Trouts Journal

Trouts Classics // How To Build A Dry/Dropper Rig

Ivan Orsic / Aug 17, 2021

If you have ever been into a fly shop during the summer months you have probably heard employees talking about throwing big dry/dropper rigs on their days off. Even more so during the summer months, you would be hard-pressed to find anglers who don't throw dry droppers along their favorite river banks. Why? Well because as opposed to our Rocky Mountain Nymph Rigs a dry dropper allows you to fish with a terrestrial fly (which can double as your indicator) as well as a subsurface fly of your choosing. By using this system you are effectively fishing two sections of the water column. Typically dry/droppers provide a bit more engagement when fishing especially when you cast them close to the banks. The thrill of watching a trout smack a large terrestrial fly never gets old.

For this week's Trouts Classics, we are bringing back an old favorite describing how to create this popular summer staple. If you are more of a visual learner, feel free to watch our video series Starting Off In Fly Fishing where our Education Director, Courtney Despos goes over how to set up a dry/dropper rig. Without Further Ado, let us get into this edition of Trouts Classics: How To Build A Dry/Dropper Rig.

The Dry Dropper Rig is a very useful rigging system here in Colorado and much of the Rocky Mountain West. One of the main benefits of this rig is that you get to explore two very different sections of the water column – the surface of the river as well as subsurface depths. It is a great set-up to use if you are not sure where fish are feeding and it also works if fish are taking bugs on the surface and deeper in the water column. The best part of this rig: in addition to being effective, is that it is very simple and quick to tie.

This brief tutorial will walk you through connecting three pieces of terminal tackle (fly line, leader, and tippet) to two flies.

Step 1:

Attaching your fly line to your leader. You can do this using a loop-to-loop connection if both your fly line and your leader have pre-built loops (most lines and leaders do these days). If your fly line has a loop at the terminal section and your leader does not, you can use a perfection loop on your leader. If neither have loops you can always tie a nail knot. Most standard leaders we use are 9’ in length but they are also readily available in 7.5’.

Step 2:

Attach a piece of tippet to your leader using a double surgeon knot. Depending on the situation, I’ll usually use a 12-18” piece of fluorocarbon or nylon tippet. Other knots that work include a blood knot or an Albright knot.

Step 3:

This is where we will connect our dry fly. For fly selection, you can either “match the hatch” or use a larger attractor or stimulator pattern. We will typically tie this fly with a standard clinch knot. Also step 3 is where we will tie another knot from the shank of the hook on the attractor dry fly using tippet material, typically the same one we used in step 2 above.

Step 4:

This is where we will finalize the dry/dropper rig. In order to do this, we will be tying our last clinch knot to our dropper nymph fly. This fly is used to imitate whatever is emerging or sub-surface insect we think the fish might be keying into.

While this post is supposed to provide anglers with the general concept of building their own dry/dropper rig it is important to note a couple of things in conclusion. First, the types of flies, the size, leader, and tippet will all play an important factor in the effectiveness of your rig.
Second, you must remember to adapt all of these components to the river you are fishing and the varying conditions of whatever river you are on. If you have any questions regarding rigging or fly choice feel free to swing by either our Denver or Frisco locations and we will be happy to help you out. If you cannot make it into the shop feel free to call the shop with questions at 303-733-1434.

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