I’ve now fished a Mono Rig for a couple of decades and written about it for over six years. In that time, we’ve all watched the fly fishing industry fully embrace tight line tactics, with the darling of the lot labeled as euro nymphing. All of this is wonderful, because anglers in contact are anglers in control. These systems are fun and effective under the water, because we know where the flies are, and we choose where they go next. That’s good stuff.
With the flourishing acceptance of contact rigs, there’s a welcome, ever growing collection of knowledge and information about these leader styles and how they are used. When I wrote the first Mono Rig article on Troutbitten many years ago, a Google search showed literally no other usage of the term for fly fishing. Now the same search returns thousands of results, and there’s a wide variety of leaders and systems that use the term, Mono Rig. But while experimentation and progress is a fantastic thing, I now receive more confused questions about my own leaders than ever before.
This article identifies exactly the purpose and usage of what I call the Troutbitten Standard Mono Rig. Here the design and function of my favorite leader is identified — and it may not be what you think. Even long time Troutbitten readers will likely find surprises in the text below.
** Note ** There are many supporting pieces dropped within this article. (All links appear in orange.) Remember, Troutbitten reads more like a book than a blog. And this article is not intended to stand alone. Reading the supporting material will answer a lot of questions. It will flesh out the tactics and color in the grey areas.
The Troutbitten Standard Mono Rig is what I refer to most often throughout this site as just, “the Mono Rig.” However, because I do fish and write about thinner Mono Rigs with different designs on occasion, I now call this leader the Standard. It is built for versatility without compromising presentation. It’s a hybrid system with an answer for everything, ready for fishing nymphs on both a tight line and under an indy. It fishes streamers large and small, with every presentation style. It’s ready for dry dropper, wet flies, and it even casts single dry flies. All of these styles benefit greatly with a tight line advantage. Much more on all of that is under the “Function” heading below.
Here’s the basic formula, shown for a pair of nymphs:
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 (Backing Barrel with tag, attached here)
— 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
— Nymph —
What follows are the key points in the structure of my favorite leader. There’s a reason for every element in the formula.
All Mono Rigs are designed to use only the leader and no fly line out of the rod guides. The Troutbitten Standard Mono Rig is long enough that the fly line does not leave the reel on all but the longest casts.
It is also designed to keep knots out of the guides. This is one reason the taper is short and the butt section is long — for shooting line cleanly while casting streamers or indy rigs at distance.
The butt section is thick enough and powerful enough to perform the functions of a fly line, if an angler casts it that way. (The leader can be cast with fly line style loops, even with no fly attached.) But it’s also thin enough that sag is minimized when hanging off the rod tip.
The transition piece of 10 lb Chameleon is kept short to minimize knots in the guides. But it’s there to extend the range of sagless presentations, especially important when tight lining with lighter flies.
The sighter is built to preserve power in the rig. Amnesia and Gold Stren are stiffer than bi-color sighter material. And while the stiffer material is not quite as visually sensitive, keeping power in the leader is especially important for suspension tactics. Bi-color material is often added to the sighter to extend the sagless range of tight line and euro nymphing.
There is enough power in the butt section, transition and sighter to fully complete a turnover cast with very light or very heavy flies. This allows not only for a variable tuck cast but also for the ultimate placement and alignment of tippet, nymphs, streamers, dry dropper or indy.
Tippet Rings at each end of the sighter offer quick changes of tippet sections or sighter-and-tippet sections, using rigging foams for storage.
The Mono Rig is easily swapped out for a leader change. It stores easily when using a leader wheel.
The Backing Barrel, mounted on the Gold Stren section, dramatically improves visibility of the sighter, and it adds a third dimension to the sighter’s sensitivity.
The tippet section is variable in length and diameter, depending on the flies and tactics needed. Longer lengths are used to get deeper, and thinner diameters are used with the smallest of flies.
The Standard Mono Rig is a hybrid fly fishing system. It is designed for casting flies and not lobbing them, meaning the leader has enough mass to cast like a fly line and push flies to a target, yet it’s light enough to also be pulled to a target by heavier flies.
The Standard Mono Rig is a deadly effective contact/tight line method for fishing every type of fly:
— Nymphs: Both tight line and indicator styles
— Streamers: Large and small, presented at any depth, angle and speed
— Dry Flies: Using dry dropper tactics or directly casting small dry flies
— Wet flies: Swung or drifted
The Standard leader is extremely versatile without sacrificing efficiency or effectiveness. While it is very much a do-everything leader, this is achieved without compromise. There’s a best-practice solution for everything we do on the water, for all the tactics listed above. (More on that below.)
Specifically . . .
“Light, heavy, pretty far and kinda close” aren’t really good enough descriptions for such a technical topic. And I’ve made an effort, especially over the last couple of years, to nail down these details.
So here are the specifics regarding what this leader can do. These distances and weights are quoted using a four weight fly rod of ten feet.
Tight Line and Euro Nymphing
Drag free drifts are achieved without any relevant influence of line sag at 30 feet with 75 cg, 25 feet with 30 cg, and 22 feet with 10 cg. The leader performs best with an upstream, tuck cast style, while casting across only as far over as the rod tip can reach to lead the flies down one seam.
Suspension and Indicator Rigs
By adding a suspension device to the upper part of the tippet, tight line principles are extended to an indicator system. The angler is in touch with the indy, and the indy is in touch with the flies underneath. The indy acts as a hinge point and a lead point. By remaining tight to the indy (with no leader, or with limited leader on the water) the speed of the indy is dictated more by the flies than by the speed of the top current. However, the path of the flies is dictated by the indicator.
In this way, the range of a tight line system is greatly expanded. Light or heavy flies can be fished beyond 30 feet. The tight line to the indy variation helps to balance and even out the drift, often presenting nymphs more naturally than a pure tight line look. It also allows the angler to extend a drag free drift downstream without swinging the nymphs out, and it offers an effective way to beat the wind.
Taking tight line principles over to the streamer game changes what is possible with the long flies. An angler may dictate the depth, angle and speed of the flies at any moment. Small, large, light and heavy streamers are easily fished at 30-40 feet and further, with only minor adaptations to the casting stroke.
Dries are presented in two ways. Tight line dry dropper style allows for precise landing and drifting with no drag, since all the line and leader is held off the water. Depending on fly choices, tight line dry dropper range extends to 30 feet. Dry flies can also be presented as a single dry at the end of the line. Flies must be fairly small and streamlined, and comfortable casting range is limited to 25 feet.
Casting dries without a traditional fly line is easy if the casting stroke is solid. And the benefit of drifting without the drag of fly line on the water’s surface is something to see.
There’s a Solution for Everything
Need to fish light flies at long distances? The Standard Mono Rig has a sighter thick enough to float about 15 cg of weight. When floating the sighter this way, standard casting form is preserved, without the necessity of a water load, because the leader is built for power. So a #16 beadhead nymph can be tucked in, even at 30 feet. Alternatively, floating the sighter for the first five to ten feet of the drift with weights over 20 cg is a great strategy at distance. Again, a tuck cast provides the necessary presentation and ability to keep everything in one seam.
Can’t reach the target seam? Attach an indy below the sighter, and use tight-line-to-the-indicator tactic, allowing the indy to lead the flies down one seam on a natural drift, rather than the rod tip.
Too windy to tight line? Use a hard indy, like a Thingamabobber, to punch through the wind and carry the rig to the target, again with tight line principles preserved.
Need to throw a pair of #18’s in pocket water? Extend the sighter with a piece of 1X bi-color, and go with all 6X and a longer tippet. This lengthens the sagless reach of the Standard Mono Rig.
Want to show the trout a bigger meal? The Standard rig is built to push streamers under limbs and into tight targets, with good, crisp casting loops. It’s a good match for any size of streamer.
A Lot More
The Troutbitten Standard Mono Rig is built for versatility without sacrificing presentation. It’s a full system of fly fishing and not a leader built for a set of specialized techniques. It is not competition legal, because the leader is longer than two times the length of the rod. It’s also a leader and system designed for attaching the additional weight of split shot on occasion and adding an indicator whenever conditions dictate.
The Standard Mono Rig is an extremely useful, adaptable tool. And it’s what I have in my rod guides for most of my time on the water. There’s absolutely a place for the specialized tools of thin and micro thin leaders. And I use a Harvey Dry leader quite a bit as well. I carry all of them as part of my overall approach on the water.
There is so much more here on Troutbitten about the Mono Rig. Follow all the orange links above (both in-text and in the READ links). I also recommend digging into the following article for more specifics on the adjustments mentioned here. As a pair, these two articles are really the keystone to the Mono Rig.
And as always, all of the Mono Rig articles can be found here:
Lastly, after years of sheepishly answering that I don’t sell leaders on the site, I’m happy to announce that Troutbitten Leaders launch this Wednesday. Offered will be the Standard, Thin and Micro-Thin versions of Mono Rigs, as well as my favorite George Harvey Dry Fly leaders.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day
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