I just finished reading Al Campbell's column this week,
'Dropper Loops,' and I got to thinking about back in the
mid '70's when I saw Jake going into Nicholson's Ice cream
shop in Livingston, Montana. I hadn't seen him since I had
left Michigan about five years earlier and I was anxious
to catch up on what was happening back there. Jake was
about my age and was a member of a splinter bunch of fly
fishers known as the R.A.B. (Raggity-Ass-Bunch) that fished
a lot on the Rifle river and some on the Au Sable. Jake
was a good fly-fisher, but a bit heavy on the 'hunt-for-the-table'
side for my preference. I suspected he sometimes used a few
more 'dropper' flies than the state fishing regulations deemed
As it was not yet noon, we each ordered a coffee and one of
those big sticky buns Nicholson's were famous for and preceded
to make up for past time. He was on a business trip and figured
he could squeeze a couple of days fishing the Yellowstone River
onto his expense account with a bit of creative accounting.
Now, Al Campbell did a good job of de-confusing the whole matter
of, 'Dropper Flies,' but compared to Jake, I think he left out
much. Years before, I learned quite a bit from Jake when I
tried to educate him in the 'finer' points of fly fishing,
namely, dry flies. Not that I had never used a two-fly hitch,
(cast if you're from the U.K.) I had, but for many reasons
give it up. I was known (I shudder yet today to think of it)
to hulk about on a stream with a size ten streamer with a
number fourteen nymph about eight inches ahead of it on a
'dropper.' It caught fish, mostly on the nymph; I always figured
the trout thought if the little streamer wanted the nymph
so bad, so did they and got to it first.
My attempts, as I have alluded to, with Jake failed miserably,
as his dropper system defied any logical arguments. Situations
like when you are netting a trout which has taken only one of
the flies. Often the fish will be wound up like mothers chuck-roast
and be docile as old Betsy coming to net. When I tried this
one of the hooks would be in the fish, the other stuck in the
net and I would lose the flopping thing every time; for Jake
it worked, for me, never.
If Jake had a fish taking off for the weeds, it would be on
the end hook and the dropper would snag on some of them and
keep it from getting away; for me, I got busted off. I used
to hand-land my fish, but after stabbing myself on the second
hook enough times decided that the dropper system was not for
me. When I tried to convince him that dry fly was easier to
cast, he countered that he hardly ever cast, just used his
long, floppy fly rod and kinda plopped the combinations about
in likely looking places.
I asked him, over our re-fill, if he ever gave up the dropper'
thing. He said he had. He said he discovered that casting dries
was indeed easier as he only had to cast upstream and it came
right back to him. Even easier than his old system. He said he
didn't catch as many fish as he used to in past years that way,
figured maybe lots of the good streams had been 'fished-out,'
He wasn't sure though, thought he should give it a try again
sometime if he could get into some really good trout water.
I told him to let me know if it still worked, paid our bill
and went down the street to Dan Baileys, I needed a few pmd's.
~ James Castwell