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July. Time for Hoppers.

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It's that wonderful time of year called summer.

Let’s talk about something to put in your summer aresal of outdoor fun. I’m not talking about beers and BBQ (although that is one of my favorite activities). I’m talking about properly hooking up and using the infamous hopper-dropper rig.

Hopper-dropper rig.

Double fly rigs have been around for decades, but seemingly have been forgotten here in the states unitl about 5-10 years ago. I rarely fish a single fly set-up anymore, but I’m amazed at how few fisherman put the two fly technique into their bag of tricks.

There’s more to it than simply hanging a Copper John off the back of a Hopper pattern. Firstly, your lead fly doesn’t even have to be a Hopper. I will routinely use a large Stone Fly or Chernobyl Ant as my lead fly.

Master the knots.

The first thing you’ll have to master is the knots. Piece of cake! No need for tying blood knots with long tag ends. There’s a lot of proponents of the blood knot method, I just haven’t found this any more effective than a simple cinch knot on the bend of the lead/hopper fly…and anyone can do it, and quickly.

Simply make a look with your line, twist 6-7 times, run the tag through, drape over the bend of the hook, and tighten. A simple cinch knot on the bend of the lead/hopper fly is more than sufficient. It also had the benefit that the inline rig is easier to tie, easier to cast and tangles less.

Match the hatch.

Secondly, match the hatch. There is really no limit to the number of useful two fly combinations you can use. I’ve used two drys, a dry and an emerger, a dry and a nymph, two nymphs, even a double streamer! Research and find out what bugs are hatching out. If you have caddis fly coming out, use a caddis emerger. Likewise for any other hatch either coming off, or soon to be.

Match your depths.

You’ll also have to match your depths just like if you were nymph fishing. To exploit the full potential of two fly rigs, you’ve got to put the same amount of thought into the components, construction and performance of your rig as you do put into matching a hatch on a low and slow spring creek!

The fundamental question you need to ask yourself is what am I trying to do with this rig. This is especially important when using two flies because of the way the flies interact with each other. In reality, you need to answer two things for yourself:

  1. How are the fish feeding?
  2. How can I construct a two fly rig that will exploit that feeding behavior and give me the best chance of tight line success?

For instance, if a hatch is in full swing but the fish aren’t taking the duns, you know that you should tie on a nymph as a dropper to imitate the emerging naturals. That’s just common sense. But how long should the dropper be? Before you attach that second fly, you need to determine the particular stage of the hatch and observe the behavior of the fish.

If there are just a few duns on the water and you don’t yet see feeding fish near the surface, a nymph on a 24-inch dropper will almost always catch more fish than a nymph on a 6-inch dropper because the trout are looking for nymphs lower in the water column.

But, if trout are porpoising just below the surface, that shorter dropper line could be just the ticket because it puts the fly right where the fish expect to see it.

Depending on how deep and fast the water is, you might need a 30-inch dropper to imitate the nymphs swimming up from the stream bed in the moments just before the duns start popping up on the surface. Clearly, an angler who indiscriminately chooses a 12- or 18-inch dropper every time out is not giving himself the best chances to score.

Tandem rig.

If you’ve never tried fishing a tandem rig, give it a shot; there’s nothing very complicated about the setup, and it will increase your chances of hooking up. If you already fish two flies, you can make the game more interesting and productive by tailoring each tandem rig to the specific conditions you find on the water.

Do away with the notion of a “standard” rig, and use your ability to read water and your knowledge of trout behavior to fashion a two-fly system that will give you the best chance to hook up…..as always…..

Tight Lines and Screaming Drags
Dave Jolie

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