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
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