Thin and Micro-Thin Leaders for Euro Nymphing and the Mono Rig

by | Feb 7, 2021 | 31 comments

Line sag equals drag. And drag is death to a dead drift. These are baseline facts for the tight line nymphing angler, and success comes by managing line sag during the drift — there’s always some.

Taking the standard fly line out of the equation is the first order of business for contact nymphing tactics. So we use a long butt section of twenty pound Maxima Chameleon, or a nylon with similar properties, as a fly line substitute. With good casting form, the long leader performs fly line functions without the liability of too much weight in the line. Such a leader casts like a fly line if you treat it that way, but it sags far less — weighing in at just a quarter of what a standard fly line weighs.

But why not go even thinner? Why not use a lighter leader that sags even less? Anglers have done just that for decades, and the advantages are significant. But like anything else, there are consequences.

Extra thin leaders do sag less. They allow for unparalleled drifts with lighter flies at longer distances than do thicker leaders. And while that can be a wonderful advantage, the trade offs are also significant.

Let’s dig in . . .

READ: Troutbitten |The Mono Rig
READ: Troutbitten | Euro Fly Lines vs The Mono Rig

The Wayback Machine

I first wrote about the Mono Rig in 2016, and there was some expected pushback to the idea of eliminating fly line. I first presented on the topic in 2017, and most anglers were receptive to the concept by the end of the hour, especially when I stressed that Mono Rigs are best fished by casting and not lobbing. Still, there were those who couldn’t wrap their heads around it — and they associated such things with chuck-and-duck systems or a host of other confusions.

I learned of the Mono Rig concept through Joe Humphreys’ book, Trout Tactics, which I bought almost twenty-five years ago. (Dear Time, please slow down a bit.) Then, years later, I discovered French nymphing leaders and saw the similarities. Guys like Loren Williams and George Daniel were also steeped in the Joe Humphreys, upstream tuck cast style, and discussions with them helped me sort through the differences and highlight the advantages of adding a sighter to the rig while limiting material diameters under the water.

Photo by Bill Dell

Jay Nichols told me that, in the nineties, Fly Fisherman magazine declined to publish a Joe Humphreys article about the Mono Rig, because it was too much of a deviation from fly fishing. Fast forward twenty-plus years, and Lance Egan, Devin Olsen, George Daniel and others now offer excellent advice about euro nymphing with micro-thin Mono Rigs and leaders. That’s how far we’ve come. I love it.

For a while, anglers loosely referred to these tactics that employed thin leaders at long distance as Spanish nymphing — generally, using thinner than average leaders, often with lighter flies at greater distances. (For a great breakdown on all this, and much more tight lining goodness, check out Paul Gaskell’s recent work: The Fly Fishing Bible of Nymphing.)

I have a hard time with the regionalization of these things or the categorization of tactics that paint anglers into a box. And it pays to remember that some of the bait anglers of my youth strung up fly rods with 6 lb Berkley Trilene, using it to dance minnows and drift redworms in my local creeks. I’m sure they’d chuckle at the lengths I now go to refine a nymphing system — swapping out butt sections to match the weights of tungsten beads, considering the stiffness vs flex of sighter materials and the resulting effect of sag-equals-drag when all of this mixes together.

That said, for many of us, obsessing over the details is where the fun begins.

READ: Troutbitten | Know Your Weights and Measures | Series

Defining Things

Thin and micro-thin leaders are made from material diameters that don’t weigh much as they hang off the end of a fly rod. That’s good, because line weight causes sag. And remember, sag equals drag.

There’s some good information out there about thin and micro-thin leaders, but there’s a lot of bad advice too. Particularly, I think it’s more helpful to put some meat on the bones of words like “far” and “light.” How far? How light? That’s what we’ll do here, in brief.

(I’d also like to give a nod to Devin Olsen. Because I like the way he breaks down his leaders into thin, thinner and thinnest, I’ve adopted something similar.)

These things are hard to quantify, and some leader formulas have thicker butt sections tied into long tapers that run fifteen feet or more. But the line that’s out of the guides and hangs in the air is what matters most. That’s what sags, and that’s what we should consider. So let’s pick a distance for comparing leaders. For reasons I’ll get to in time, let’s use twenty-four feet.

Assume that the fly rod is ten feet long. Now let’s cast twenty-four feet. For clarity, I’m referring to twenty-four feet of line/leader off the reel spool. That means fourteen feet is now out of the tip-top guide and is hanging in the air or under the water after the cast. Make sense? Now let’s get the scale out . . .


Fourteen feet of my Standard 20# Mono Rig weighs 55 centigrams.

Fourteen feet of my Thin 10# Mono Rig weighs 42 centigrams.

Fourteen feet of my Micro-Thin 5# Mono Rig weighs 20 centigrams.

(For the above measurements, I used 4 feet of 5X fluorocarbon as the tippet.)


So, when fishing at twenty-four feet, the standard leader weighs almost three times as much as the micro-thin leader. The further away you fish, the greater is that difference in weight. The closer you fish, the less is that difference. This is because at closer range, there’s less butt section in play on my standard leader.

Any extra leader weight sags the most right after the cast — because that’s when the fly is furthest away. Then, as the river returns the line to us (assuming an upstream cast), we can pick up slack by raising the rod or retrieving some line before leading. And both methods eliminate much of the initial sag from a standard leader.

READ: Troutbitten | Two Ways to Recover Slack
READ: Troutbitten | The Lift and Lead

Troutbitten Mono Rig Formulas

Standard 20# Mono Rig (.017″ Butt)

24 feet — 20 lb Maxima Chameleon
2 feet — 10lb Maxima Chameleon
Tippet Ring (1.5 or 2mm)
12” — 12lb Red Amnesia
12” — 10lb Gold Stren
Tippet Ring (1.5 or 2mm)
14″ — 1x Rio Two Tone Tippet Material (Optional)
36″ — 4X Fluorocarbon Tippet
— Tag for upper nymph —
20″ — 5X Fluorocarbon Tippet

Thin 10# Mono Rig (.012″ Butt)

26 feet — 10lb Maxima Chameleon
12” — 10lb Gold Stren
12″ — 2x Rio Two Tone Tippet Material
48-64″ — 5X or 6X Fluorocarbon Tippet

Micro-Thin 5# Mono Rig (.008″ Butt)

26 feet — 5lb Maxima Chameleon
20″ — 3x Rio Two Tone Tippet Material
48-64″ — 5X or 6X Fluorocarbon Tippet


As you can see, I prefer short tapers. And much of the performance in my leaders comes from the butt sections. That’s why I refer to them as 20#, 10# and 5# Mono Rigs, or Standard, Thin and Micro-Thin respectively.

The function of each of these leaders is drastically different from the others.

Good, Better, Best?

I first experimented with thinner leaders after reading about Joe Humphreys’ Mono Rig all those years ago. And I figured, if thin was good, then thinner should be better. But I quickly realized the consequences, so I stuck with my standard Mono Rig or a Harvey leader for nymphing. Because, hey, I was catching trout. And I was not yet proficient enough to have the confidence for deep experimentation.

But as the years have passed, I’ve returned to thin leaders, again and again. Because I’ve always felt like I was missing something. And because, for me, I learn more by changing and testing leaders than I do by changing flies.

With all the talk in the fly fishing industry about thin and micro-thin Mono Rigs and euro leaders in the last couple of years, I’ve spent more time with skinny lines than ever before. I’ve come to appreciate their performance. And now I know how, why and when they work for me.

Photo by Austin Dando  — Angler: Trevor Smith

There’s a notion out there that the thinnest leaders are for the most advanced anglers. I disagree with this. There is no progression from good, to better, to best, here. In the same way that long range tactics are no better than short ones, a 5# rig is no better than a 20# rig. But, in both cases, it may take a while to refine the necessary skills to achieve good drifts at longer lengths.

The real question at hand is this: Do thinner leaders catch more trout?

No. They do not.

Each leader has its strengths and weaknesses (I’ll point those out below), and the angler who navigates through these — who learns the tools — is the one who catches more trout.

What I call my Standard leader is often the best tool for the job. On the other hand, the Micro-Thin version solves a few onstream problems in ways that are a struggle to duplicate with the standard leader.

Each leader design also requires unique refinements in casting style to make it perform. In his book, Tactical Fly Fisher, Devin Olsen recommends learning to cast the standard or thicker leaders first. I agree with this, because I’ve too often seen anglers who are new to tight line principles struggle to gain any comfort with an extra thin leader.

So, while I agree that micro-thin leaders are something to work toward, I don’t see them as offering any advanced tactic that we should graduate into. There is no hierarchy. These are all just tools for drifting flies.

Next, let’s look at some onstream fishing challenges and think about how thinner leaders meet or miss the objectives.


This is the biggest bonus for fishing thinner leaders. They weigh less, they sag less, and they drag less. And if you’re used to watching your drift on a 20# butt section, with a slight bow to the leader, then seeing a straight, thin line all the way to the water’s surface is pretty stunning.

Less sag is most notable when fishing across seams. My preferred approach is an upstream method, where I cast up and slightly across. Then I lead or track the flies back toward my rod tip. I staunchly avoid casting across the river. But when I can’t wade into the perfect positions, something must be changed. And using a thinner leader is one of the options. With less sag in the system, nymphs hold their seam better, rather than being dragged across seams toward the rod tip.

Here’s one more thing about sag: For better or worse, the industry is trending toward fishing lighter and lighter flies. It’s difficult to drift a single #16 beadhead further than about twenty feet away on a standard 20# leader, because (essentially) the sag of the leader weighs more than the nymph. There are multiple ways to compensate for this. However, a 5# micro-thin leader excels at the task — if you can cast it.

Let’s get to that . . .

Photo by Bill Dell


While less sag is the biggest upside, less power is the biggest downside for thinner leaders. Regular Troutbitten readers understand my affinity for the tuck cast. In truth, I use the tuck not just to get deeper, but to place my tippet at preferred angles. And just as often, I use a tuck cast to put me slightly out of touch with the flies as they drop into the strike zone during the first few seconds of a drift.

Thinner leaders all but remove that ability to overpower the cast and set up a good tuck. So, casting with thinner leaders keeps the angler in touch right from the beginning. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s bad.

READ: Troutbitten | Tight Line Nymphing — Not All That Tight

The loss of power is significant. And yet, a good angler learns to compensate. Thinner leaders do not have the mass to push flies to a target the same way thicker leaders do. So with a thinner line, it’s the weight of the fly that is cast, much more than the leader.

READ: Troutbitten | Thicker Leaders Cast More Like Fly Line


Each leader requires its own nuances in the casting stroke, and these refinements come with time on the water. Thinner leaders simply do not cast like a fly line, because they don’t have the mass — the power — of a standard 20# version.

Thinner leaders function well with a contact casting stroke, where the weight of the flies is felt all the way through. And yet, with a #16 beadhead, that weight is hardly felt, if at all — no matter what rod is in hand.

This is the catch-22 of thinner leaders. I use them most for drifting lighter flies at longer distances on a tight line, but at some point there are diminishing returns. If I must employ a water haul to help launch the fly to the target, or if it requires unusual effort and adjustment to perform the cast with extra light flies, I feel there are better options. (Often, that means simply fishing closer or fishing heavier.)

Thinner leaders handle heavy flies too, of course. And drifting medium to heavy flies at distances of thirty feet or more is pure joy. Thinner leaders help extend the tight lining range.


When I do use medium to heavy flies (35-90 centigrams, roughly), the bottom-feel gained with a thinner leader is outstanding. Sensitivity is better with thinner lines, and the whole fishing world already knows this.

Throw a beadhead stonefly, a Craft Fur Jiggy or a drop shot rig with a pair of #1 split shot, and enjoy the feeling of painting the riverbed. It’s like nothing else.

On my best days, while fishing a micro-thin leader, I can often feel the difference between the fly touching a rock, and the trout eating the fly. That’s the only time I can ever say this. And it’s something you have to feel for yourself to understand.


Most anglers agree that thinner leaders are less accurate to cast. This was my first impression as well. But I believe that the casting of thinner leaders can be nearly as accurate as thicker ones, given enough time and practice.

Here’s the key — angles cannot be changed, mid-cast. Once the fly is on a trajectory, its course cannot be changed. To put it another way, aerial mends are not an option. And that’s the major difference. The backcast needs to be close to 180 degrees from the target. And without the ability to form crisp, tight loops, it’s much harder to work around the cover of overhanging limbs.

Also, without enough line speed, the fly will land nowhere near the chosen target. Thinner leaders are simply less forgiving.

READ: Troutbitten | Quick Tips — Put More Juice in the Cast

Photo by Josh Darling


Feed the fish. Be ready for anything at any time. These are Troutbitten mantras, and they run deep through my writings here. My daily approach on the water is based in versatility, and that’s reflected in my gear.

For this reason, the Standard 20# Mono Rig has been my go-to tool for decades. It’s a leader designed for many different tight line styles: euro nymphing, drop shotting, indicator styles, dry dropper, streamers of all sizes, and small dry flies.

READ: Troutbitten |Beyond Euro Nymphing

Extra thin leaders are not built for versatility. They do one or two things well, but they are a liability when forced into other styles.

I don’t mind that. Because I set up my rig to change leaders in about a minute, storing them on a leader wheel, and attaching leaders to a fly line loop with a clinch knot. It’s an interchangeable system.

In truth, I may go months without swapping out my standard 20# leader. And lately, I’ve spent more time with thinner leaders than ever before. But at any moment, I’m ready to make a quick change.

You Can Get With This, Or You Can Get With That . . .

Thin and micro-thin leaders lend a clear advantage for tight line nymphing with light flies (<30 cg) and at distances around twenty to thirty-five feet. They are less versatile, but more sensitive. They’re harder to cast accurately, but they drag less.

Thinner leaders simply extend the tight lining range. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

These leaders bring the tight lining game into its purest form. Drifted with skill, there’s virtually no drag in the system. And when my standard leader approach fails to produce, when I start questioning if I’m getting good looks to the trout, I like using a micro-thin leader to change things up. In a way, drifting with a thinner leader for a while helps remind me what a good drift should really look and feel like on my standard leader.

So here’s the question again: Does changing to a thinner leader catch more trout?

No. Usually not.

But using each of these tools teaches me things, and I become a better fisherman. Having a facility with each leader leads me to more success on the water, because I’m better at problem solving.

The nature of this subject is imprecise. I know there are many variables that I’ve ignored here: things like angler height, wind, tippet diameter, water depth and current speed. That leaves plenty to write about in future articles.

In a pair of articles that are really the keystones to the Standard 20# Mono Rig, I go in-depth on my favorite leader, revealing the logic behind its design and detailing its strengths and weaknesses.

READ: Troutbitten | Design and Function of the Troutbitten Standard Mono Rig
READ: Troutbitten | The Full Mono Rig System — All the variations, with formulas and adjustments

And soon, each of these leaders will be available in the Troutbitten Shop.

Fish hard, friends.

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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. Another excellent article. There’s much here to think about, but what I keep returning to is this:

    “So here’s the question again: Does changing to a thinner leader catch more trout?

    No. Usually not.”

    What I’m trying to understand is, if the above is true, then why have almost all the top competitive anglers gone to a micro-thin leader? After all, success in their sport is directly proportional to numbers of trout caught, so you would think that they would answer the question differently from you. Do you have a theory about this?

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for the kinds word.

      That’s a good question, and the answer is easy. It’s because we don’t have to follow FIPS competition rules. We can attach things to the leader, and we can use a leader as long as we like, built however we like.

      For me, at twenty-four feet, I can fish a single #16 with no consequential line sag. within that range, my standard leader allows for a pure presentation without drag, just like the micro-thin leader. And I still have all the other good stuff that the standard leader gives me.

      And when I fish with that #16 beadhead past twenty-four feet, I can easily add a small yarn indy, a foam pinch on, or a small Thingamabobber. I can also choose to simply add a #4 split shot five inches above the #16 nymph, therefore counteracting the sag, and drifting with precision again.

      In short, we have many more ways to approach things when we aren’t under the constraints of comp rules. And I’d argue that some of those ways are better.

      Lastly, competition fishing trends come in waves. This happens in all sports, of course. So, some years back, the focus was very much on French leaders. If you talk to some of the anglers who’ve been around for a long time and fished everything, ask them if comp anglers catch more trout than they used to. Has the average number of trout caught gone up significantly?

      As I argue in the article, there’s a place for each leader variation. I like the thin and micro-thin options. And I know why, when and how they work for me. If I was under comp rules, I very well might use them more, but who knows? Upstream tuck casting while floating the sighter also solves the problem of drifting that #16 beadhead at longer distances. That’s comp legal. And I do that a lot instead of changing over to a thinner leader — sometimes.

      I’ll address a lot more of this stuff in the coming months. But this article already came in at 3000 words. 🙂


    • Hey Dom That was awesome .. and explained well Thanks B Mac

  2. Really great article Dom. I have been fishing a micro thin leader for a couple of years and love it. Like you said everything has pros and cons to it.

    You addressed something that I couldn’t agree more with…the fact that it ISN’T an advanced technique. Like anything, it just takes a little practice. A pet peeve of mine is when I hear “pros” talk about casting it as if it is almost impossible. That’s not true at all.


    • Right on. It’s hard AT FIRST. But so is anything in fly fishing.

      Like I said, no hierarchy here.


  3. Hey Dominic, good conversations here. Here’s my wonderment: the thinner that leaders and tippets become, the more a more flexible, noodle type, rod is required to create the cast… A true cast. That’s why an 11’ three weight “euro nymph” rod casts micro-thin, microlight leaders/tippets much better than a 9’ five weight rod. When I say ‘better’ I mean consistency and controlled accuracy. Could we be heading for new rod tip designs to accommodate microthin tippets? Are there rod builders out there to answer this noodle-er tip question? RON

    • Hi Ron,

      Good topic. Respectfully, I disagree with your premise that we need “more flexible, noodle type” rods to have “consistency and controlled accuracy.”

      I cast thin and micro-thin leaders on my preferred 4 weight rods. I’ve used good 3 and 2 weight rods. They don’t make me more accurate. It’s just about knowing the tool in your hands.

      That said, more flexy rods can be more comfortable for casting thinner leaders, there’s no doubt, because you can feel the rod load more, so it feels more natural. However, once you get down to the #16 fly range, that feel is minimal, and it might not be what we expect.

      To answer your last question, companies are already doing this. Many fly rod companies offer two and three weight rods that are a good match for these tactics. Perhaps the best of these is the Hardy Ultralite LL. It’s offered in a #0/2 weight, designed specifically for the light leaders we’re talking about. The 4 weight in the series is my favorite rod — it’s in my hands every day because it’s versatile. I’ve also cast the 0/2 weight, and it’s pretty remarkable.

      Link is here:


  4. Dom,

    Love the in-depth analysis combined with seasoned, on-stream experience for this – and of all your articles!

    For the last two years, I’ve been experimenting with a 5# BRAID as my line – an ultra-micro rig. Power Pro or Cortland’s MasterBraid in 5# has the same diameter as 7X mono and, importantly, has no memory. I find this rig is super-sensitive, greatly enlarges the radius of presentation, and even fishes in the wind. Over time, I removed the sighter material as it was too stiff and insensitive, and replaced it with your backing knot with a 1/2” tag located at the tippet ring. The rig is so simple: 24’ of 5# braid to the tippet ring, no sighter (except the backing knot tag), and then a normal tippet. By using white Power Pro and a fluorescent orange backing knot, this rig is easy to see in on-stream conditions.

    I find eliminating the casting stroke altogether and using a simple helicopter motion with the wrist enables accurate casting. While a tuck cast is difficult to execute with this rig, I find adding extra distance to the cast with this rig accomplishes a similar result and maintains immediate control of the fly during the sink. This rig handles nymphs and streamers very well, but if a dry or dry dropper is needed, I’ll switch out to your thick mono-rig.

    Thanks again for all you do in moving our great sport forward.

    • Thank you, Karl.

      You’ve pushed to the edge of the envelope — probably the end of it.


      That’s about as thin as one could possibly go. Do you hold that braid in your line hand?


      • I do. Initially it took awhile to get used to the thinner line’s tactile feel, but I’m comfortable with it now. Also, in many cases after the cast, I don’t try and loop the line over my rod hand index finger. For me, by just going straight from the rod guide to my line hand I have less fumbling and/or bouncing and have immediate control when the fly(s) hit the water.

    • I fished with spiderwire for a while.Not as low diameter as you are using.The problem i found was.It continually wants to wrap round the rod tip.It’s especially bud when raining.

  5. Thank you for addressing this! You describe a shift between casting a #20 leader and lighter ones, a transition from line-loading (?) to fly loading. I’ve really enjoyed using the mono rig, and prefer it now in most circumstances, but I think I’m not getting the casting. For me, the difference is between fly-line casting and any mono rig. Even with a #20, the flies’ weight is what seems to propel the line forward. Maybe this is just apparent, because it happens even with a single 2.4mm tungsten bead, and doesn’t hold up when I go to a #15 (still haven’t figured that out). With the #20, it looks like a reverse loop — the fly diving forward, the leader trailing directly behind. I’ve become pretty accurate with it, but I have a feeling it’s not the form you’re talking about in the casting-vs-lobbing article.

    I like those super slo-mo clips of traditional fly-line casting you sometimes see , showing the loading of the rod, the loop in the line — some with a graphic overlay tracing the tip path, and a voice-over describing exactly what’s going on. These visual tools are illuminating, and it would be great to see something similar with a few selected mono/euro leaders of varying thicknesses. I don’t mean to say you should do this, but only that I’m having a hard time visualizing it. This is probably compounded by not having friends that fly fish, and not doing guided fishing. As always, I appreciate your diving into the bottom of the detail barrel, and sharing what you find there in such a clear manner.

    • Hi JP,

      “I appreciate your diving into the bottom of the detail barrel.”

      Ha! Yes, I guess I do that. I enjoy the details. We all know that it’s the little things that add up to big results. And there’s enough of the fly fishing 101 stuff out there, so I like to focus on the advanced stuff sometimes.

      You’ve read the casting v lobbing article. Be sure to understand the ten and two concept. Now stand somewhere open, with casting room in all directions. String up your long leader/mono rig. But take the fly OFF. I do this with clients all the time. Learn to cast the Mono Rig with no fly on it. You’ll see it’s actually rather easy. Doing this will teach you what speed and crisp stops are necessary to get the leader to work for you like a fly line. If you don’t start this way, you’ll probably always rely on fly weight. There is a distinct advantage to casting, though. So I suggest learning it this way. Work on false casting first, back and forth, keep the loop up there. Do this at 20 feet and then 30 feet. It will cast.


  6. Sometimes this stuff is so technical it’s like we’re trying to feel the nuances in the weight of a pair of feathers. My mono #20 mono rig covers the most conditions for me. Those fine leaders might match a new condition, but it misses several more. I guess it’s a tradeoff I don’t choose to make. JMO

    • Right on, Bruce.

      My friend, Beau, says that he fishes the rig that’s in his hand. I like that.

      In the last year, while preparing to write this article series, I’ve tested and fiddled with stuff so much, that I’ve kinda thrown myself off my game. I often need to literally talk myself back into getting consistent drifts. I’m looking forward to fiddling a little less, now — just a little. Like you, I know what I enjoy, and I know what works for me.


  7. Hey Dom. Great article! As all of yours are! I have found a way to incorporate pre made euro leaders with a mono butt section as my standard leader. I know it’s cool to make up your own full length leader and I have done so to create the micro ones. But, by combining Maxima 20 lb. with a RIO 14 ft. Euro leader, I am reducing my knot points as the leader has taper and sighter built in ending in a tippet ring. From there, I use a 4 ft section of Seagur flouro 4x right to my point fly with a second fly about 18 inches above tied in with surgeons knot. I can change either fly easily or change to a pre tied tippet with other flys and set ups. I usually carry some for dry fly and dry dropper rigs on a leader spool. I have found great success with this approach on my home rivers in the Catskills. And when the evening comes, I still break out the old trusty 5wt. and make sure I can still cast nice loops….lol! Thanks for all the great insight in your articles.

    • That’s cool. I love hearing the ways others have thought things through and found what works for them.

  8. Curious if you have experimented with heavier but sections than 20 pound? I have found that I cannot cast dries as far with the thinner leaders and was planning to try 25 or 30 pound to see if it could be useful in situations where I needed to get more distance. Thanks

    • I have been using micro leaders for a few years now.I don’t like ultra thin though.For me 8lb gold stren leader is sweet.I often jump to a 12lb maxima butt leader spring/summer.More versatile as I fish tightline dry dropper often.I carry a spare reel with the troutbitten 20lb butt dry fly mono rig.Love this for dry fly.Another great article.Cheers

    • I think there’s a point where the distance becomes far enough that it simply can’t be reached with any mono-rig with a dry fly, no matter how thick the butt section. Obviously there are some variables here like how air-resistant the dry fly is and whether there is a weighted dropper that can help pull the dry fly along to the target….but If I can’t reach it with 20lb then I usually crawl closer or just switch back to normal fly line.

  9. lots of great concepts and info in this article ..still comes down to TIME ON THE WATER…20# maxima chameleon , a pair of small green perdies and a freestone stream across the street > =,=,)>

  10. I am a big fan of Mono Rig and this site. Unfortunately, our equipment was limited from 1 January to 15 June. It is possible to use a fly line + the length of the rig max. 2x the length of the rod. Sad. Shit with such restrictions.

    • Hi there.

      Yes. This is one of the times I would recommend a euro fly line.

      It’s really not all that limiting, if all you are doing is nymphing. With a leader that is twice the rod you have, let’s say, a twenty foot leader. So you can fish thirty feet away and still have all the fly line in the guides. Make sense?

      I almost never fish more than thirty feet away. No reason to, really. And good fishing happens much closer than that.

      Here’s more discussion:


  11. Dom.. this article certainly attracted a lot of comments. Not much I can add except how I’m finding that the more of your work I read, the more I learn. I started my experiments with the mono rig with 30# Lazer line, because I had some. It was a step from using a Euro nymphing line. I then went to your 20# Chameleon formula… gee that wasn’t too hard. After reading this article, I was glad to see you added formulas for 10# and 5# rigs. Just to add another version to all the other comments; I was having trouble seeing my fly line and sighter with the Chameleon rig. I fished with a buddy who fishes a micro thin rig and adds an extra long section of sighter to his rig. That really rang a bell with me. I made a rig using .011 diameter opaque white Cortland indicator mono (10.5#), added about 4 feet of .011 diameter Ox three color sighter and a tippet ring. Not only did I find casting the 10# rig was much easier than I expected, the additional sighter enabled me to pick up the line quicker in different lighting conditions, and still be able to utilize the sighter as expected. Your suggestion to practice with the different weight lines to figure out which works best for oneself was as usual right on the money.

    On a different note. There’s a group of soft hackle junkies out there known as the International Brotherhood of the Flymph. One of its members is John Shaner who wrote the forward for Dr. Paul Gaskells’s new book that you mentioned. During a recent conversation with Mr. Shaner, I asked if he was familiar with your work. He gave you a glowing recommendation. He said after having a discussion with you, that he believed you definitely had done your homework, were someone that we were going to be hearing much more from in the years ahead. I would say I heartily agree. As one of those soft hackle junkies… I don’t alway use a mono rig, but when I’m nymphing I will from now on thanks to your articles.

    • Hi there. Good stuff.

      I respect the hell out of John Shaner, too.

      Regarding using bi-color sighter material for long stretches of the leader: I avoid this. If it works for you, then hey, you found your thing, and stick with it.

      But the bi-color is very, very soft and supple. Far too much so for me to make leaders from it. I strongly prefer stiffer materials as they turn over better. So they allow me to cast thin leaders more like fly line. I like that. If you want to see the whole leader, you could any number of colored monofilaments. However, it would be EXCELLENT if just one fly fishing company would produce something like Chameleon with just a bit of color to it. Personally, I don’t care if I see my butt section, but I know a lot of anglers who do.

      Cheers. Have fun in your exploration.


  12. Dom, any reason not to use a tippet ring on the micro setups? I’ve never considered this.

    • Hi Brian,

      Good question. I use tippet rings in leaders where I plan to change out sections. That’s why I build them into leaders. With these thin leaders, I do not swap out sections or try to do anything more with that leader than pure tight line nymphing. So I don’t build tippet rings into them. However, the ones that make it to the Troutbitten Shop will have a ring at the end of the sighter.


  13. Dom, I’ve got the gear but yet to try tight line nymphing. I just read your piece on Standard Leaders and had a couple questions, when you get a chance, about knots you favor for the leader to leader connections:
    1. Do you use the same knot for all? Surgeon’s?
    2. I read about Davy knot, seems like a good one, suitable for leader to leader, and tippet to tippet besides tying on flies?
    3. Last – the Tag that’s tied on for upper nymph, is that another piece of 4x Fluoro tied on just above where the 36′ piece is tied to the 20′ 5x? I guess a simple line drawing would be helpful or a few words of guidance.
    Do you favor a tag vs tying the final tippet on to eye of top nymph? Ive had bottom tippet pull off the bend of a true barbless hook so will try tying on above top fly eye.

    Thanks! – looking forward to trying this all out when I can get out to a NEast stream. I am a subscriber as well.


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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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