A recent blog post fueled my fire when it comes to High Sticking or Tight Lining, don't even mention the name Euro nymphing to me, I'm not buying it. Sure, they have their own way of rigging, but the actual presentation goes back long before the white man appeared on the rivers of Northern California. It was the native American Wintu women who created weighted flies while employing a short line technique for trout. Born out of necessity in northern California, this productive nymphing technique was passed on, and fly anglers Joe Kimsey and Ted Fay popularized it for the mainstream, while adding more flies to the rig creating the "Christmas Tree". My father learned it as well in his late teens, and perfected the technique years later. When I came onto the scene in the early 70's it was passed down to me. That's the only way of nymphing we knew, there was no indicators, and certainly not the High Stick leaders we use today.
The blog post I read stated "I’ve seen some wacky tight line rigs this summer that people have come up with from the internet, or on their own. While they work, most of them don’t work well here". My family's Tight Line rig of the 70's and 80's consisted of a short piece of florescent orange Amnesia (the sighter) off the fly line, with a 7.5 foot tapered leader to 3x, with one heavy fly. Additional split shot was added depending on the water conditions. Doesn't get much simpler than that. That rig caught many trout on the Truckee, Pit, McCloud, Trinity, NF Feather, MF Feather, WB Feather, Upper Sacramento, and Deer creek. It also worked well on the low flow section of the Feather, and the Mad for steelhead. If a guide tells you there is only one way to do something, doubt them. There is 10 different ways to achieve the same principal, it just comes down to your personal preference.
Fly fishing and the techniques we use are always evolving. Progression is a beautiful thing. With newer products available, more and more rigs are rising to the surface and going viral. Many of these leader systems are created just to create hype, or give an angler some recognition. Some rigs work better than others because of the mechanics involved. Explained below is the Tight Line leader I use, and I don't mind sharing, after all, you're only halfway to success without experience on the water.
I start with 2.5 feet of 40 pound stiff mono, size .024. I will often go with a longer length of the butt material depending on the size of my rod. This is the backbone of the leader system which aids in making a good load and lob presentation for a near vertical entry. I make a perfection loop on one end, this will be attached to your floating fly line. I always cut a little more leader material to account for the added length the knots will take up.
At the end of the 5.5 foot section of floro, tie on a #14 swivel. Weight is added as needed on the upside of the swivel towards the fly line. The weight will never slide down to your flies, the swivel prevents this from happening.
Add 10 inches of 1 to 4x floro from the swivel down to your first fly, which will be about 8 inches after you have tied your knots. Keep in mind that tippet size will be determined by the size of the fly, flow, size of fish, and water clarity. Go heavier than lighter when in doubt, you can always downsize, but you can't bring back that trophy trout once you've broke it off.
Off the eye of the first fly, I tie in a 16" piece of floro tippet using the appropriate size depending on the conditions to a big heavy fly, like my "Madison Magic Stone" I developed for the Madison River in 1998. That's the complete High Stick/Tight Line rig from fly line to your bottom fly. Total length about 10 feet or a little more. It may not be as simple as the rigs we used back in the day, but it is very effective on ANY freestone river in the west.
Rigging for fly fishing depends on your own personal needs, ease of operation, and what gives you the most confidence. Feel free to tweak any leader formula, fly recipe, or whatever. In the end it's your call...