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All About the Mono Rig, with Dom Swentosky

Description: This week, my guest is Dom Swentosky of the Troutbitten blog, podcast, and guide service. If you have not seen his stuff, it’s definitely one of the most informative and thoughtful fly-fishing blogs out there. Dom devotes a lot of his blog to the mono rig, which is sorta like Euro-nymphing in that it uses a long leader and no fly line, but it’s more of a method for everyday anglers than pure Euro-nymphing, which is based on competitive rules that prohibit things like split shot. Dom goes through why it is such an effective method, how he builds his leaders, and how he presents his flies this way. It’s just one more thing to try if you’re interested in new ways of using a fly rod.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi and welcome to "The Orvis Fly-Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer, and this week, we're going to be talking about the mono rig. My guest is Dom Swentosky, who is a big proponent of the mono rig and he talks a lot about it on his blog, Troutbitten, which is a really, really great blog, lots of fantastically useful information on that blog. And, you know, it's not's similar to Euro nymphing but it's not quite Euro nymphing in that it's designed not for competition fishing but for just you and me everyday anglers. And so, it's a little bit different than Euro nymphing.
Similar tackle can be used, similar leaders, but it's just a bit different. And Dom swears by it, and I've been playing around with it lately. And, you know, I used it many, many years ago when Joe Humphries first came up with the concept of fishing nymphs with monofilament, long before we ever talked about euro nymphing. But Dom has really kind of refined this technique into something that's quite useful, I think, particularly on small to medium-sized streams, but can be used anywhere. Dom is a very thoughtful angler and very clever, and I think you'll enjoy the podcast.
But first, before we do that, we're gonna do the Fly Box. The Fly box is where you ask questions or you offer tips, and I either thank you for your tip or I try to answer your questions. And if you have a question, you can send it to me at You can either just send an email and put your question in your email, or you can attach a voice file if you want. So, without further ado, let's do the Fly Box. And the first question is an email from Mario from Bavaria in Germany. "I've got a specific question for knots on Euro nymphing rigs. If you want to fish a kind of drop shot mount with a split shot attached on the end of the tippet and one nymph above at around about 15 to 20 centimeters, how do you tie on a little side arm on the tippet to tie on the nymph? Or do you just tie the nymph on normally, for example, with a standard clinch knot, and just leave the end of the tippet long enough to put on some split shot? What do you think would work best?"
So, Mario, first of all, I don't advise you just tying the split shot on the tag end of your clinch knot because clinch knots aren't meant to have the tag end pulled on. And I think that you might end up weakening that knot. And you can't just tie really shouldn't tie the drop shot in line with the nymph if you're only fishing one nymph, because the nymph isn't going to have any movement, it's going to be really anchored by that split shot and it's not going to behave naturally in the current. So, really, the best way to do it is to tie either a blood knot or a surgeon's knot in the tippet above the split shot and tie your fly onto that piece that stands off to the side of the main part of the leader. That way, it's going to give you a little bit more of a natural drift with your nymphs. So, you really have to do that and I understand you can only fish one nymph over there. So, even though you're only fishing one nymph in your rivers, you should tie a separate tag or separate dropper onto the side of the tippet. So, hope that helps.
Paul: Hey, Tom, this is Paul Randall in Houston, Texas and I'm calling him with a tip to add to your two recent podcasts regarding fishing from watercraft. We all know that fly line will snag on any possible obstruction that it can find. And so, something that has been super helpful for me, I heard this somewhere and it's been great. I have a large microfiber towel, I think mine is 72 by 40 inches. And I just flopped that out over everything in front of me when I stand in my kayak fish and it covers, you know, a rod holder, water bottle, everything that's in front of me that could possibly snag my fly line. I use this in lieu of a stripping basket which I've never used but from my understanding, that can be cumbersome if you're standing and then sitting and standing and sitting in a kayak, that can be hard.
I've also used the same towel in my canoe, which incidentally, you didn't mention when you were talking to the guy from Old Town, your canoe pontoon setup. I have purchased the same one that you mentioned in previous podcasts. I've used it one time now and I absolutely loved it. I took my 10-year-old out in my canoe and we were both able to stand and it was super stable, and so highly recommend that product as well from...I think it's Smith Creek. Anyhow, back to this towel. I've also used it on a friend's pulling skiff when he's gone out for redfish just to smooth out all the little hitches for the trolling motor and things like that, that might grab my fly line. And yeah, I can't recommend it more highly. Thanks, Tom, for the podcast and all that you do, grateful for you and Orvis and for your great products, and for all that you do. Peace to you.
Tom: So, Paul, that's a great tip. I know people that use pieces of netting and towels and things like that but a microfiber towel is probably a really good thing to lay over things like trolling motors and paddles and oars and all the gear that you might have in a watercraft. So, great idea. And yeah, stripping baskets can be cumbersome in a small watercraft, so I think that's a really good idea. Thank you for that suggestion. And by the way, the pontoons that Paul and I are talking about are from Spring Creek Manufacturing. You can find them online somewhere. I use them and I think they're terrific in a canoe. I don't know the people at Spring Creek Manufacturing, I have no association with them. I paid full price for the pontoons. So, I just think they really work well.
Here's an email from Bill from Pennsylvania. "Wondering your opinion on traditional Catskill-style dry flies. It seems with all the modern styles of hackle-less flies/emergers, the Catskill flies have less of a following but at one time they had to catch fish, I've seen pictures. Do you think with few people fishing these flies, therefore, less and less fish seeing these flies, they might actually start to work again, or are our modern fish much too sophisticated?" So, Bill, first of all, they do still work and I fish them occasionally. I honestly don't fish a Catskill-style dry fly as much as I used to. I don't think in most cases they're as effective because I think most of the modern flies that we use look more like an emerger because they sit down in the film, flies tied without a lot of hackle, and I think that's an advantage in most cases.
However, I've always had a love affair with Catskill-style dry flies. It's what I first started tying commercially when I tied commercially when I was a teenager and in college. And I love tying those flies, I think they're gorgeous. But they're kind of gorgeous in the way that a full-dress Atlantic salmon fly as gorgeous, there's probably more effective things most of the time, but they're still part of our tradition and they're beautiful. And I think that the times when they might work as well or maybe a little bit better than the, you know, traditional thorax-style or sparkle dun and comparadun-type imitations, emerger-type imitations, and that's when adult mayflies are actually twitching and fluttering on the water and the fish are actually taking those adults that are skittering across the water. Often, windy days or really broken water. So, there is a time to use them. Do I use them much anymore? No. But they're beautiful to tie and I urge you to try some out.
Here's an email from Kevin. "In your most recent podcast, a fellow asked about the stomach contents of brown versus rainbow trout. Your answer was something like trouts are trouts and they will eat what they will or have learned to eat." Pardon my paraphrased interpretation, but one consideration might have been timing. It's early spring and aren't the rainbow trout spawning while the brown trout have already spawned in the fall? Would that have anything to do with the trout's dietary habit? I imagine the rainbow trout loading up, going dormant in terms of feeding while they spawn, and then having to put on the feed bag afterwards. Thoughts?"
Well, Kevin, I have absolutely no idea. Makes sense to me, but I don't know, I think you could go to another river and find exactly the opposite thing or you could find that both the browns and the rainbows are eating exactly the same thing. I think it might vary day to day and river to river and what stretch of river the fish are on. So, I don't think we can reasonably make that kind of prediction or really understand why these things happen. And that's probably why we all love trout fishing because it's so unpredictable.
Mark: Hi, Tom, a question and a comment. Comment first. I for one don't feel you need to edit the thank yous. All of us appreciate you and the many sages in this sport that have helped us all. I believe the listener was simply looking for a way to be more efficient. We likely won't get another question into the Fly Box by editing, though, so why do it? So, here I say it, thanks for all you do for all of us. Now the question, when do you switch? I know a fluorocarbon leader is preferable for wet fly fishing. And I know a sink tip line is better for a streamer and I need mono and floating line for dries. But I often use all three, sometimes in quick succession on the same day on one of the rivers here in West Virginia or Western Maryland. Yeah, I could be better matched to what I am fishing, or I could set it and forget it and count on heavier flies or split shot to sink my wet flies or streamers. I can't ask my sink tip to flow to dry, though. When do you take the time and effort to switch? Again, happy to say thanks. Mark.
Tom: So, Mark, I think I'm still going to leave most of the compliments out only because although I love reading them to myself, I get tired reading them on the air and they get a little bit repetitive. So, unless somebody has a really clever compliment, I'll probably leave them out. And you're right, you're not going to get that many more Fly Box entries every week. It really is based on how many good questions I get in the mailbox each week. So, anyway, regarding your question and I think your question is when do I fish from, say, a floating to a sink tip line? Rarely. I do 95, at least 95% of my trout fishing with a floating line.
And even when fishing streamers, if I can use a longer leader and a heavily weighted streamer to get down, I will because it allows me to do a twitch and pause more than...easier than I can with a sinking line where you really have to...most of the time, you have to keep stripping because if you stop stripping, the sinking line might hang up on the bottom. So, it's rare that I switch. And I almost never use a sinking tip anymore, I'll either use a sinking poly leader on the end of my floating line, or I'll go to a depth chart line.
And the only time I will use a sinking line in a trout stream is when I'm stripping streamers and the water is heavy and fast, and I feel that I need to get down in the water column a little more and I just can't do it with floating line and heavily weighted fly and I want to keep that fly swimming lower in the water column. That's the way I use sinking lines. Now, if you're fishing a lake, it's an entirely different story. You're gonna probably want, you know, at least three, maybe four or five different lines if you're going to probe all the depths in a lake. But in a stream, I don't use sinking lines that much. Here is another email from Lance.
"Hi, Tom. longtime listener, first-time caller. I wanted to start off by saying I was a little disappointed when I listen to your podcast with Ryan Lilly that you two did. You didn't really touch on fly fishing from a canoe especially since Old Town basically wrote the book on canoes, so I was hoping you might be able to elaborate a little on your canoe setup and if you had any advice for someone who has done a lot of spin fishing from a canoe but not much fly fishing. My wife and I bought an Old Town canoe and I don't see the need for me to buy a kayak when I have a perfectly good canoe sitting in my backyard. Just for context, I live in the Nashville area. So, my main target species would be smallmouth and largemouth bass with hopefully some freshwater stripers as well. Also, should I get a trolling motor when I go out in the canoe by myself? Thanks for all the help you've given me through these podcasts and hope to hear from you."
Well, Lance, yeah, I'm gonna...I've reached out to a canoe expert that I know does a lot of canoe fishing because there wasn't a lot of talk in that podcast about kayaks and I apologize for that. A lot of the things that he talked about kayak fishing really apply to canoe fishing. You know, the stabilizers that I just recently mentioned, I think, are key, but only because I love sight fishing and I can't sight fish when I'm sitting down. So, that's one thing. I don't know if I have any other especially clever things to tell you about fishing from a canoe until I get that canoe expert on here. I do use a pole in my canoe, which I really love, a push pole.
You know, it doesn't have to be a real fancy, expensive push pole, but just something, some long pole that you can use in shallow water. I really enjoy when I'm fishing really shallow water with another angler to have one of us in the stern polling. I think that's a really great, stealthy way to move through the shallows. Now, you can't do that in deep water but if you're in, you know, shallower water, it's a great way to move through the shallower water. So, I'd urge you to get a pole.
Regarding trolling motors. I've never put a trolling motor on my canoe but, you know, if you're fishing a big lake and you need to get from spot to spot and maybe it's a little bit too much for you to paddle or you might end up with a wind picking up where you just don't want to paddle all the way back to where you're going or if you want to troll an electric motor, a trolling motor might be a good idea. But that's going to be up to you, it depends on where you fish and how far are you going to go. If you're not going very far, then paddling is fine. So, I hope that helped and I do promise you that we'll get a canoe expert in here soon.
Here's an email from Sullivan. "I'm 14 and live in Kingston, Ontario, and have a local tributary. I spent about 15 hours on the river trying nymphs and streamers, all proven patterns with no success. This is surprising to me because the water stays cold all year, nice gravel bottom, variety in water speeds, nice deep runs and pools, and it's about 15 feet wide. I was wondering if you think there are no trout in this tributary or if it's because I'm new and I've only fly fish for a little more than a year. There's nothing online about this creek. Sorry for the long email and thanks as always for all you and Orvis do for this sport." Well, Sullivan, that's an interesting question and I think it'll be a fun exploration.
There's a couple of things that you can do to figure out if there's trout in there. Since there's no anybody else fishes it and there's nothing online, if you do see anyone else fishing it, ask them, you know, ask them what they're fishing for and see if they've caught anything. Just because you haven't caught anything, doesn't mean there's nothing there because, you know, for instance, I went out into the stream in my backyard yesterday and fished through a stretch of water fairly thoroughly and I thought carefully and well, and I never saw a fish or moved to fish or had a strike. So, you know, I would have thought there were no trout in there. So, you know, just fishing a couple of times isn't going to give you a really good idea.
One of the things you should do is to go to that river right before dark in, say, late May, early June. If there are any trout at all in there, chances are they'll be rising to some insects and you'll see they rise. Of course, they could be chubs or smallmouth bass or something else but, you know, if there are trout around, they're probably going to be rising right before dark at that time of year. Another thing you can may not like this, some people may not like this. Another thing you could do is worm fish at first. You know, it's tough to have confidence in a stream if you're not sure if there are any trout in there.
And, you know, there's nothing better...particularly early in the season when the water is cold and the fish are kind of deep, there is no better way to find out if there's trout in there than to worm fish it. So, you know, just go back to the old days and get yourself some earthworms and, you know, debarb your worm hook so that you can release the fish easily, take a pair of forceps, and go and worm fish it and see if you find any trout. If there's trout there, at least you know you got targets and you will eventually catch them with some research. And the research is the most fun part of it. So, good luck.
Here's an email from Tim from northern Colorado. "I've struggled with how to find tiny leaks in the legs or feet of my waders. My strategy had been to trap air in the leg by twisting the top shot and then dunking it in a deep sink or bathtub and looking for the bubbles. The trouble is that the air escapes through the top faster than you can find the bubble trail. My solution this last time was to turn the hose around in my shop vac, most models have this option, so that it was blowing air, stuff the hose into the upper leg of my wader, tape the wader shut around the hose, and turn on the vac and blower. It worked really well, it was super easy to spot the trail of bubbles coming out of the feet at that point.
Being new to Colorado, shelf ice is a new experience for me and my question revolves around how trout interact with the overhanging shelf. I found myself fishing in a few different scenarios where there was shelf ice that was acting a lot like an undercut bank, which brings a question to my mind, how do trout interact with shelf ice? Do they treat it like an undercut bank and sit beneath it? When given the opportunity, should I approach it like I would a cut bank and target that zone, or do they avoid it? Any insight would be appreciated."
So, Tim, first of all, your suggestion for finding leaks in waders is a really good one. That's the method I use but I will give you a tip that will eliminate the need to dunk the waders in your bathtub or a deep sink or whatever. If you take some dish soap and make a weak dish soap solution in some water, and then dip your waders in that when you do the same thing with your shop vac, the air that blows out of there will blow bubbles. And wherever there's a leak, you'll see a stream of bubbles coming out. So, you may want to try that as well. I learned that once watching a guy look for gas leaks in a gas tank.
Regarding the shelf ice, God, I really don't know. I would suspect that in some places, yes, trout do use shelf ice for protection like they would an undercut back. However, that's an unstable structure. You know, it's going to be changing and moving around and there's going to be chunks of ice falling off there. And so, it's going to move around and there's going to be a lot of commotion there. So, I would just suspect that it's going to be as good as a permanent undercut bank or a log or a rock or something like that as far as protection is concerned. No reason you might not find trout along the edge of that shelf but, you know, I think it's gonna vary from river to river and from day to day.
Alex: Hi, this is Alex from Charlottesville. Heard a question proposed a few weeks ago about tying flies onto a tippet. It was a gentleman that had been a mechanic and has trouble tying on smaller flies. So, I have a quick suggestion. If you use hemostats or nymph clamps and clamp the end of your pliers to the bend of the hook, then you can hold the fly by holding the pliers versus having to use your fingertips to hold the fly to thread the pivot. I really like the Orvis Flow Hemos, they're great. The tip of the pliers, they're actually pointed versus a rounded point, so you can hold smaller flies. They have scissors involved inside the plier dog, you can trim your tag ends without bringing out nippers and have a carabiner of them to my waders.
That's a quick tip. I learned this a few years ago from Elijah and a few guys at Smooth Angler. But yeah, it's definitely a quick tip. You can tie everything down to like a size 22 or 24 like that. You just pick it up out of your fly box, put the hemostat to the bend of the hook, and now you're holding a small fly with your pliers and you have a little bit more control to thread the tippet. I hope that helps somebody. Bye.
Tom: Well, Alex, thank you, that's a great tip and it makes total sense that you have a lot more control holding on to a pair of forceps to a little tiny fly than you do just holding the fly in your fingertips, especially if you're fingers are kind of big and clumsy. So, thank you very much for that tip. That's a great one and appreciate you calling to share that tip with us. Hope it helps some people. Here's an email from...and I forgot to write the name now but you'll know who you are. "Hi, Tom. Today, I listen to the podcast with Mike from NRS about the four types of inflatables for fly fishermen. I finally may be able to contribute. I was disappointed that he completely omitted the fifth type of inflatable. It's the only craft that allows a fly fisherman to focus on fishing rather than boat management.
I have owned rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and inflatable rafts, and was disappointed with the amount of fiddling with the boat that they all required. I want to fish, not fiddle with boat control in the lightest of breezes. The fifth and unspoken, very humble inflatable is the float tube. Twenty years ago, I got rid of my other fishing craft except my float tube. Granted, I'm a stillwater fisherman but will take it in slow-moving rivers on occasion. I easily can spend four to seven hours out on a lake fishing, not fiddling with oars and wind. I can troll to the next hot weed bed that I want to fish so I have my fly in the water most of the time.
Sight fishing isn't important to me in stillwater. Casting isn't difficult, playing a fish up close and personal is a blast. I fish for brook trout, splake, and pike almost exclusively. I can tell you it is heart-stopping to retrieve a fly from the depths up between your legs and have a big pike show up out of nowhere to grab it before it gets away. Last year, my fishing partner landed a 45-inch pike from his float tube. It was thrilling to watch the action. I have very high-quality tubes and fins, so it's very comfortable even in October in northern Ontario.
I love the fact that I am controlling my movement with my legs, paddling and adjusting, all the while fishing with my arms. I have been in some pretty big water and whitecaps without feeling in jeopardy. In fact, the most dangerous thing about flow tubing is a big lunch, warm sun, and gentle waves. It could put you to sleep if you let it. They're not the fastest or sexiest thing around. But if you paddle four to seven miles in a day, you've gotten a lot of exercise. And it really only takes 10 minutes or so to paddle a half mile. The lowly float tube deserves more respect, in my opinion."
Well, thank you, and that is a good suggestion. We didn't mention flow tubes and I should find a float tube expert to get on the podcast. I don't know of anyone personally that fishes flow tubes a lot that I know of but I'll have to look around and find someone that I trust that does a lot of float tube fishing. But you're absolutely right, float tubes are great, you just throw them in and go. Your arms are free. They do require a lot more effort to get from one spot to the other and you are low in the water. And, you know, being someone who loves sight fishing, I don't fish and flow tube that much because you're so low in the water. But on the other hand, being low in the water is a really neat experience as you stated so well. So, yeah, it's something that we should have mentioned but I don't think either one of us have as much experience in float tube fishing as we'd like. So, thank you for making that comment and I'll try to get a float tube expert on the podcast.
Mike: Hi, Tom. Mike from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have a saltwater fly-tying question for you. So, something I've never come across before because I'm just getting into the saltwater fly tying is mono thread. So, I went out on the Orvis website, I took a look, and it comes in six-aught and the letter G. Just when I thought figuring out the aught versus denier thing was confusing enough. So, a couple of questions. One, is there specific applications for this mono thread, for example, tying a Clouser versus other types of saltwater applications? And is there any application for it in freshwater tying? And honestly, the other question would be what exactly is the letter G when it comes to size? I'm a little confused by that. So, any info you could give me would be great. I'm brand new at the saltwater tying, so trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks, Tom.
Tom: So, Mike, yeah, that's kind of dumb, nobody should be expected to know what G is. I don't know what G is. You know, it's an old thread designation from who knows where. I'm sure somebody's gonna write in and tell me where that came from. But G is a much heavier thread, it's usually...G thread and, you know, a standard thread, it's usually like rod winding thread, so it's a lot bigger diameter. So, the 6/0 is going to be really fine and the G is going to be quite heavy. And the reason why I use mono thread know, for instance, in a Clouser minnow, if you...let's say you have an olive and a white Clouser.
When you tie in the white on the bottom and the olive on the top and you tie it under all the way to the eye, once you hit that monofilament head with either head cement or epoxy, the thread is going to disappear and you just see that continuation of that dark line from the olive go all the way up to the eye of the fly. And it's used a lot in things like the surf candy know, any place where you have...where you're putting epoxy on a fly at the end, the mono thread just disappears. So, that's a reason most people use it. And I would say, you know, in a really small fly, smaller flyer, maybe a Bonefish flyer or something like that, you'd want to use the 6/0. But the G thread is probably going to be better for bigger saltwater flies, it's a lot stronger and a lot heavier.
Monofilament thread is pretty strong. It does have some disadvantages. One is that once you release tension on it when you're tying, it does tend to unwrap and loosen up. So, you have to be a little bit more careful on your thread tension. And the other reason is, it's kind of slippery and it's sometimes difficult to grab materials with it. And I think that...I don't think there's much of an application in freshwater tying, you know, it just doesn't stay in place, it's hard to dab onto monofilament thread unless you put a lot of wax on it. And, you know, it just doesn' doesn't behave like the polyester and nylon threads that we use.
So, you know, some people will use monofilament thread as a ribbing. You know, it makes a nice rib and it doesn't add any flash or color and it's very strong, so it can be a nice rib to use in freshwater flies. But as far as tying any of the freshwater flies that I can think of, I don't see where it has an awful lot of application. I do use it for my saltwater flies quite a bit but I never use it in freshwater flies. Anyway, I hope that helps. All right, that is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Dom about the mono rig. So, my guest today is Dom Swentosky and I know a lot of the podcast listeners are big fans of his blog, Troutbitten, and his podcast and his videos. And Dom, you have done just a wonderful job of educating people, and I'm a big fan of the podcasts and I learned...podcasts and your blog, and I learned a lot from it. So, appreciate all that you do.
Dom: Wow. Thanks, Tom Rosenbauer. Good to be back on, buddy. Thanks for having me. That's real kind. Those are kind words. I learned a lot from you. I guess I want to talk about this before. Seriously, I got into fly fishing by reading some of your books and you're probably the first fly fishing podcast out there and now you got Tom's tips on the videos. Kind of setting the trend, buddy.
Tom: Yeah, I'm living the dream. I'm living the dream, Dom.
Dom: That's right. You're a legend. You're a legend.
Tom: I don't know about that. Not around here.
Dom: You do a nice job of walking that line where nobody...I don't think anybody dislikes Tom Rosenbauer.
Tom: Oh, yeah, there's a few. There's a few.
Dom: But when you put yourself out there, there's bound to be some people who don't care for you, right? But, no, everybody likes Tom.
Tom: I try not to piss too many people off. Yeah, anyway, we're going to talk about the mono rig today because you do a lot of work with the mono rig, you've written about it, you've done videos about it, and you're kind of the Mono Rig Central. So, you know, I wanted to talk a little bit about how it differs from Euro nymphing because it is different. You know, there's some nuances that are different. And first of all, you know, everyone thinks that fishing with monofilament like you do with a Euro rig or mono rig is a new thing. It ain't.
Dom: No. Exactly.
Tom: I remember getting my copy of "Joe Humphreys' Trout Tactics" way back. I don't know when that was first published, but it was probably in the '80s. Maybe in the late '70s.
Dom: Yeah, '83 maybe, '84.
Tom: Yeah. And he talked about nymphing with a mono rig and he really went into detail about it. And I went out and tried it, and it worked really well and I filed it in kind of my memory bank of something that would work well, and then I promptly forgot about it. And you have really I think...aren't you really improving on or expanding on what Joe started?
Dom: Yeah, I suppose. That's fair. And I kind of did the same thing as you did when I bought "Trout Tactics." I latched on to that idea and I said, "This is neat, this is new," and I did exactly as he laid it out in the book. He called it a mono rig, that's why I still call it a mono rig. I did like you, I went out and tried it, and I went, "That's neat but I have a lot to learn kind of before I get to that." And so, I kind of put it down for a while. And, you know, tightline nymphing has been around, like you said, for so long. There's a guy around here, Dave Rothrock, who was using a mono rig probably before Humphreys even. He was using Blue Stren and Gold Stren combined, so there you kind of had the sighter elements as well.
And I mean, he doesn't like the term Euro nymphing, you know what I mean? Because, yeah, I mean, as soon as monofilament was extruded, people were probably doing these kinds of things with it. But yeah, I picked it up. Now, I don't know that I've improved anything. I'm hesitant to say anything like that. But I mean, Humphreys had some fantastic ideas in that book. The difference, I will highlight those main differences which is what I call now trout and standard mono rig. We'll get to a lot more details on that. But the main difference between what I have gone on my leader today, what I was using, and what Humphreys had is the incorporation of a sighter, which is fantastic, that's covered line in the middle. You can build sighters out of other things too, but colored monofilm in the middle.
And then Joe Humphries also had a taper under the water. So, he'd have, I don't know, 10-pound, 8-pound, 6-pound, down to 4X or something like that, right? And I think that's...well, that's one of the three things that my opinion, that make any tightline system work. Keeping the taper out of the system under the water...basically, under the water, I would prefer to have only one diameter, so all 4X or maybe all 5X. Things just drift better. You have more control that way. And a second thing is...if you're coming up the line, the second thing is that incorporation of the sighter, and Mr. Humphreys didn't have that necessarily either. It wasn't in his book anyway.
Tom: Yeah, you know, yeah, because, you know, he developed this long before beadheads and coneheads and things like that. So, he used split shot. He used a lot...I remember he used a lot of split shots on his line to get the flies down. And now we have other things that we can get the flies down themselves, right?
Dom: Yeah. So, you bring up a good point there. And of course, yeah, Joe Humphreys didn't have access to split shot back in the early '80s when he was writing about this. And so, today, I used a mix of just weighted flies on the line and then I also use split shot. The day before yesterday, really, the tippet was drop shot nymphing on the mono rig. In essence, I call it a mono rig because it's the tool that I use, and many times I use Euro nymphing principles or tactics on this mono rig. I just find the term Euro nymphing, let's say, to be limiting. The term's fine, it's okay, whatever. But words matter. You know, like the language that we use, it's how...the words we use not only carry those definitions, those meanings, but also limitations and things that we say, "We can't do this with it," "You can't do that with it."
So, the definition really of what Euro nymphing means, it's a tightline system without anything attached to the leader but the flies themselves and that's why it's weighted flies and really, it's nymphing under competition-style tactics. So, limitations under competition rules and limitations, and that the main limitation right there, and this is important to understand, the competition style angling and really Euro nymphing then, where kind of that term comes from and the heart of all that is really built around a couple significant limitations that you and I and anybody who's not competing does not need to be under those limitations.
And anyway, one of those is that you can't attach anything else to the leader, like I said, except the flies themselves. So, that's why...and of course, you can't attach split shot. So, that's why everybody everybody, but so many people are using, you know, an overbeaded fly, I'm gonna say like a 3.5 millimeter on a number 16 hook or something like that. You know, where the bead just overtakes the fly. And did the trout eat it? Yeah, absolutely. Galloup had a video, I don't know if you saw it the other day, where he said flies like that have no soul.
Tom: Oh, yeah, perdigons have no soul.
Dom: That's what he said, perdigons, right?
Tom: Yeah.
Dom: And I love Galloup for stuff like that. And he says, he fishes them but they have no soul. Now, I don't really care if they have a soul or not, I've always been...right? Like I've always been the kind of angler who just wants to use whatever works best. And I will say that there are lots of days, lots of times, when I find that a fly that, oh, just has just the right proportions, let's say, not a really, really big head on it nut something that the trout are used to seeing, a profile, a more natural profile, let's say, than an overbeaded look, they'll eat it better and they will absolutely eat flies without beads on them, flashy beads on them, better some days than when you fish with split shot. And we could go down that rabbit hole too.
But I guess my overarching point is that I don't want to be limited by what Euro nymphing really is. I Euro nymph a lot of times, probably 50% of the time today. That's how I was doing. But then, you know, I started fishing just two kind of Hare's Ear variations that I have, one was a 16, one was an 18, and I put split shot about five inches away from the point fly. And that allowed those flies unweighted to maybe drift a little bit more naturally. That's up to me, and hopefully, some good tactics for the situation and whatnot. But it is possible, obviously, to do really well with a tightline rig with, you know, unweighted flies, and then the weight of the split shot or the drop shot.
Tom: Okay. So, let's talk about exactly how the mono rig as you fish it, other than competition rules, let's just say someone who's, you know, a civilian fishing Euro nymphing style, how does the mono rig differ from what people normally think of as Euro nymphing?
Dom: That's cool. That's a good thing to go, it's a good rabbit hole to go down. So, we've come a long way, right? We really have. I started writing Troutbitten in 2014, I think I wrote the first mono rig in 2015. And like you said, I mean Troutbitten really has become synonymous with mono rig tactics and that's great. I mean, I will say...I mean, I don't want to be pigeonholed about it either. I mean, today I switched over...because there was a blue-wing olive hatch, and I switched over to dry fly leader, it takes about a minute and a half for me to switch over. I fish that for about a half hour, the head stopped coming up, so I went back to a mono rig. It took me about a minute and a half to go back to the mono rig. So, yeah...
Tom: Did you actually fish a fly line on those blue-wing olives?
Dom: Yeah, that's what I said. People go, "Oh, you don't switch to mono rig all the time."
Tom: A real floating fly line?
Dom: That's right, floating fly lines. Yeah, whatever works, man, you know? That's what I'm all about.
Tom: Yeah, you gotta be versatile.
Dom: And that's a Troutbitten theme and that's what entertains me out there too. And that's why all these decades later, same as you, I'm digging into the next tactic and just, you know, trying to improve but also to stay entertained out there. I don't want to ever be bored. And so, by being versatile, not only does it, I think, often catch more fish because you can meet the fish on their own terms, it's interesting because you continue to ask yourself, "All right, I caught two fish in the last 20 minutes, can I do better than that? You know, I caught two fish in the last two hours, I feel like I can surely do better than that. Well, how can I make a change that will meet the trout?"
So, anyway, yeah, 2015 I wrote the first article on the mono rig and like you said, I've written...there are now...I think I counted...last time I counted, about 220 articles that talk about the mono rig. And like I said, we've come so far, and I'm not talking Troutbitten, I'm saying we as an industry in the acceptance of these tactics, in the acceptance of a tightline system that doesn't use a fly line, right? When I first started writing about it and I do some presentations, one of the most frequent questions that I would get but it's no surprise, people will say, "Is this really fly fishing?" First of all, I don't care if it's fly fishing but yes, it is. Because to me, it's always been fly fishing because I'm using flies that I tied myself and because I'm hand lining, I'm not cranking anything back onto a spool or something like that.
And then I have said for years and I make this point over and over, that what I'm using out there, the casting style for me, it is adapted to this leader that I've fished, I'm gonna call it the standard mono rig, is it's a fly line-style cast. And so, I use fly line style casting with this leader. So, when you say like, "Oh, tell me about the leader that you use," I use a few. As the industry hear about micro leaders and micro mono rigs and everything, the competition seems very much drives the way everything is gonna go. And because really, it's the competition guys that often get...I'll say the ones who write the articles or they're given the presentations, or they're putting the next video out. And so, they often will say, "Oh, here's my leader formula and it's 20 feet long."
Well, why is it 20 feet long? And they often don't tell you that, but I think they should because it's important to understand, again, another rule that they're under is that they can't have a leader that's more than two times the length of the rod, so the 20 feet or 22 feet. And so, my standard mono rig is 34 or 35 feet. And that rig is much more powerful than another rig that I use, which is...I use a thin but let's just compare a micro-thin mono rig to a standard mono rig. Now, again, the micro-thin has become very popular in competition circles because, again, they're limited by so many rules and things that can add the split shot on there. So, they have to get all of the weight into the flies and they continue to kind of go lighter and longer. And honestly, that's a fun way to do it. It's a great way to do it. It obviously works, it's good.
And I use a micro mono rig, oh, fairly often. It's not my favorite tool, which we can talk about why and the differences, but I use it because it does, it provides some advantages. And anyway, I think it's really neat that we've gone this far down the path toward acceptance of these tactics, that now you can fish in micro mono rig which, I'll say, let's just say it's 4X, you know, all 4X. It's all 4X and then maybe you can go 6X with your tippet. And it's so skinny, so light, you're not getting any fly line style performance out of it and yet, it's accepted. So, if I go back to the difference...highlight the differences here. Again, what I'm calling a standard mono rig is my favorite because it's a hybrid system.
And this is a know, approximately, 20-pound, 0.017 inches butt section. And I said before, it's more powerful. What I mean by that is it has enough mass in the leader itself to not only cast itself like a fly line, but to push flies around and it can push them into position. That is maybe the most important thing that we'll kind of highlight here. If you understand that, then you can understand that that's the main, main advantage of a leader design that favors power over less sag. Now, of course, the micro mono rig is gonna give you less sag. It weighs so much less than the 20 pound. If you have 0.007 instead of 0.017, it's gonna sag a lot less. And the reason we do all this tightline stuff in the first place is we're trying to eliminate sag.
I mean, if you...I mean, I know you've done it and everybody else out there listening has done it, you see the fly line hanging off of...I mean, if you're using a standard setup, then you see the fly line hanging off of the end of your rod tip and it has mass. That's its job is to push things out there, and so, it wants kind of wants to fall down to the water. Now, micro mono rig is so thin that it's not really still sags, but boy, not nearly as much. And what I'm telling you is that the standard mono rig, as I call it, is somewhere in between. You can stand in the parking lot or, you know, whatever, stand riverside and have no flies on there, no weight on there at all, stand there and cast exactly like a fly line, you're not going to cast it 60 feet. And I should say that all of this mono rig stuff, I don't care what leader build it is, nothing is gonna go more than 30, 35, oh my, 40 feet is really pushing it, right? I don't care the leader build.
And so, I've always been the kind of angler who fishes pretty close anyway, and whatever, I enjoy that kind of approach. But you can stand there and cast this standard mono rig leader build, I mean it, it's just like a fly line with no weight there. And really, it takes some refined casting skill to make that happen. You could feel it, and I don't need a Euro rod to do that, I do it on a 10-foot 4-weight. It's my favorite. Some of my buddies go with a 10-foot 5-weight or 9.5-foot 5-weight, or even a 10.5-foot 3-weight. But the point is, it has the performance then of a fly line, so we can push things to a target. And if we think about this, let me make one more point, that I think...who was it? Give me a second. The Mad River guy. Who's the Mad River guy?
Tom: Oh, Brian Flechsig?
Dom: Thank you very much, I'm sorry I forgot his name. He put a video out not too long ago that really made a fantastic point, and the way he broke it down I just loved it. He said, you know, the main difference in fly fishing...not just difference but advantage that we have comparing fly fishing to spin fishing, let's say, or gear fishing, we can do what we want not just with the fly, where does it fly land, but now what do we want to do with the line in between us and the fly? We can mend that line, we can mend that line in the air, right? So, think of a dry fly, just think of a dry fly in a nine-foot leader with a fly line, casts it out there, 35 feet.
You can put not just the dry fly where you want it but now you can manipulate that cast and that line in between you and the dry fly. So, to add slack, S curves, or whatever you want to call it. Good slack, managed slack on top, and you can even land your fly that way so it already has slack unfold. And then, of course, you can mend that line and manipulate that slack some more. You can't do that with a gear setup, let's say. Think about throwing a rooster tail out there on number four...or a four-pound [inaudible 00:52:13], right? Throw it out there at 35 or 45, 50 feet. Wherever that rooster tail lands, now you're gonna be straight line, basically, from your rooster tail to your rod tip, and you can't change that.
If you're in a river situation, you know, you might get some belly in the line and you can use that to your advantage or you can curse it because it's not what you want to have. But we can't change that, "Oh, it's a thin fishing setup." But you can, and this is what Brian was pointing out, unfly fishing setup. That is, again, an enormous advantage. And so, the standard rig, the standard mono rig I'm talking about, has that possibility, that major advantage. That's why I call it kind of a hybrid system because it has enough power built into it, enough mass, that it can push the fly where you want it to go.
I mean, I throw a number 18...if it can cast itself and even throw a dry fly, then of course, you can throw it just as a number 18 and maybe it only weighs five centigrams, I mean number 18 nymph. You can push that out there and then fly lands first and then I get to decide, "Do I want to tuck that in hard? Do I want to kind of lean that tippet to the left or to the right? Do I want to add a little bit of slack? How do I want the rest of the leader to land or stay in the air?" I mean, that's all up to us on that standard mono rig build. But it's not...I'm sorry, but it's not up to us...we don't have that kind of advantage...we don't have those options on a micro leader build. Micro leader has its advantages, but that's not one of them.
Tom: Because that goes in a straight line, there's not enough mass to mend it, right?
Dom: Exactly. And you can, you can mend. Like you just said, if I choose to lay that standard mono rig build on the water, which I'll do lots of times when I'm streamer fishing or taking an indicator and putting that on my tightline, you know, my mono rig, which I do a lot. Tightline principles over to an indicator is a fantastic way to fish. And the alignment of everything is very much available to me in my hands on that standard built but you don't have those kinds of options, again, on the micro leader build.
Tom: Right. And you couldn't push a strike indicator out there probably, even a small piece can handle it very well.
Dom: So, you can't push it out there, like you said, but you can have enough weight in your streamer, or I should say nymph. You can have enough weight in your, whatever, number 10 stonefly nymphs, and it will take the leader and the indicator with it, right?
Tom: Yeah.
Dom: And the other thing about the standard is that if you decide to fish a little bit further away than really tightline principles allow for, you can literally mend it like a fly line. I do that all the time. Again, it has enough mass to function like a fly line. And yet, it only weighs a quarter of what a fly line...or a number four fly line or a 4-weight fly line weighs, and so, it just sags a quarter of what that fly line weighs. And then the micro, you know, sags even less but it has less power. So, there's no one perfect answer but I have my favorites, obviously, right?
Tom: Yeah. So, you know, people are gonna want to instantly know, "Okay, how do I build one of these leaders for the mono rig?" So, talk us through a standard mono rig leader.
Dom: Right. I'll point people too to the Troutbitten website and I do have some articles. The design and function of the Troutbitten standard mono rig is kind of the key...that's the article title, and it's very much the keystone I call it, sort of the cornerstone or whatever. So, there are all of the other articles on Troutbitten about the mono rig because there are 30-plus links just in that one article that'll lead you to other supporting articles. And, you know, I've done that over time and built stuff out in series but I can do this pretty quick, I think. For me, my Troutbitten standard mono rig is 20-pound Maxima Chameleon. That's about 24 feet. That's my butt section.
And let's understand that it's the butt section of a leader design that's really giving you the performance. So, then from there, I do what I call my transition piece, which is, I'll say, 3 feet, 3 feet of 12 pound. For me, it's hi-vis Maxima. I do like to see it. I didn't use it to make that piece visible, it was still a brown Chameleon, but now it's kind of an extension of my sighter then. So, that transition piece kind of does step down, then, to what's a 12-pound Red Amnesia.
Tom: Okay, do you put a tippet ring in between? Or do you use a knot between those two?
Dom: Yeah, up in these thicker sections, it's all blood knots for me and I clip them flush. Tie them good and clip them flush. There is no need to leave a tag on there because sometimes those knots are going to go through the guys when you're landed a fish. So, it's from that transition piece, which is two to three feet. And then I have a foot of Red Amnesia and then one foot of Gold Stren, both of's 12 pounds and then 10 pounds. So, the Gold Stren is 10 pounds and it's 12 inches long. Now, that is my sighter, my red and Red Amnesia and my Gold Stren is my sighter. These days, that's considered to be a thick... "Oh, my, that's a thick sighter, that's gonna sag." Sure it does, it'll sag more than, you know, a 4X sighter, 4X bicolor, or tricolor as you guys produce.
It sags a little bit more, but, all leader builds are really a trade-off. If you think about every leader that you fish with, Tom, and that I fish with, leader design is a trade-off between power in the leader versus sag. Power means it's thicker and stiffer, but especially thicker usually. That's where the power comes from. There's where turnover and everything, okay, that's where that comes from. And then, of course, then along with that, it becomes a thicker material that sags more and we don't like...none of us likes sag because how it puts us out of touch a takes away some of our control. Sag equals drag and a loss of control, and there's no doubt about that.
Tom: If we're high sticking, yeah. If we're not high sticking, then it's not as big a deal.
Dom: That's a good point. Exactly. Anyway, so beyond that sighter then, for me, it's just 4X or 5X tippet as long as I need it to be, and I can have one or two nymphs under there. And again, the weight under there doesn't matter. I could put two or three nymphs on there if I wanted. Often, I'll just fish with one nymph. That could be a weighted fly or an unweighted fly. Notice that I'm saying that it's not the flies that make any of this work. It's not where the weight is or how the weight is that make any of this work. It's the leader build up top. And that's where all your options really come in to. So, the whole leader is about...yeah, I could say this, the butt section is 24 feet, anyway, the whole leader comes in at about 32 to 35 feet, depending on how long my tippet is going to be for the day.
And again, that leader is an extremely versatile tool. I can cast it like a fly line and I get all those options I'm nymphing, I want to fly first entry and then how do I want the tippet to go? And where do I...sometimes I'm going to float the sighter. That's not my standard thing to do but 20% of the time out there, I'll float the sighter. So, the fly goes in, the tippet goes in at the angle I want it to, and then the leader still has momentum because it's thick enough, remember, and it has some power to it. And so, then I can keep that going and push that, this all happens in a fraction of a second. But then you can land the sighter in the same seam and that's how you get a dead drift. That's what makes the leader so versatile.
Again, in the next run-off or the next flat, let's say I go upstream and I get through a run and I thought, "This flat would be really nice to throw an indy yarn." And so, this leader I'm talking about does a really great job of pushing a yarn indy, it's my favorite. Maybe a small, Pat Dorsey-style yarn indicator is my favorite. And I do that a lot on this rig because it is the best tactic. There are lots of times when throwing an indy yarn just makes a lot more sense. You can do it at greater distances than you can pure tightline and it will...if you think about it, the indy will lead your flies down one current seam better than your rod tip ever can.
I don't care how good the angler is, how experienced the angler is, the indy isn't gonna go off track if you don't bump it. What I'm talking about is being straight, you know, tightline to the indy, so I have no line on the water. And so, I'm not influencing the indy and the indy just naturally, very naturally goes down one current seam and the flies track in behind with the nymph tracks in behind it. It's a fantastic way to do things, again, not talked about much because it's not competition legal.
Tom: But you and I don't care about competition legal.
Dom: No, not really.
Tom: I don't think most of the people who listen to this podcast care about being competition legal.
Dom: Well, and that's ironic too, because so many people out there listening to the podcast that would agree with what you and I just said are following these rules. You know, they're using only weighted flies because they think that's going to do them better. And they're using...well, I'll say a Euro nymphing fly line because they think that's what's gonna make this work. I had somebody just the other day who say, "Well, if you're Euro nymphing, you need a Euro fly line." No, you don't. The only reason Euro fly lines were manufactured in the first place is to overcome the rule that was instated, what, about 8 or 10 years ago by the FIPS committee, the competition committee, they decided all of a sudden, "Okay, you can't have a leader that's more than two times the length of your rod," like I said earlier.
So, that, all of a sudden, limited everybody. And I mean it, you asked the guys that, you know, they're in the competition scene. Before that, almost everybody if they were nymphing was fishing in mono rig, a longer leader than 20 feet. And so, the Euro nymphing fly line is really the industry's answer to that rule and now all of a sudden, you know, you're fishing in "fly line," and so they're within the rules. But for you and I and anybody else out there listening...I'm not gonna tell you exactly...I mean, it's my preference, it's my strong preference to have that monofilament in my hand. That's why my leaders are as long as it is.
I will say if you have...if all you have hanging off the end of your rod tip is monofilament, then I'd call it a mono rig regardless of the leader build. But I like to have another 10 feet of monofilament so that the whole leader...or I should say the whole fly line stays on my reel. And then I like the handling of the monofilament, you get a lot more sensitivity that way. The kind of sensitivity I'm talking about is sometimes you'll feel more takes, you'll feel even the bottom ticks and the little taps and things that happen down there. There's a bit of a hurdle there, you have to get used to it, but you got to allow yourself to get used to it. Anyway, there's 100 different ways to do things and I definitely...I have strong preferences through the years. But I said, like, I fish micro leader pretty often. The main reason I fish it is to just kind of stay in touch...
Tom: Now, Dom, explain micro leader because I don't know if everyone is familiar with that term.
Dom: Sure. And I will say that's become very popular, like we said, in the competition scene, and now, you know, it's going over to the mainstream in the last five years and maybe a little bit more. Micro leader, yeah, that's much simpler to explain because it's a very thin diameter butt section to a sighter and then an ultra-thin tippet too. So, again, I'd say anything from six pounds, maybe even seven or eight pounds and under. And so, you know, 0.008, 0.007, which again, 0.007 is 4X. And so, let's say that most micro leaders...yeah, that's fair to say, most micro leaders would be 3X or under, 0.008 or under. And I mean it, the whole leader is 0.008 or under. And I mean, there's guys out there fishing with all 6X the whole way.
Tom: And how do you attach that to a fly line when your fly line is so thick?
Dom: Right. Well, so I just use a clinch knot. I heard you...somebody asked you about that on your podcast not too long ago. And I've been doing that for years and that's how I switch leaders so fast and people don't believe that you can do it that fast or that it works, I guess. So, I did a video on it, it's on Troutbitten. But yeah, you guys build great, you know, loops in these, all these are manufactured now. There are really nice, welded loops at the end of the fly lines. So, I treat it like I have a hook and I just clinch knot my leader on there.
Tom: But if you tie like 5X or 6X permanent loop on a fly line, it doesn't cut through the coating?
Dom: It will cut through the coating, yeah.
Tom: Okay. But it'll stay hold.
Dom: That's fair, yeah. Exactly, it'll hold. I want it to cut through the coating, you know, it makes a 0.007 with slits in the coating and I want that there because what's under there is a braided core and I want to attach it to the core. And so, yeah, it goes through the coding but you and I know...I mean, heck, before that, before you start putting loops on there, everybody was fishing with the blunt end. Did you get some water absorption? I suppose, but I don't see any downside to it, I don't see the tip of my fly line sinking.
Tom: Yeah, I don't think you're gonna get much water absorption because those permanent loops are welded where they joined. So, it's only going to go as far as the loop, it's not gonna go way up into the core.
Dom: Yes, that must be it because I just don't see any downside to it. It is a super quick way to change leaders. The only other thing I'll say on that is I don't wrap up a 30-foot leader on my hand because then later, I'm going to have to unwrap it, you know, and that unwrapping process becomes a real disaster. It does, it's a disaster. Don't do that. Like I'd take an old spool of Maxima, which was three, three and a half maybe inch diameter spool, and I wrap up the leaders on that and that's how I can change leaders real fast. And I enjoy it. Like I said, I love being versatile like that. It's my favorite way to approach the river. Not for everybody.
Tom: Now, I got one question before we go any further. Your last sighter is what diameter?
Dom: On the standard build, Tom?
Tom: Yeah.
Dom: Yeah, that's 0.010.
Tom: 0.010, so then you're trying a 4X tippet to that. Do you use a tippet ring or what know did your use?
Dom: I do.
Tom: You use a tippet ring? Okay, okay.
Dom: Yeah, I do, I do, because I changed that tippet section quite a bit and I use Loon rigging foam to kind of have some pre-built stuff because I do a lot of dry dropper work on this and I do a lot of streamer work on this and I basically make all of the change, almost all of the changes from that tippet ring down. And if I'm fishing bigger streamers, for example. I mean, I'll do Galloup style, you know, articulated streamers, and sometimes two of them at once, on a 4-weight rod with this mono rig, understanding that it works because I'm not also casting the weight of a sinking line in this case.
And so, anyway, I will have...I'm not fishing those on 4X, I'm not just going to, you know, clip off my nymphs on the 4X or 5X that I was fishing them on and throw these articulate streamers on because, man, when the fish eat the articulated streamers, they often slam them and go the other direction. Anyway, so I'll have those wrapped up on Loon rigging foam and ready to go on like 1X. Yeah, 0X even. So, yeah, tippet ring at the end of the sighter.
Tom: Okay. Now, for casting this rig, do you have to make any casting adjustments compared to how you cast a normal fly line?
Dom: Yeah, that's a great question and it really comes down to the casting. The number one thing that I was surprised about when I started guiding was how hard the casts are for people. And I don't just mean, you know, casting a mono rig but casting is a big deal. I mean, I guess I should have realized that many years ago.
Tom: Nobody practices, Dom. Nobody practices.
Dom: Yeah, I suppose, right? And it is nothing, it's really...and you know, it's nothing like casting a spinning rod, which you probably grew up doing just like I did and so many of my clients. I mean, I think we all, almost everybody, you know, had a spinning rod in their hand first, and really, fly casting is almost nothing like that. It's very different principles. But as far as the adjustments, I tell people all the time, I tell people, "Do not jump...if you're just getting into fly fishing, don't skip dries." Learn to fish dry flies, learn to fish a fly line with whatever, a standard leader, nine-foot leader, let's say, tapered leader. Learn to cast that because that is going to help you all the way through the rest of your casting.
I think no matter what you do, if you do nymphs on...or I mean streamers on a sinking line, or if you're going to be throwing barbers and indicators and stuff, all of it, the good casting fundamentals apply to all of it. So, for the mono rig, let's say a standard mono rig build here, and let's say it's got a number 14 bead head pheasant tail at the end of everything that we described. The only change that I want to see from people when I'm teaching them is that I just want them to pause, wait a little bit longer until they actually feel the tug of that number 14 pheasant tail on the back cast, and then you go forward.
I think when we're casting a fly line, it's fair to say that we almost anticipate before everything stretches all the way out and then we go. It's a more gradual load when you're casting a fly line. You understand that, it starts to load, load, load, and then you start to go. And you don't wait for it to go all the way back and then you go. But I'm saying with that number 14 pheasant tail on there, and whatever weight you have, whether it's split shot and heavier or lighter weights, that's the main change. Just wait for it to go back and then go forward.
Tom: Okay, no other adjustment to the casting style.
Dom: Not for me. I just had a friendly argument with a guy the other day that say, "Oh, the only way you can cast those is with a Belgian-style cast." I'm like, "No, I don't agree with it." I mean, it's not true, that's why I don't agree with it. It's not true. People have very ingrained ideas and if it works for them, I say go for it, right? But no, if you stand back...I mean, if you stand up on a bridge and, you know, watch somebody who's casting like we're talking about, casting a mono rig this way, you can't tell if they're casting dry flies or nymphs often. I've had that experience with some of my buddies. We were standing up on a bridge on Pine Creek watching one of our friends, Cassie, where Slate Run pours in. There, I just spot her and Tom, what am I doing? I just make...
Tom: I don't think there's any big secret, Dom.
Dom: I know. Anyway, I remember standing up on a bridge with my buddy Jeff and we're like, "What's he fishing? What's he fishing?" And you could kind of tell because of the color of the leader, but it took a second because the stroke's almost the same, it is the same, it's just a little bit longer of a weight, the path the rod travel is the same out and around, maybe slightly further out and around and then, you know, kind of over the top. I said earlier, you need a refined casting style, and it doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be anything special. But you do need good casting to get the most out of these rigs.
And I'm gonna say like, sadly, most people do not even get...I don't know, I'm making up numbers, but even like 50% of the performance out of these leaders that you can, most people don't even do half of what is possible with these mono rigs whether the standard or clear down to micro in large part because they lob things around and it's almost like the old chucking duck concept. I guess it's not old, people still do that. That's not what we're doing here. It's not what I'm doing here anyway, it's fly line casting game. And I hate the word lob because it tends to have people slowing things down.
And lobbing to me...if you think about this, let's say you go back cast and then you lob it forward, which plenty of people will tell you to do. Now, if you're lobbing, probably the leader is going to hit and then the tippet is going to hit and the fly hits. Well, now you have everything on the water and you're doing the opposite of what a tightline...the tightline advantages. The tightline advantage, the reason we do this is that we just want the fly to go in and it should go in first and then only the tip that has to go in goes in, and then everything stays up and off the water. If you lob things, it tends to lay unnecessary things on the water.
If you cast, if you cast, and honestly, learn to tuck cast, if you tuck it in, it will...if you do what I'm talking about, you end up with a tuck cast and then you get a fly first entry and then, again, you get the option of, "How do I want that to go in?" You can introduce slack on purpose. Not much, I mean, it's managed slack, we're not talking about throwing three feet of slack on top of the nymph because then you're going to miss strikes. But boy, you can just be slightly out of touch with that nymph if you cast it well. And, you know, I guide a lot and this is what I see people having the most trouble with, like I said, is the casting.
Tom: Yeah, I know that that was an important lesson that I learned doing that video with George Daniel and, you know, I was lobbing my Euro rig out there, slapping it on the water, and then raising the rod tip. And it's so important to make sure that you don't lower that rod and that the fly goes in first and then you just keep that line elevated above the water and never let it touch the water.
Dom: That's the key.
Tom: Yeah, that's so important.
Dom: That's how you get that fly first entry, and then really, it results in a tuck cast. Joe Humphreys, obviously, popularized the tuck cast. He got that from George Harvey. And I don't know, if there's one cast that's more misunderstood than any other, I think it's tuck cast. I see people instructing through videos, "Here's how you do a tuck cast," I'm like, "I don't necessarily agree with that." There's a lot to it, Tom, and I think there's a lot of styles.
Tom: Why don't you talk us through the tuck cast, then, and how to accomplish it?
Dom: Sure. And I don't claim to be an expert on it, I only tell you what works for me.
Tom: Yeah, that's good enough. Good enough for me.
Dom: For right now, yeah. What it comes down to is really the basics, like anything else. Again, I was just coaching baseball before I got here, we're going through the basics of how to field a ground ball. And in the same way, in the same manner, it's the basics of the fly cast, the real, you know, fly line cast. And if you refine those, you end up getting a nice tuck cast on a mono rig. What it is, let's say 10:00/2:00, I think maybe 11:00/1:00 and you'll end up at 10:00 and 2:00, and that's where you're going to stop. In between those stops, you need crisp acceleration.
And I've said a couple of times how you need kind of a refined casting style, but what you really need is a little bit more speed and a little bit more crisp stops, like very deliberate here and there. You know, that's where you're stopping and here's where I'm accelerating and I'm going forward. If you, let's say, back cast, stop, pause until you feel that weight of that number 14 pheasant tail, you feel it, just as soon as you feel it, you're going forward, and you're going fast. And then let's say 10:00, you're going fast to 10:00, stop it at 10:00. And I mean crisp, stop it, and you had a lot of acceleration.
And when you stop it, and as you said, don't let that rod down, don't let that rod tip down, just boom, keep it up, keep it up at the 10:00. That loop, and there is a loop, especially in this standard leader build that I'm talking about. The guy I was arguing with the other day said, "All loops in a mono rig will collapse," I said, "No, they won't." Anyway, you're building a fly line style loop, you get that crisp stop, and it will go out to the end, it can go'll feel it pull on the forward cast just like you felt it pull on the back cast. It would go out to the end, it can't go up, gravity is not gonna let it go up, right?
And momentum takes it down in and then you can end up with a shallow tuck, a medium tuck, a deep tuck, I don't care what names we put on it, all variations of a tuck right down in and maybe even tucking back in under a little bit, almost extreme tuck, where you can just get a nice fly first entry with kind of an easy angle, a shallower angle coming in. And those are all...that's all with tuck cast. The key is really what you hit on, is to stop that rod tip and don't drop it. There's no good reason to drop it because you're just going to pick it back up anyway.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. And your leader has already fallen on the water, and then it's gonna start to drift and then you're in all kinds of trouble.
Dom: Yeah, my buddy Austin and I were talking about this on one of the podcasts and he said it's a correction. He said that's what it is over and over. If you drop that rod, that's your standard cast is you finish down and then you lift back up, you're just correcting it over and over. And you are, he made the point too that you're taking away, I don't know, one, two, maybe three seconds of your effective drift as you're correcting things into place. It could have just been in place in the first circumstance, yeah, by just stopping the rod...
Tom: Yeah, from the very instance it hits the water, yeah, you're fishing.
Dom: That'll result in a tuck cast. There's nothing magical to it. There's nothing all that hard to it. Just get enough speed, crisp stop between two points, and keep it up.
Tom: Okay. Cool. Now let's talk about...let's talk about a nymph presentation and a streamer presentation. So, let's say you're going out with a mono rig and you're faced with, you know, standard riffled water, moderate riffle. What are you going to do?
Dom: Well, I mean, you know, there's so many variables, when you understand that...
Tom: Yeah, let's say you got a uniform riffle and it's three feet deep and...
Dom: Yeah, yeah, I don't know. I mean, let's say in the morning, if I go out real early tomorrow morning, I'm going to probably start with a streamer. My buddy Bill Dell was talking about this on one of our podcasts not too long ago. He said, "If I get there in this low light because it's morning, I'm throwing a streamer." Because that's usually your best bet, you know, lower light, better streamer action. And so, let's say I'll start with a streamer, and let's say I'm using my standard mono rig. You can cast these streamers on a micro leader, absolutely it works. I really don't want to cast bigger streamers on a micro leader, things just get sloppy, that's my best way to put it. If you use a micro leader with bigger streamers, things get a little sloppy.
Obviously, like, one of the things people are lobbing these days is, you know, jig streamers. You know, everybody is talking about jig streamers and usually, they're smaller. And really, they're smaller often too because that's what's going to work with their Euro nymphing and the leader builds that they have that might be very thin. That's a fun way to do it. You can get a lot of sensitivity that way, you can really feel the bottom. Anyway, let's say I'm starting with my standard leader and I could feel that bottom with that setup too. I don't know, I mean, the main change that I would make then or the main difference between what I described earlier and now going to these streamers is I would...let's say the day before I had the nymphs on to finish up at that tippet ring at the end of my sighter. I clipped that off, and probably on a Loon rigging foam in my vest, I'd have, let's say, two streamers ready to go.
And I often like just the whole school of Shenk's white minnow up top, and then, I don't know, let's say it'd be a bunny bullet with my favorite sculpin down below. That's the only real difference in the leader. Now, how I cast it, I will, I'll's not a true Belgian cast where you go way out and around and you never completely lose contact. That'd be the main difference, though. I'm using wider loops, that's all. I mean, I'm still going to accelerate, there's still going to be a stopping point at the back, I'm going to feel it, and then I'm gonna go. And I'm still...usually, if I'm close enough, if I'm close enough, I'm gonna say within 35 feet.
If I'm close enough, I'd rather chuck that bunny bullet in there, that hits first, and then, of course, the Shenk's white minnow is gonna go with it. It's up on a tag, I should say. And then I am in really full control. I said earlier, the tightline advantage, that's what I've started calling it, when you...I will use that tightline advantage, then, to that point streamer because when you keep extra line up and out of the water, you have so much more control over the system. And I think that really gets to the heart of why people love these rigs anyway. Because you can put this in almost anybody's hands, I mean, almost anybody's hands, inexperienced or experienced, and right away, they're gonna catch a few more fish than they usually do and they'll say, "This is great, I got it."
I see people right away go, "Oh, wow, I know right where that nymph is," I'm like, "Yeah, your sighter is pointing to your nymph." Or in this case where we're talking to streamers, I know right where that streamer is. "Oh, wow, I could change lanes," I call it a lane change, where I can bring that streamer over two feet, and then get it drifting downstream again. Or if you're swinging it...I don't know, I mean, you can do whatever you want with it as well if it's a streamer or a nymph at the end. If you don't have a line on the water, you're not at the mercy of that line. That's the thing too. We've cut the fly line out of there. Again, it's still on our reel, we're ready to use it anytime we wanted. But if I don't have fly line out there laying on the water or hanging off the end of my guides, then I don't have to...well, the fly line isn't the boss of that fly, I am. I'm directly connected without kind of being at the mercy of what that fly line wants to do.
Tom: Yeah, really good point. I think we've gotten a good basis anyways on the tightline method...
Dom: Yeah, I talk a lot.
Tom: No, it's a good basis on how it's different and how it's different from normal, you know, fly line fishing and how it's different from competition or Euro nymphing and...
Dom: Sure, yeah. I would say that, again, micro leaders are real popular right now. I see it, I see when I'm guiding that it's very difficult for people to go from having never done any tightline stuff right into the micro stuff and then they go, "Oh, I don't like this, this isn't even fly fishing, I don't like this, I don't like it." But if you give them that standard leader build that I'm talking about, and it has power, punch, push, and don't take it...again, don't even put a nymph on the end at first, have them just cast it. Okay, they've just been, you know, fishing dries and now the heads went away and we don't have any more targets, and now we're going to switch over to nymphing tightline style. Okay? So then just have them cast, they've been casting anyway.
And yeah, it's lighter but give them two, three, four, five minutes to just get used to that, and then I do that all the time and I watch people like, "Oh, yeah, I can cast this." And now often, honestly, I'll put, like, just the size 16 maybe elk hair caddis or CDC and elk or something like that on the end, because you can throw small dries on this mono rig system too. And I'll have people do that and they go, "Oh, wow, oh, wow, you really can cast it just like a fly line." I'm like, "I know, that's what I was saying." And when people see that, that makes them more comfortable and they go, "I can take this stuff, it's the same casting that I have been doing with these small refinements, a little bit more speed."
That's a much's an easier entry, it's an easier entry to the game, right? And then for anybody out there, you know, who wants to...I mean, absolutely, try whatever, try thin rig, try micro-thin rig. If your buddy has a leader build that he loves, try it, try his rod. You know, I'm all about that, like, whatever works for you. But if you're going to make...especially once you're into it, if you're gonna make some changes, have a reason you're making the changes. You say, "Well, I want more power in my leader," "Okay, I'm gonna thicken up the butt section." "Well, I want less sag," "Okay, I'm gonna thin up the butt section." Kind of know...yeah, once you're into it, once you're into it, kind of know why you're making those changes and then experiment. Do it with an open mind. Don't let anybody else including me tell you, you know, what you should be doing.
Tom: Yeah, and it's so exciting to modify things and figure it out on your own. Yeah.
Dom: It is. And people all the time, you know, asked me just like I'm sure they ask you for your favorite this or your favorite that, your favorite fly...
Tom: I don't answer that question.
Dom: Right, I know you don't, right? Because it doesn't matter what Tom Rosenbauer's favorite fly or leader is, it really kind of doesn't.
Tom: Not at all.
Dom: In fairness, though, like, I remember getting into the game and there's so much. As you understand, there's just so much to the whole thing and you can just get buried and you do kind of need some leadership and you need people you can believe in and I want to fish Tom Rosenbauer's favorite fly because I know it'll work, you know?
Tom: Well, confidence is so important anyway.
Dom: Yeah, absolutely, and you're not going to walk onto the stream your first time or even your first year and have much confidence.
Tom: Right, yeah.
Dom: Yeah. Gotta get it somewhere.
Tom: Yeah. So, I understand that, and I do generally give them a few flies.
Dom: I know you do. Yeah, yeah.
Tom: Not my favorite places to fish, though, because I don't have those.
Dom: Yeah, I feel bad about Pine Creek. It's a Troutbitten thing, we don't spot burn, you know?
Tom: Yeah. I try not to either.
Dom: Right. But you're right, I mean, people know about those locations. But I always say like every spot is somebody's favorite spot and spot burning isn't about what you think about the area, it's about trying to protect what might be really special to somebody else. That's all.
Tom: Yep. All right, Dom. Well, that was great. I really appreciate you taking the time after your little league coaching to come on the podcast. It sounds like you still had lots of energy left, so appreciate that.
Dom: Yeah, it's fun, man. I always love talking shop and I appreciate you having me on. It's a real honor to be back on your podcast.
Tom: It's great and I learned a lot tonight. And don't forget, everyone, Dom's blog, Troutbitten has lots of cool stuff on it and you want to explore this mono rig in infinite detail. How many articles did you say on the mono rig?
Dom: Honestly, I'm getting real close to 1,000 articles in total and these are all articles that I've written. And you understand that, these aren't like fluff pieces know, it can go pretty in detail.
Tom: Yeah, I know, they're good, solid stuff.
Dom: And it's not all tactical, there's stories on there. The last article I published was a story. But yeah, getting real close to 1,000 in total and I would say that, yeah, there are over 220 articles that just deal with the mono rig. It's a lot. It's a lot. And there's a full podcast, I will say...let me mention this. Austin and I, one year ago, we completed a series on the podcast, what I call a Skill Series, the Troutbitten Skills Series, the nine essential skills for tightline and Euro nymphing. That was an article series that then we did a full podcast on and they're...well, they're 10 because we did a recap. There are 10 podcasts in that series that just deal with this one topic. And I think they're my view of things, there are nine really basic and essential skills to learn to really get into it and we kind of break those down. That's a really good starting point for anybody out there. And then your...honestly, your Orvis Learning Center is fantastic. I point people to your Orvis Learning Center all the time.
Tom: Thank you. Thank you.
Dom: Well, it is, it's the best resource online for not just people getting into fly fishing but, I don't know, that takes it a lot further.
Tom: Well, I gotta have a section on the mono rig now. I don't have anything on them right now.
Dom: There you go. Yeah, that's your next book title. Put a book out there on mono rig.
Tom: I'm gonna leave that to you, I'm gonna leave that to you.
Dom: Someday.
Tom: Yeah. All right, Dom, I want to thank you so much and appreciate you coming on tonight.
Dom: Well, thank you, Tom. Like I said, a real pleasure, a real honor to be here.
Tom: All right, I'll talk to you soon.
Dom: All right, thanks, man.
Tom: Thanks. Thanks for listening to "The Orvis Fly-Fishing Podcast" with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of the show. Have a question or a comment? Send it to us at in the body of an email or as a voice attachment. You can find more free fishing tips at