Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Another Gem In Montana

The number of tailwaters around Southwestern Montana is quite impressive. Because of this there are numerous places to visit regardless of how cold it gets. I have already crossed a few off my list and decided to do one more the other day.

The drive over to this waterway was truly impressive, I stopped along the way to try and capture a few images.
Love This Shot 

The Drive
I decided to fish the upper most access sight during the morning. A few pools close to the dam produced some pretty solid fish, actually quite surprising for how small the stream looked. It was flowing very low though, I'm sure it takes on a different character come spring. I started off Tight Lining with a Stone Fly and trailed numerous other flies off it. I typically use my Stone as an anchor fly because of the weight. I enjoy a heavy anchor fly when Tight Lining.

The consistency of pools to runs in this tailwater was truly impressive, you didn't have to walk very far to find that next fishy looking spot. I really pounded the slower moving stuff but I had better luck fishing the faster runs.....not the typical approach for winter fishing.

I never found that one fly that knocked them dead, this day was all about covering water until you found a fish that would eat. I typically use this approach when I can't seem to dial in the right pattern or I feel the fish just aren't feeding aggressively.

Butter Brown Laying At The Edge Of A Bucket

I covered a lot of water and got to see all the good holding water at this place. I will for sure return in the spring when the hatches get going, it will be fun to see this river at it's best.

Best Fish Of The Day Ate The Stone Fly 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Mono Rig And Why Fly Line Sucks: Written By Domenick Swentosky

My Good Troutbitten friend Domenick Swentosky (www.troutbitten.com) just wrote an article on an all mono leader that I fish. I saw the effectiveness of this rig a few years back when I started fishing with him and Pat Burke. It didn't take me long to quickly fall in love with it. Sure, it's not for everyone, but for those willing to experiment and try new things look no further, it's a game changer.  

For presenting nymphs and streamers to river trout, fly line sucks. There, I said it. Now I have to defend it.
Most underwater deliveries require weight, and using a very long, monofilament leader to cast that weight is more efficient than using fly line; it keeps you in better contact with the flies, and you’ll catch more fish. I’m talking about leaders with butt sections of 20 feet or more. For all but the very longest casts, the fly line never comes off the reel, and the thick monofilament butt section essentially takes the place of fly line while casting, drifting and retrieving — it just weighs a lot less.
In a previous article, I detailed the Tight Line Nymph Rig and why it works, and I strongly recommend reading through the tight line post before this one. So if you’re going as far as a tight line nymph rig, why not go further?
I’m qualifying my proposition here by saying the long mono rig is better for almost all underwater presentation — just to leave the door open a bit, and because taking away fly line is shocking to some and appalling to others. The same principles that make the mono rig so effective for tight line nymphing make it just as deadly for all other presentations of nymphs and streamers (for trout in rivers and streams), including nymphing under an indicator, and fishing large streamers at distance.
Some fly fishers will take a few steps back from this rig, drop their heads and shudder disapprovingly. That’s OK. Others will see this rig as too much bother — reluctant to change and adapt. If you’re the kind of guy who tries not to get too technical when you’re out there, and you just want to enjoy what happens, this isn’t for you. And that’s OK too.


The mono rig works, and why it works really isn’t complicated: it’s all about weight.
Fly line is heavy, so it sags off the rod tip, and it sags in the guides, causing drag by pulling back on the leader and the flies, resulting in a bad, unnatural drift. If you are fishing fly line at distance, it lays in the water. Then you have to mend it, and then you are no longer in touch, resulting in bad strike detection and lousy hook sets. By contrast, with a mono rig, long lengths of leader can be held off the water at some pretty remarkable distances; there is no need for mending, and you can stay in touch with the flies — that’s a fantastic thing in fly fishing.
Illustration By Steve Sawyer
Illustration By Steve Sawyer
All fishing casts happen because of weight. Spin fishing relies on the weight of a lure to pull line from a spool and carry it to a target. The original purpose of fly line was to push wet flies to the destination because the flies were too light to get there on their own. Dry flies are also a natural match for fly line (they need pushed toward the target), and lightly weighted nymphs and streamers can be presented exceptionally well with a fly line (especially if they are swung across and downstream). But I would argue that the upstream, dead drift presentations of modern nymphing with weighted flies or split shot (and sometimes an indicator) is not the job for a fly line. The weight needed for the cast is already there — it’s in the weighted nymph, split shot, or the indicator itself — and using fly line for the cast just adds more weight. In essence, it creates a system that is fighting itself: the push of a fly line and the pull of the weighted nymphs are what create the clumsy, clunky cast that nymph fishermen eventually try to get used to. So why the hell are we fishing fly line?
A long mono rig solves the problem, and with a little time and practice, casting weighted rigs becomes much more elegant, accurate and efficient.

How to Do This

The more years you’ve spent casting fly line, the more awkward casting a mono rig will seem — but only for a short time. You can easily make the transition in a few outings by learning and implementing one key principle: take the wrist out of the castLoren Williams gave me that piece of the puzzle one wintry day on the banks of a good trout stream. He taught me to hold the rod with the index finger on top instead of the thumb on top (the finger points to the rod tip). Then, plant the butt end of the rod into the underside of the forearm, and cast the rod by bending the elbow, not the wrist. In fact, holding the rod like this completely disables the wrist; with very little effort, even lightly weighted flies will sail easily to the target.
In time, I’ve worked a little bit of the wrist back into my cast for certain situations, but the basic principle is still there; it’s far more important than any fancy rod will ever be (mono rigs are effectively cast on a wide variety of rod actions, weights and price tags). Just take the wrist out of the cast.
A common misconception about tight line nymphing rigs is that there’s no real casting involved — that it’s nothing more than lobbing and drifting, then lobbing and drifting again. That’s simply not true. The finesse of casting is still there; I still make back casts, I can still tuck a cast tight under a tree limb, and with the mono rig I have the controlled precision to either drive my flies hard into the water (with a tuck cast), or land them with a subtle plop.


Eight years ago, when I first saw this rig, I remember being absolutely amazed by the simple, obvious principles that make it work, and I’ve enjoyed sharing this revelation with friends ever since. Together, we’ve explored the possibilities and adapted it to other presentations.
We started to see fly line as a handicap. Burke often says that fly line is the biggest detriment to fly fishers, and it was Burke who took our tight line system and started fishing indicator rigs and larger streamers with it. He’ll tell you that it was out of pure laziness (that he just didn’t want to change leaders), but I give him the credit for discovering how effective it is. For years, I had fished indicators and dry-droppers fairly close on a tight line rig, and I routinely fished smaller streamers on the end of my line instead of nymphs, but Burke is the first person I saw using the long mono rig (on purpose) at longer distances with indicators and with larger streamers. It’s killer.
The long mono rig, however, is certainly not a Troutbitten creation. You can find it detailed in Joe Humphreys’ Trout Tactics, and I would assume that many others were using similar rigs through the years. (That’s fishing.) Humphreys used Cortland Cobra flat monofilament in place of fly line, eliminating drag and getting nymphs and streamers deep while maintaining contact and control. Eventually, he had Cortland manufacture what they marketed as the Deep Nymph Floating Line; a very thin running line of about .022” in diameter. I’ve used the line, but I prefer mono.
This is a Scientific Anglers Air Cell fly line. The first ten feet of this four weight, double taper fly line weighs 2.9 grams. That’s great for  pushing dry flies , but it will cause a lot of line sag while nymphing.
By contrast, ten feet of #20 Maxima Chameleon weighs just .64 grams. It’s much thinner, lighter and stiffer than fly line. It would do a lousy job of pushing bushy dry flies through the air, but it is an ideal choice for fishing weighted nymphs or streamers.
The specific material used for the butt section really doesn’t matter so much. If it’s significantly thinner than a regular fly line, then line sag and fly drag will be greatly reduced. I often experiment with different materials, but I keep coming back to Maxima Chameleon in #20 because it’s thin (.017″), yet it’s thick enough that it still handles well. With an easy pull, Maxima stretches out and the coils relax nicely, even in winter weather. With most thicker material, I’ve had more coiling problems than I want to deal with.
Many of my Troutbitten friends prefer Hends leaders or other brands of long, extruded leaders. The Hends leaders are nice; they feel a bit more like fly line, but the butt diameters are a little too heavy for what I like. I’ve tried Stren, Berkley, Suffix, Amnesia (a flat monofilament), braided mono running line, Rio Slick Shooter, and a one-weight fly line. I keep coming back to Maxima.
If you are hung up on the idea of using mono, then try one of the competition fly lines now available. They are much thinner and lighter than an average fly line and can come close to the performance of mono (some would say better). Finding your own favorite is part of the fun.


You can find tight line leader recipes from a variety of dependable sources (Dynamic Nymphing by George Daniel is one of the best). Some like to start with a standard 9’, manufactured, extruded leader and build from that, while others like to tie their own leaders from scratch. Whatever you choose, though, the long mono rigs I’m writing about here need to be long enough so the fly line rarely leaves the spool of your reel. I use a 20’, one-piece butt section in my leader so that the connection from leader to fly line rarely finds its way into my guides where it could hang up or slow down any shooting line during the cast. The 20’ butt section also assures that no fly line sag will occur in my rod guides while nymphing either. Remember, fly line sucks.
The rig I use for nymphing is listed below. If I add a suspender/indicator, I do so on the first few feet of the tippet section. If I want to fish larger streamers, I swap out everything from the sighter down (using Loon’s Rigging Foam) for another smaller but stronger sighter and a tippet section of 2X.
The specific material you choose for the sighter portion of the leader is also unimportant. There are many good options. Just be sure to choose materials that you can see well.
20’ — 20lb Maxima Chameleon
2’ — 12lb Maxima Chameleon
8” — 12lb Red Amnesia
8” — 10lb Gold Stren
8” — 8lb Green Amnesia
4-6’ — 4X fluorocarbon tippet


I suspect I’ll take some flak about this long mono rig. “It’s not fly fishing!” is a pretty common response, and that’s fair. It’s certainly nontraditional, and even considering the current popularity of tight lining, euro-nymphing, and competition fishing styles, a long mono rig still raises eyebrows.
In my mind, fly fishing is defined in two parts: using flies, and retrieving by hand. What “flies” actually are is pretty blurry these days; beads, coneheads, molded heads and rubber fins on streamers are ubiquitous. Who cares? I say. Just fish what works. However, the line-retrieval aspect of fly fishing is more concrete. If you are cranking a reel handle after every cast to bring your offering back for the next cast, then you probably aren’t fly fishing.
Another common reaction to this rig is, “Why not just use a spinning rod?” That’s fair too. I’ve tried it, but it’s actually much less effective and a lot less fun. Retrieving by hand and using a long rod allows for more versatility and efficiency of presentation.
When I first saw the mono rig used for tight line nymphing, I was intrigued. When I first used it, I thought it was fun — and that’s where I’ve been ever since. I simply enjoy fishing the long mono rig because it presents me with more options for greater control over where my flies go and what they look like to the fish. And then I catch more trout.

Problems and More

Like anything else in fishing, there are untold numbers of intricacies, adaptation, and points to be made about this rig, and I’ll address many of them in future posts. There are specific challenges to be overcome: line coils must be handled, retrieves must be adapted, etc. I’ll also dedicate some space to the specifics of fishing indicator rigs with mono and to fishing streamers with mono.  It might look something like this:
Mono Rig With Suspenders/Indicators
  • close range and at distance
  • using the double haul
  • when to mend, how to mend
  • suspender types
  • balance between weight of suspender and weight of flies
  • angles of drift, angles to nymphs
  • staying tight to the suspender
Mono Rig With Streamers
  • water haul and double haul
  • advantages over sinking line
  • advantages over a floating line
  • creating and using drag with the mono leader
  • cannonballs
  • shooting heads
If you’ve read to the end of this thesis, let me commend your persistence. You are my kind of fisherman, with a heart for exploration and a head full of questions.
One more thing: I don’t think I would start a new fly fisher off this way. There’s something very special about casting dries on a fly line that should not be missed.
Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky

Monday, January 25, 2016

January Thaw

Perfect Back Drop To Be Fishing In 
Look At The Colors On This Guy 

The temperatures here in Southwest Montana have been in the mid 30's to low 40's for the past week. This has allowed a lot of rivers to open up in places and I took advantage of that today. As usual the midges started to hatch around 11 but the surface activity was pretty poor. That didn't stop the bite underneath though, I got into lots of good quality fish today using stone fly nymph's and San Juan Worms. There was absolutely NO WIND to speak of today....a very rare occurrence that I really enjoyed!

Another Great Brown

Colored Up Rainbow

Another Fatty

Great Colors 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Gear Review: Mens Shovelhead Jacket From Big Agnes

Best Winter Insulation A Fisherman Can Have
So it's been winter here in Montana for the last 8 weeks. The average air temperature I've been fishing in is around 22 degrees, a bit cooler then most winter days back home. This Shovelhead Jacket by Big Agnes has allowed me to venture out into the elements and spend the entire day on the water, without getting chilled once. The 700-fill DownTek hydrophic insulation is more legit then anything I've ever worn. I've fished in negative temperatures this winter and this thing has kept my core warm. All I wear underneath it is a long sleeve wool shirt, R1 fleece pullover from Patagonia and the Shovelhead. Long gone are the day's of feeling BULKY too, this jacket is VERY flexible and you don't feel restricted while casting. So if your in the market for a piece of cold weather clothing.....look no further.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Winter Midge Activity

Look Closely And You Will See All The Midges 

Best Bow Of The Day 

I ventured up to my favorite Western Montana water on Friday and was greeted with an epic midge hatch that had the fish eating good throughout the day. The rise forms were subtle and quite sporadic, but the subsurface activity was epic. I fished a good 2 mile stretch of heavy pocket water and the soft seams produced good numbers of fish. It's pretty cool to watch these fish congregate in the areas where the bugs are. With such heavy moving water it's amazing they find where these little insects.

Not A Bad View While Setting Up The Rod 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Montana A.K.A The Icy Planet Of Hoth

#18 PT Fooled This Guy In Slack Water

Soft Seams Are The Key

My wife and I were lucky enough to venture home for the Holidays this past week. On the front end and tail end of the trip I got out a few times in the frigid temperatures that are currently engulfing Western Montana. Most streams are full of slush at the moment but a few spots that stay ice free throughout the winter produced terrific fishing. Water temperatures are in the mid 30's at these locations but the fish are still on the feed.
Butter Brown 
Good Fight With This Guy 

I also got to witness an amazing midge hatch this afternoon that had many heads sipping on the surface. The air temperature was 13 degrees but that didn't stop those bugs from hatching. If you can bare the cold right now is a great time to be fishing.
All Spotted Up 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rainbow Trout Kind Of Weekend

Big Bows Eating Nymph's With An Attitude 

I got on the water 3 times this weekend, Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday from 9:30-3pm. The weather was very comfortable for fishing, high's in the 30's with limited wind. I covered a bunch of different water types but the slower seams and bobber holes out produced the pocket water tremendously.
Bobber Water Is Producing 

Getting your flies down deep should be everyone's top priority if your fishing in Southwestern Montana right now, you have to peel those fish off the bottom. Numbers were very good when you could find a trout. One usually meant you were getting a dozen but you had to put some miles on to find those productive spots. The trout aren't moving far to take your imitation either, so make sure you work the hole thoroughly. One particular spot on the Madison seemed vacant of fish except this one specific drift, that one drift gave up good numbers of really good rainbows.

Ferocious Fighters 

Best Looking Of The Bunch 

I'm not sure where the browns have been but the fat bows have seem to taken over the Gallatin and the Madison. No complaints here though these fish are ferocious fighters.

Awesome Spots 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Brief Warm Up

Rainbow On The Egg 
We've had a brief warm up here in Southwestern Montana over the past few days and a few streams got a little more accessible to fish. I spent 2.5 hours on the water this morning and found a few pods of fish in the slower moving water. The action was intense in the early morning with San Juan Worms, Eggs and Stone Flies under the Indicator. Not all water types are producing right now, look for the slower water and if you find one fish you'll find many more. Don't let those cold temperatures scare you off the water.......there is good fishing to be had!

Numbers Of Fish In This Size Was Impressive For An Early Winter Morning 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Icing Up

Butter Brown 
Things have gotten super cold in Southwestern Montana over the last 10 days. I've ventured over to the Gallatin a few times in the valley only to be turned away by mad ice flowing down it. There's still places to go and the fishing has been solid if you can get out and don't mind fighting ice in your guides. Honestly last years Polar Vortex in PA trained me well for this stuff. I love winter fishing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Troutbitten.....The Montana Way

Best Brown Of The Trip....Look At That Jaw! 

That Picture Should Be On The Cover Of A Magazine

My good friend Pat Burke came out to visit over the weekend. We were able to spend 4 full days on the water, 2 days wade fishing and 2 days floating. The weather was spectacular for early November and the fishing was down right amazing. I think we both got to experience why Montana is considered one of the best places to fish in the country. The pictures don't do this place justice!

A typical sight along the Yellowstone 
Euro-Nymphing The Madison

Paradise Valley
Biggest Cutty Of The Trip 

Somebody Was In Our Spot
A Good Nymph Eating Bow 
All Colored Up 
Another Butter Brown
And Another
Burke Can Capture A Hell Of A Pic 
Beastly Bow

This Never Got Old

A Bit Darker

Montana Ain't Bad 
Streamer Eater 
Best Double Of The Year!