Techy Thursday - Dry Dropper Advice

How To Fly Fish With A Dry & Dropper Set Up

Tom's Question:

"Hi Chris,

I hope you would be willing to share how you set up to fish nymphs in most rivers down your way. I have much more experience fishing the north island. I fish droppers off a dry on occassion, and I know it's effective down your way. I've tried to glean info from the TV show Pure Fly NZ about this. Watching it suggests that the dropper is much longer than the depth of the run they are fishing. Is this right, or should I just try to run the nymph suspended near the bottom? I've been fly fishing for a long time, but I have much less experience on the shingle river beds of the south.

Any advice you can give me on this subject would be greatly appreciated.”

Chris Dore Answers:

Hi Tom,

  1. Firstly how does one judge the depth of the water? With gutters, boulders, drop offs etc its widely variable. Instead ask, is the fish likely to lift to a nymph, or must you get your fly right down in his face? Our rivers are gin clear here, and so fish often have a larger foraging window due to superior visibility, and thus are more likely to lift for a nymph. How much they’re moving is how I generally determine both my dropper length, and the weight of my nymph.
  2. A shorter dropper will register the nymph take much quicker on the indicator/ dry and so I try to keep the distance as short as possible, often only two feet to ensure I can react before the fish spits the nymph. This is important on heavily pressured waters, and post flood when their ejection game is well honed from sampling debris etc.
  3. As well as being much easier to cast, a shorter dropper also creates more association between your flies. Often a larger, buggy terrestrial dry will catch the trout’s eye and draw him to the nearby nymph, a handy tactic on say the Mataura when the nymph drift is heavy and there are lots to choose from.
  4. Often bigger fish, or more pressured fish will be reluctant to move from the sanctuary of the stream bed, or maybe thats simply where the food is on the day and so you have to get down.
  5. At over around a metre, a dry dropper rig tends to hinge noticeably, the energy stopping at the dry and the nymph turning over from momentum alone, and many can find a bulkier rig troublesome to present accurately. At longer distances between flies pay more consideration to the wind resistance of your dry and the weight of your nymph to maintain accuracy and control of your cast.
  6. In saying this, when fishing longer droppers I often employ two nymphs below my dry, a heavier pattern on the point to keep things tight and deep, and to assist turnover, and a smaller, more natural soft hackle or similar off a dropper a foot up the leader. If a fish is hugging the bottom and feeding there, I will usually make life easier for my client, remove the dry and just straight nymph it.
  7. Consider your indicator dry. A parachute style pattern with a stiffer, horizontal hackle will provide a better platform on the surface to hold up a heavy nymph, as are bouyant foam or deer hair terrestrial style flies.

More about that in tomorrows Friday Fly Day...