Dry dropper fishing is arguably one of the most fun and rewarding ways to fly fish. Combine aggressive surface eats with a stealthy nymph rig and you’ve got yourself one deadly combo. Sure, nothing beats the feeling of making a 30 yard cast to that trophy trout barely sipping across the water with a single dry fly, but this is a close second. There are many reasons to fish dry droppers and if you’re not already convinced, we’re here to help. If you’re already a fan, hopefully, in this blog, you’ll learn a thing or two as to why dry droppers are so effective.
First, what is a dry dropper? A dry dropper is simply a dry fly followed by one or more nymphs. You’re essentially putting together the two most common methods of fishing, dry flies and nymphing. To set it up, start by picking a fairly buoyant dry fly, ideally one that matches the hatch, but it can also be a bigger foam based attractor fly like a Hippie Stomper or Chubby Chernobyl. From there, attach 18 to 24 inches of tippet to the hook of your dry fly with an improved clinch knot followed by one or more nymphs. If you add a second nymph, all you really need is another 8 inches of tippet. Bead head nymphs are particularly effective as they will sink faster, but you can also add a small split just above your second fly to get it down, assuming it doesn’t sink your dry.
- Cover more ground: By fishing a dry dropper you have the ability to cover every water column that trout are feeding in. Right away, you automatically improve your odds of landing more trout. You’ve got the surface flies covered as well as the sub-surface. Additionally, you can add multiple nymphs behind your dry fly so as to cover the pupa/larva and emerger life cycles which are often found at varying depths.
- Versatility: In general, when fishing a dry dropper, your focus is toward the banks and outer seams. However, there is no reason you can’t rig up enough tippet/flies below your dry so as to fish deeper water. Have you ever seen a trout rise to your indicator? By going this route, you’re effectively nymphing with a dry fly as your indicator. We call this method the improved nymph rig. That said, it can be tricky to cast and depending on how buoyant your lead fly is, you will be limited on the amount of weight you can apply to your droppers.
- Don’t rock the boat: Dry droppers are a great way to fish that low and slow water where trout spook at the sound of a fart echoing through your waders. While trout are easier to see in slow water, it can be a challenge to get them to eat and if you're slapping thingamabobbers across the water it's game over. By fishing a dry dropper or even an improved nymph rig, there’s a lower chance you spook the trout and who knows, you might even get them to rise to your dry. We’ve got a buddy who almost exclusively fishes dry droppers in Cheesman Canyon despite the time of year or flow.
- Interchangeable: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished rigging up some nymphs to find myself immersed in a hatch and actively rising trout. At this point, my nymphs are fairly pointless and in order to have the best chance of catching a fish, it would be in my best interest to swap them out for a dry fly set up. With a dry dropper, you can easily switch between fishing nymphs and dries. All you have to do is clip off your nymph(s) and rig up a dry fly.