Beyond Euro Nymphing

by | May 17, 2020 | 16 comments

A few days ago, someone said that they realized what I’ve been writing about on Troutbitten is beyond euro nymphing. He told me that it’s more of a hybrid method of western styles mixed with some French nymphing.

Fair enough. The hybrid part I agree with. But my first reaction was a bit of resistance, because I avoid the idea of being beyond anything in fishing. Eventually, all tactics cycle back around — old ideas resurface with a few new tweaks to the system. (That’s how progress happens in a lot of genres, really.)

Troutbitten has become synonymous with Mono Rig tactics. And what I call the Mono Rig starts from a Joe Humphreys’ idea and builds a sighter into the leader, along with a few other adjustments. To me, the Mono Rig is more than a leader — it’s an extremely versatile method of fly fishing. And it is, like my friend mentioned, a hybrid style that takes advantage of all that the long leader provides for.

Strictly speaking, euro nymphing is tight line nymphing with nothing else attached to the line but the flies. I love that way of fishing, and I consider it a baseline for the rest of the Mono Rig tactics. I recommend learning to euro nymph first. Get that under your hands, and then branch out from there.

But don’t limit yourself. Why not use the tight line tools (leaders and tactics) for more than just euro nymphing? Use it for fishing a tight-line style of indicators. Use it for dry dropper or even straight dries. And use it for streamers, both big and small. The leader that I use does it all, and it’s what I call the Mono Rig system.

I also suggest avoiding leaders and rods that are so specialized for euro nymphing that they take away your other options. It’s been my emphatic argument for many years.

READ: Troutbitten | The Mono Rig

Not Too Special

The Mono Rig leader uses a long leader, with a butt section chosen to function like a traditional fly line while having just a quarter of the weight. It’s a tight line, contact system that puts the angler in excellent control over the course of the flies while eliminating the sag and drag of a fly line. The Mono Rig system is a style of fly fishing with many options.

Euro nymphing has become the newest trend and the hottest buzzword in the last decade of fly fishing. And we’ve seen an entire industry rush to create products that cater to the euro nymphing style. From my perspective, that is both good and bad.

Can I tell you the truth? You don’t need any of the specialized stuff.

Photo by Josh Darling

In fact, much of the gear now offered for euro nymphing is quite limiting for other styles. It takes away too much of the freedom that I enjoy about the Mono Rig. And that matters to me, because I’m not the kind of angler who decides to fish my “euro rod” today. And I don’t step out of the truck having already decided that I will euro nymph. Instead, I go fishing with a fly rod in my hand, and let’s see what the trout want to eat. That’s my approach.

So, what is specialized?

Here’s an example: An eleven-foot two-weight fly rod, designed for euro nymphing, is excellent for casting light to medium weight rigs. But it’s a liability on the river when conditions call for big streamers or even a Thingamabobber and some large stoneflies to work the deep seams far away from where you can wade.

Here’s another example: The soft, two-tone indicator material now commonly available is great for reading contact on the sighter, but its turnover power is poor. It is well designed for euro nymphing. But it doesn’t push around a small yarn indy very well. And it might struggle to propel a #12 PMX added in a tight line dry dropper rig. These limp and opaque sighter materials, now sold by every line manufacturer, are wonderful — until they’re not. When the wind kicks up and you need to push light indy or dry dropper rigs to a target, a stiffer sighter functions better. And the Mono Rig I fish with can handle it.

READ: Troutbitten | Is a soft sighter best? Not always

Euro nymphing styles continue to trend toward lighter and softer materials, but the versatility of the style suffers. By contrast, my go-to Mono Rig is built for anything at any time.

I also tie and carry a few different Mono Rigs in my vest. Sometimes, I use an extra-thin butt section of 8 lb Chameleon, instead of the regular 20 lb. I also tie in a length of Rio Two Tone sighter material in 1X or 2X for many situations. But when I make either of these adjustments, I realize that I’m making my rig more specialized.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing the Mono Rig — Thicker leader material casts more like fly line

What is Beyond?

There’s a lot more to learn, once you are comfortable with euro nymphing.

Strictly speaking, euro nymphing is performed on a tight line with nothing attached to the leader. That means no indicators, ever, and no split shot. Sure, you can use a dry fly for the suspender (tight line dry dropper), but that’s different from what an indy can do for the drift.

Likewise, while euro nymphing, you might change out to a heavier fly, but you can’t add split shot or choose a drop shot rig. I find it all too limiting — because split shot is wonderful for providing unweighted flies a bit of grace on a five-inch leash. Sometimes trout eat light flies with split more than they eat beaded flies. And that’s just a fact (in my world).

So I don’t want the limitations of euro nymphing. But I do want the benefits. Tight lining, straight to the nymphs, is an elegant way to fish. It is, in many situations, the best solution. But when the situation calls for something else, it’s much more fun to have those options open too.

The Mono Rig that I write about is a hybrid system combining every style of fly fishing that I’ve learned. With the rod, line and leader design that I like, anything is possible. Big streamers on a Mono Rig? Check. Small dries with amazingly long drag free drifts? Check. Indicator nymphing that carries over all the deadly-effective principles of tight lining? Check. The tools that I use allow for all of it.

READ: Troutbitten | Recommended Gear

Photo by Josh Darling

Sub for Less?

By substituting anything in a system, the available options are changed.

Choosing a competition fly line for the butt section takes away any option for pulling off the long mono leader and swapping over to a dry fly leader to use a regular fly line at distance.

Substituting extra-light and long rods makes streamer fishing uncomfortable, if not difficult. And flexy tips on a fly rod might protect the light tippet of 7X, but they are not well designed for sinking a #2 streamer hook into the stiff jaw of a two foot brown trout.

Specialized tools equal narrower options.

So I like versatility. But I fully understand that many anglers don’t care.

Hell, I fished for three years and did almost nothing but short, tight lining in faster water — a style that some called Polish nymphing or Czech nymphing and others called high sticking. I then spent another full year taking those tight line principles to longer distances, working on the long nymphing game — a style that some called French nymphing or Spanish nymphing. And during all those years, versatility mattered little to me. I was out to learn and refine one thing at a time. But somewhere in my overall plan, I knew I would eventually choose to put all the styles together and fish every day with a full gamut of options at the ready.

That’s how I fish now. And I love it.

READ: Troutbitten | Euro Nymphing and the Mono Rig

Stiffness, FTW

The Mono Rig is ready for anything. And its relative stiffness is the key element that makes it so ready to perform. I choose a butt section that can be CAST and not lobbed.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing the Mono Rig — It’s Casting, Not Lobbing

I like to cast, because it’s more fun than lobbing, and because lobbing is limiting. By CASTING the Mono Rig as designed, I choose not just where the fly goes, but also more accurately where the tippet and leaders goes. The Mono Rig is designed to turn over in the air and land the fly first, having only the necessary tippet following it into the water. This is the main advantage of tight lining — keeping material off the water. And the Mono Rig is designed to make the most of that.

Is any of this beyond euro nymphing? Nah. It’s just the natural progression of anglers who fish hard, are thoughtful about the tactics and don’t like limitations. I know many good fly fishers who have all come out the other side with the same set of tools. Because fishing a contact system like the Mono Rig eventually teaches you all that is possible.


** Read all Troutbitten articles about The Mono Rig **


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. Amen. I came to the same conclusion regarding the drawbacks of soft sighter material a while ago, I actually have gone back to amnesia/stren sighters if there is any chance I am going to fish dry dropper on a mono rig for the day. Soft sighters are now a rare occurrence for me…only for light nymphs in low flows these days. I wish a company would make a stiff opaque sighter material…amnesia, while bright and stiff, is translucent which it makes it less visible than the rio/orvis/etc stuff.

      • Yeah I do that with orange dacron. Sometimes it is almost too jumpy or sensitive for me if you know what I mean? Especially if there is a little breeze. Also in these high flows I am nymphing heavy and my rig is under significant tension and the takes aren’t subtle so to speak, I’m just looking for a pause in my drift as my sighter is already taut from the weight-a backing barrel with tag doesn’t add much in these conditions.

        One other thing I have found that helps with turnover is to use a fluorocarbon tippet when fishing a dry w/the mono rig. I used to cut off my fluoro and switch out to a soft mono tippet when I changed to dries. now I just leave the stiffer fluoro on there and grease it so that it floats like mono.

        • “Sometimes it is almost too jumpy or sensitive for me if you know what I mean?”

          No! I don’t know what you mean. 🙂 For me, it’s that ultra sensitivity that is just deadly effective. I love that jumpiness. The tag sighter backing barrel has adds that 3rd dimension to a flat, two dimensional sighter. And I love that — a lot!


  2. This weekend I played around with trying new sighter material and I must say I really love the SA Absolute Tricolor in 0x. It’s almost .28mm which is close to the the amnesia/gold stren sighter setup. My visibility improved quite a bit and I love the built in white color so I can finally see my sighter when it starts getting dark. Everything besides the amnesia/stren combo was just way to limp for sure!

    BRUCE B.

  4. I tried the euro stuff and it was just too limited to conditions met by the rig. I used a mono rig hybrid and it suits me fine. I’m not into numbers and if I catch a few fish my way I’m happy. Fishing for numbers puts too much pressure on an activity I enjoy for relaxation. But, too each his own. As long as it’s legal and moral I’m all for it.

  5. Thanks for your website. It seems I have come to full circle on this. 20 years ago, I was fishing the White River in Arkansas using 16-18 feet leader with Monic clear floating line, “high sticking” with weighted scud patterns, casting 20-25 feels with minimal floating line to minimize drag. The number of fish my buddies and I would catch was obscene.

    Moved to western NC and changed to more conventional set up since I have more dry fly and soft hackle opportunities, but your article has me on the MonoRig for the last 6 months. Great versatile set up. My favorite technique is to add a dry fly caddis on the tag with a bead head nymph on the point. I tap the rod to make the floating caddis dance, fooling even the most jaded fish to come up.

    You probably know this trick, but when I fish shallow waters, I find that the sighter is too high to detect the subtle takes. I use a Faber Castell Pitt white pen to mark and inch of tippet to use as a temporary sighter. When I’m back to deep water, I just rub it off.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Hi Domenick
    I fish mostly in Eastern PA, both freestone and spring creeks. I remember 50 years ago (yep, I’m old) hatches of mayflies were so thick sometimes it was hard to breathe. Haven’t seen that in many years now. I’ve read some scientific studies that insect diversity in streams is declining. Not just in streams, but everywhere. Remember how you had to clean your windshield of insect debris often? Not so much anymore. Anyway, have you noticed fewer insects in the streams you fish?
    See you end of June.

    • Hi Bob,

      My honest answer is no, I haven’t noticed a decline. In fact, on some of my streams, the hatches seem better. Not all, but some.


  7. I’m 71 years old and caught my first “Namer”today on your dry/dropper mono rig. The rig is pure genius. Thanks Dom! It’s a 25 inch brown caught near my cottage in NE Pa where I’m self quarantined. Obviously I’ll have to name him “Corona”

  8. Dom

    Great info..

    I ditched the bicolor sighter on my mono rig and what a difference in turnover. Thanks!!

    A mentioned that you carry an extra thin 8 lb butt section mono rig. Can you give me your formula for this micro- thin leader and how and when you use it?

    Also, what situations do you tie the two tone sighter back on the mono rig?

    • Hi John,

      That’s a long answer that I can’t summarize real well in this short space. But the leader formula is just 8 lb Chameleon to a 3 Bi-Color sighter and then 5X or 6X. I use it when I want to get very long distance with no sag, but when I also don’t need much turnover power. The 8lb can force you to lob instead of cast, if things aren’t set up right. And that can be counterproductive.

      Also, I use the bi-color as an extension of my regular, stiffer sighter when I feel like I want a longer sighter and perhaps one that more easily shows contact. Everything has its moments.



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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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