What’s a “Dropper Rig”? Maybe you know and fish them all the time, but just in case you don’t…
“Dropper” is the term for a nymph pattern that’s fished in combination with a dry fly. The nymph pattern drops in the water and floats below the dry fly, so it’s called a “dropper”. Simple, right?
There are lots of other names for these rigs…
- Dry / Dropper – Just any dry fly with a nymph below it
- Hopper Dropper – A floating grasshopper imitation with a nymph below it
- Hopper Copper Dropper – A floating grasshopper imitation, with a Copper John below that, with a nymph below that (we don’t get that technical in Chile)
- We’re sure there are more, and if you’ve got one you should tell us in a comment.
We fish dropper rigs a lot at Chile West. Our fish love big dry flies, and in recent years the advent of really good, really ‘floaty’ foam dries in all shapes and sizes has made dropper fishing a great option for us.
Anyhow, let’s rig up a dropper rig and go fishing! Here are a few tips.
- Tie one end of the nymph tippet directly to the shank of the dry fly hook using an improved clinch knot and the other end to the nymph. Hot tip: When tying on small nymphs, the tippet can affect how the rides in the water. Try using a loop knot. The nymph will hang freely and will give a more realistic presentation.
- Use a tippet length suitable so the nymph can hang in the zone. In many situations a tippet length of 2 to 3 feet works well. It will cast easily and is less likely to tangle.
- Use a dry fly that is large enough to float your nymph or use a nymph that won’t sink the dry fly. When fishing large, weighted nymphs such as a Tungsten Beadhead 20 Incher, try using a large, foam dry fly pattern such as a Chubby Chernobyl. The nymph will ride down along the bottom as it should and the dry will be easily seen as it floats high on the surface.
- Remember to mend the line all the way to the nymph right after the fly has hit the water. The dry fly should be floating the same speed as the current. If the nymph is dragging or swinging in the current or it will not have the correct presentation.
- In slow water such as back eddies or slow pools with seams where you can see suspended fish feeding, use small nymphs. Fish have a lot more time to inspect the fly in slow water and large nymphs would not be floating in such water. Be prepared for rejection, and be OK with it.
- If you can see the fish, do not rely on the dry fly as your indicator. Fish may take the nymph and spit it out without moving the dry fly. You probably can’t see the nymph, but remember you have 2 to 3 feet of tippet length between the dry and the nymph. Watch the fish rise to the nymph. At the point where you think the nymph should be, look for the fish’s mouth to open and close or for the fish to change direction. Either of these things probably means the fish just ate your nymph. Set the hook!
We like dropper rigs and we think you should too.