Al Campbell, Field Editor

February 25th, 2002

Dropper Flies
By Al Campbell

A recent string of comments on the bulletin board got me thinking about dropper flies. As a general rule, I try not to think about dropper flies because the subject is usually painful, but I'll make an exception this time. For those of you considering the right and wrong ways to use and/or define dropper flies, here's a short run-down on the subject.

First, what is a dropper fly? In my case, a dropper fly is usually a fly that has recently separated itself from my fingers and is now floating or sinking out of sight downstream at a rate too fast to retrieve it. Of course, such a fly is almost always the last fly you have that the fish really want to eat. So you won't be confused, flies that blow out of your fly box are not dropper flies. Those gems are called fliers. They generate as much stress as droppers, but we need to be straight on the definitions here.

I suppose we could break this down a little and get more technical in our definitions. A dropper fly that sinks is called a sinker. One that floats is called a wet fly as soon as it hits the water. Any dropper fly that falls in the grass is called a dry fly, that is unless the grass is wet; then it would be a wet fly, of course. Not that any of this makes a real difference; they are all gone forever and you'll never see them again, but it's always best to be technically correct.

I'm sure somebody is going to cry foul when they read my definitions. People always take this subject too seriously. One guy will say that a dropper is technically the second fly or final fly in a series of flies attached to the tippet and/or other flies. I can understand this confusion, but those would technically be the second, third, etc. flies. Oops, you don't know what a etc. fly is? That would be the elk tailed caddis, but that's another column I'm sure.

On the subject of second and subsequent flies, there are many ways to attach them to the leader/tippet. Some guys tie the extra flies to the tag end of tippet material they have after they tie their tippet to the leader. Some folks tie a short piece of tippet to the bend of the first fly and attach a fly to the other end of that tippet. A few guys make a series of loops in their tippet and attach flies to each loop. I guess it's all a matter of preference and talent. Here's a short list of how each is done.

Using the tippet tag - No friends, this isn't a game; unless you consider the idea that some guys like to use this method to show off their knot tying skills. This method is usually the chosen method used by people who don't have a line clipper in their pocket. It's also the chosen method of people who want to show off their knot skills. In my case, I use the improved granny knot, which usually draws odd looks from those who witness the knot. I'm sure they are jealous and wish they had a knot so nice, but it's a secret handed down from a hillbilly in West Virginia and I won't pass it on to anyone.

Some guys use flies that float on the tippet tag. Others select flies that sink. I suppose the selection process is all determined by the amount of floatant stuff they have on the fly or maybe by whether they have any of that stuff in their vest at the time. The fish don't usually care as long as the fly looks like something they want to eat. I suppose that's the secret; use flies that look like something the fish want to eat.

Tippet off the bend technique - This is the method that uses a piece of tippet material attached to the bend of the first fly. The other end of the tippet material is used to add a second fly. Additional flies can be added by repeating this step. A word of caution is in order here. It's very hard to cast forty flies in a group, even if this is a simple method to add subsequent flies. Trying to cast that many flies in one bunch usually results in the ear-tag attachment or the eyebrow hanger. Keep it simple and only add a couple of flies. Once again, having a fly that looks good enough to eat might be helpful.

Additional loop method - This technique requires additional loops in the tippet that first, second and third flies are attached to, usually by adding a short piece of tippet to each loop. Some guys are real talented and can make these loops in one or two false casts. I'm not that talented, so I usually tie the loops by hand. I even met a guy once who ran the fly up the tippet, turned his back, mumbled a few words that sounded like an incantation, and magically managed to create a loop with the fly in the middle of the loop. He said the loop was called a dropper loop, but it didn't look like it was very effective in creating dropper flies to me. I'd guess any fly he dropped would still be attached to that loop and thus the tippet, but he insisted it was called a dropper loop.

The usual warnings about adding too many flies by this method apply. If you try to add too many flies, you might end up with body piercings in places that aren't considered cool. Once again, having a fly that looks like something the fish are hungry for is a good idea.

Back to the subject of dropper flies; I have a few flies in my fly box that might qualify for future honors. I tied those flies many moons ago but can't seem to find anyone who wants to take them off my hands. I have tried to make fliers out of them on several occasions, but my fishing partner always seems to be able to retrieve them and hand them back to me. Insisting that finders are keepers doesn't work either. Some day I'll probably go fishing alone and deposit those flies in a dropper fashion. If it's windy, I might have a few fliers too, but if my luck holds, some honest guy downstream will probably retrieve all of them and return them like my fishing partner always does.

I'm glad I had a chance to clear all of this dropper madness up for you. Fly-fishing can be confusing at times and having expert definitions of the terms is always helpful. If you manage to get some expert definitions, pass them along. I'm always searching for ideas for future columns. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice