Creative Ways to Fly Fish with 2 Flies

The “what” and “why” of using a dry/dropper rig are explained a few weeks into Fly Fishing 101. You cover more water, present to more fish, and maximize your catching potential.

But there have always been many more ways to tap into 2 fly systems than a Chernobyl Ant with a Copper John underneath it.

Here are four dropper rig ideas for all types of trout fishing. These incorporate streamers, dries, nymphs, and even mice. What they all have in common is this – the flies work in tandem. Fishing the flies together can create a whole greater than the sum of each individual fly’s parts.

Check out the four rigs, as well as a few notes on knots and storage, below:

“Indicator” Dry & Dropper

What: An unsinkable (as much as possible) dry fly trailed by a traditional nymph.

  • Pictured: Yellow Stimulator (12) & Beadhead Hare’s Ear (16)

Why: There are certain situations when fish have the tendency to “look up.” Stocked fish and mountain stream trout seem to attack strike indicators. So why not use a buoyant, bright fly that can act as an indicator? Foam and deer hair flies that are still castable will help you keep your nymph where you want it.

Dry & Dropper Midge

What: A subtle, yet visible dry fly above a tiny midge.

  • Pictured: Parachute Adams (16) & Cream Midge (26)

Why: Depending on your eyesight, sizes 20 and smaller might be hard to track. Especially in broken water or low light conditions, midges is intimidating if you can’t see them. Using another small, but easily traceable, dry as a lead fly will help you gauge where your midge is   – and if that rise might be a fish  taking your bug.

Streamer & Dropper

What: A streamer that can be easily seen with a buggy nymph behind.

  • Pictured: White Woolly Bugger (10) & Stonefly Nymph (12)

Why: You can see bright streamers as they swing or are retrieved. Use this to your advantage by attaching a wiggly-looking nymph a few feet behind. Not only will your streamer function as an indicator, but fish that might be too wary to attack a baitfish pattern could be enticed enough to still take the nymph.

Mouse & Dropper

What: A big, loud mouse pattern followed by a small streamer.

  • Pictured: Master Splinter (2) & Black Woolly Bugger (12)

Why: Why not? Popper/dropper rigs are used for warm water and in the salt because the lead fly attracts fish. Mice get the attention of every fish in the stream, but only some are game to take on a mammalian meal. A smaller streamer a few feet behind might be more feasible for many trout. Note: on this rig, use a longer piece of tippet to reduce the risk of fouling fish that do whack the mouse.


Knots: There are plenty of ways to tie lead flies to dropper flies. Especially in the case of “modern nymph theory,” the manner in which knots are tied to hook eyes, tippet rings, etc. has merit. In all of the above cases, and in most general purpose dropper rigs, I prefer tying a length of tippet that leads to the dropper fly on the hook bend of the lead fly. It keeps things in line, reduces tangles, and is (in my opinion) the fastest way to do things.

Rig Storage: Knots aren’t the worst thing in the world to contend with. Still, if you are fishing one dropper rig and need to switch things up quickly, you don’t want to undo multiple knots and discard a length of fresh tippet needlessly. Having a rig keeping system can be very helpful. I like two models:

Smith Creek Rig Keeper  – This is my favorite way to keep multiple fly rigs that utilize lengths of tippet. Placing and removing rigs is quick and easy, and the design protects hackles from you and you from hook points.

Fly Trap Fly Holder – The Fly Trap does a little bit of everything. Wrapping a longer tippet section around the silicone cylinders takes a little bit of time, but once they’re stored they aren’t going anywhere.


Did you know about the Casting Across Fly Fishing Podcast? Last week I released an episode on this very topic. Listen by clicking this link or searching for “Casting Across” in your favorite podcasts app.