Monofilament fishing line tends to hold the curves of its home. Whatever spool it’s stored on, it peels off in roughly the same diameter as that housing. All monofilament has this tendency, but some brands hold their memory much more than others. This line memory — this line coiling — is a problem. But the fix is very simple.
Mono Rig, tight line, euro nymphing, long leader anglers all encounter the same trouble. Line coiling causes handling problems. It creates casting difficulties. Or it becomes tangled around the rod butt, creating heartbreak when the fish of a lifetime escapes on account of our own error. Every day that I’m on the water, I expect to encounter the biggest trout of my life. That’s my mindset. So I prepare, always, with that big fish in mind. I’m attentive to the seemingly small things, like wind knots, tippet diameter, hook strength and yes, line coiling.
For the Mono Rig to cast like a fly line, we need it to be straight — not coiled. The leader should sail easily through the guides and lay out or hang tight to the fly, with no coils. And as we strip in or retrieve the line, we want it flat in our line hand as well — no coils. It seems to follow, then, that we should use the softest, limpest monofilament possible for the Mono Rig. But that’s not true. Because, to achieve fly-line-style performance from monofilament, the material needs some characteristic stiffness. Limp mono collapses sooner. It struggles to push light nymphs or dry dropper rigs under the overhanging hemlocks and back into that shady corner pocket.
Remember, with the Mono Rig, we substitute fairly thick monofilament for a standard fly line. The extra-long butt section of the Mono Rig leader essentially functions like a fly line, taking over the job of pushing flies to a target. But it’s also thin enough to be pulled to a target by weighted flies or split shot, and it doesn’t sag or cause drag nearly as much. Choose the right material for a butt section, and (with good casting skills) it will perform very much like a fly line.
So then, our needs for a Mono Rig butt section are very specific. The material should be stiff but handle well. It should lay flat when stretched and be thick enough to cast like a fly line but thin enough to prevent extra sag. I’ve gone into great detail about all of this before, so I’ll only summarize it here. My first choice is 20# (.017”) Maxima Chameleon. But I have other favorite butt sections that I use at certain times.
All that said, even my favorite Chameleon butt section can coil if it’s not used properly.
Here we go . . .
What should you do before a workout or a good run? And fifteen minutes before baseball or football practice, what does every team do together?
Flattening out the natural coils of a leader has been my practice from the beginning. I hate having coils in any style of leader. I stretch my George Harvey Dry Fly leaders, my streamer leaders and the Mono Rig. All of them are stretched before I fish.
I don’t use a leader straightener. I don’t heat up the leader by pulling it through my hands or a piece of rubber. And I don’t wrap the whole thing around a tree stump and pull hard. Because all of that is a waste of time.
Instead, I simply stretch the leader in three-foot sections.
This is my process:
- Pull the whole leader off the spool and through the guides.
- Grab the first three feet or so between two hands.
- Stretch the leader section to its maximum.
- Repeat in three foot sections until finished.
- Reel up the extra leader.
- Go catch trout.
Couple more things, here:
Stretch each section to its limit. Pull hard until you feel the leader stretch all the way, and then stop pulling. You will easily notice when the leader can stretch no more. But you must stretch to that point. Pull hard, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Note, it doesn’t take superhuman strength, either. Just pull hard, feel it stretch. Then feel it stop expanding. Grab the next section and repeat.
Importantly, I find it easiest to do this while standing in the water, so I don’t accidentally step on the leader or have it tangle around my feet.
Bottom line: If you choose the wrong material for a Mono Rig butt section, it will hold a coil, no matter how you try to stop it.
I know from experience that 20# Zebco never lays out flat.The same is true for Berkley Big Game and other cheaper lines.
There’s really no point in trying to cut costs on leader material. One Mono Rig lasts for many seasons — or until you put the whole damn thing in a tree someday.
For under ten dollars you can have the best, high quality monofilament available, in a quantity that lasts for a very long time. Buy the good stuff.
Choose a butt section that’s too thick, and it holds a coil no matter how much you stretch it. (It also sags more.) Thinner butt sections hold a coil less, but they also function less like a fly line — so fishing becomes more about lobbing weight around than casting.
I encourage you to test things for yourself and see what you like. But I’ve never found a butt section over .017” that I enjoyed fishing. And for me, that diameter of 20# Chameleon is the perfect middle ground between handling, performance and versatility.
If you reel up your Mono Rig on a skinny arbor spool, troubles follow. When the mono comes off in tight coils like a telephone cord (remember those), no amount of stretching will alleviate the memory completely. This is why I strongly prefer a large arbor reel.
Likewise, do not store the Mono Rig on old tippet spools. I love Loon Rigging Foams for carrying pre-rigged tippett sections, but not for rolling up a whole Mono Rig. A tighter coil is just asking for trouble.
Instead, keep the Mono Rig on old Chameleon spools or something similar.
Basically, the Mono Rig should be stored in diameters of no less than three inches, whether that’s on a spool in your vest or on the fly reel.
Twisting rather than Coiling
I’ve done all this long enough that I’ve heard a handful of strange troubles that I’ve never run into myself. And after some conversations with anglers about their unique problems, we’ve always tracked down the issue. Here’s an interesting one . . .
Sometimes what is perceived as line coiling is actually line twisting. If you take any line and turn it in the same direction over and over again, it eventually shows some twisting — think about your garden hose.
Twisting of the Mono Rig occurs when an angler performs the same cast — the same circle — over and over.
I talked with a guy who had this trouble, and he described his fishing routine, we soon realized what was going on. He made casts up and across, and finished down and across. Then he picked up the rig to cast up and across again — over and over. This circular motion, without any breakup in the pattern, without some backhand casts, without different angles, false casts, etc., created twists. Because the line never had a chance to unwind and do the opposite.
Think about that if you see the line twisting. It’s an uncommon issue, but sometimes, it’s the source of the problem.
Comp Lines or Flat Mono
One final word here about your options . . .
Some anglers suggest using a competition fly line to solve coiling problems. So instead of using a long Mono Rig, use a thin competition fly line. That’ll work. And they do coil less. But comp lines come with their own troubles, and they sag more. Ironically, 20# Chameleon casts more like a standard fly line than most comp lines, because it’s stiffer. Remember, comp lines were created as a work around for the FIPS rules that regulate leader length in competitions. So if you’re not competing, I argue that a Mono Rig is a better tool for the job.
Flat monofilaments like Amnesia would seem to be a logical solution too. These lines are oval, and they have less memory than their round counterparts. But Amnesia must also be stretched at the beginning of the day. If stored for any length of time, Amnesia does hold a coil, although it lays out nice and flat once stretched. (But again, so does Chameleon and the other recommended options.)
In the End
It’s easy to solve the Mono Rig coiling problem. Start with the right material and diameter. Store the mono on a large arbor. Then stretch the mono before use. And even in frigid temps the Mono Rig will lay flat.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day
T R O U T B I T T E N