right now.

      • Interesting. Going with 10 lb for a butt section, like that, is exactly what I’m talking about. I find that any fly line style performance is out the window with anything thinner than about .015″. Basically, you become reliant on the weight of the flies. The butt section just can’t push much at all in those thin diameters.

        • I’m definitely guilty of lobbing and not casting. My nymphs are mostly 14’s and 16’s with a good amount of weight built in them. It just seems so easy, that after I’m done with my drift, the water below me loads my line and with a flick of the wrist I cast up or up and across. Most of my bites are felt not seen. I could be wrong but I think the thinner 10# butt doesn’t sag as much and improves my feel for bites when I’m tight to my nymphs. I’m gona bump up my butt section to 15# next trip and try casting not lobbing.

          • First, I should mention that I certainly don’t believe there’s a right way or a wrong way to do this stuff.

            I do write about what I think is best because . . . well, I think it works best.

            I think it’s cool when guys have chosen to use different gear because they have different goals. But I don’t like seeing people choosing different gear because they are following someone else’s formula, or because they just decided to sub something out without thinking through the ramifications. (Not saying you haven’t, Louie. I’m just generalizing). I continue to stress that the elements in what I call the Mono Rig are all critical. Lengths can very, sure. And material can very, but only to a point. And going with a butt section of half the diameter will completely change the performance.

            One thing you and I probably do differently — I don’t let my flies drift downstream of my position. They drag across seams that way, and it can’t be helped. So you water load, but I’m not in a position to do that very much.




          • I hear ya Dom. The facing upstream and trying not to cast more than a rod plus arms length across, that I’ve been doing the last few weeks has definitely caught me more trout. Thanks

          • Cool. I think that’s a key principle that helps me out too. But it’s not really the standard. Most guys fish up and across pretty far.



          • I read your interview with George Daniel about nymphing upstream vs. across stream and found it compelling, in part because that is that way I’ve fished for a long time. Having said that, I have too many counterexamples to be absolutely certain that I, you, and George have it completely right. For example, I often fish with a friend who is a comp angler. On average, we catch about as many fish, but he almost always fishes across stream. And, there are the videos and first-hand accounts of Lance Egan fishing. He, like my friend, tends to fish across stream, and he is one of the top comp anglers in the world.

            Intellectually, and in my own experience, I feel that upstream tight (or not so tight) line nymphing should keep the flies in one current seam and, therefore, be, on average, the most efficient way to nymph. And yet . . .

            Do you have any insights into the problem, Dom? Or is it one of the sweet mysteries of fly fishing?

        • You’re right, Dom. But, if one is just going to fish nymphs, are there advantages to casting rather than lobbing? In my hands, when I cast a brace of nymphs, I tend to get lots of tangles, but when I lob with an oval arc the tangles are minimized.

          • Oh my, yes. There are huge advantages to casting rather than lobbing. With lobbing, you take away most of your ability to tuck cast. It can be done with a short upstroke at the end of a lob, but it’s not nearly as effective. I tuck on almost every cast, to some degree. It’s a very important part of my presentation.


            I’d argue that what keeps your flies separated is not the lob, but the oval that you described. It’s the fly’s path, following the leader.It’s not whether you stop crisply and use fly line principles. You are keeping you flies traveling in an oval, if viewed from the above. I bet you do the same thing when casting dries. Otherwise, the flies would hit the line.

            I should mention that I’m not talking about doing any false casting. I drift, set the hook, back cast, forward cast, deliver and drift. Repeat.

            Lastly, I made other points in the article about using variations of nymphing on a tight line. It’s much harder to make all this work without good casting. Lobbing just won’t get the job done in many cases.

            “All of this matters most when you ask the Mono Rig to do more — when you cast small yarn indys mounted below the sighter, go tight-line dry dropper or throw a pair of tiny nymphs.

            But try going tight line to a yarn indy or dry dropper. Try using ultralight flies. The rig will fail without enough power in the cast. Furthermore, try casting under the next tree limb without solid, tight casting loops in the Mono Rig. Absent the speed to turn over the leader with direction and authority, you’ll be into the limb every time.”

            Good discussion.



          • Thanks for the reply, Dom. You make some great points.

          • Cheers.

  3. Hello Domenick!

    Thanks for this great article! After using the mono rig for a couple of years now, I’m finally achieving fishing the rig with some distance. And this article just nailed what I’ve been struggling with until recently. Yes, I was lobbing, not casting. My last fishing trip was an eye opener, and further practice in my backyard this evening, has made me cast the whole mono rig (after yours description) with both 2 and 3 nymphs without any problem. Can’t wait for the next fishing trip. Keep up the good work with the inspirational articles. Tight lines from Norway!

    Best regards

    • Excellent. I love hearing that.



  4. Well this is a great resource! I’m actively reading and rereading portions of the mono rig articles. Having become a little disenchanted with tossing thingamabobbers around the South Platte for several years I definitely want to give this a try. Question for those anglers who have actually fished this method, I fish with a couple different rods, an 8’6” 4wt. G. Loomis Streamdance (what I cast drys with most often) and a 8’ 6” 6wt. Winston IM6 from back in the mid 1990’s. This is the rod that I usually fish when trying to suspend nymphs below a bobber/indicator. Any suggestion on what rod might be more appropriate to this method of casting the “mono rig”. I’m guessing as with all things there will be an appreciable learning curve, maybe sometime off the water practicing 20 foot casts in the park will help. Thanks

  5. Just tried out the mono rig for the first time yesterday, on the Quinapoxet River in Holden, MA. I didn’t hook up with any fish, but that’s ok…I’m only a year into this trout fishing hobby and am still skunked more often than not.

    I struggled with the mono rig on a 9’ 5 wt Echo Base rod. To get the rod to load, I had to be fast, and that resulted in flies just getting slammed down on the waters surface. When I slowed down, things got weird….lots of casts moving at a near 30 degree angle from the path of the rod tip. Any tips for a neophyte?

    • Hi Josh,

      I’m glad you are giving it all a try. It’s a lot of fund to be at the beginning of a journey. Enjoy it, and try not to be overwhelmed.

      Nymphs slamming into the water can be a good thing, if it’s in the form of a tuck cast. You may very well have had good casts and didn’t know it. Check out this article on the tuck cast:

      Building speed in between two solid stops is the key to good casting. I think you are onto something, so stay with it.

      At first:
      — Use one fly.
      — Overweight a bit.
      — Use split shot if needed.
      — Stay close. Learn all of the basics close.
      — Cast upstream and only across about 10 feet. No more.
      — Have fun
      — Use a visible fly so you can see it’s performance.
      — Gain contact on the sighter. That’s your first goal after the cast.

      Email me if you need more advice.

      Good luck.



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