The concept of using two flies at once is not a new idea, nor is it an obscure tactic reserved for the self-proclaimed“experts”. Most fly fishers use a tandem rig in one or another of its’ many forms. I will say again…most. I speak to an exorbitant number of beginning or inexperienced fly fishers. A perk/challenge of being based out of a fly shop in Boulder, Colorado—a town known for many things, to include free thinking (good as well as insane) more bicycles than humans and, of course,transients. Not just the guy on Pearl Street with a pet dog, cat and mouse all living with him in a cardboard box, but pilgrims and college students and just blue-collar dudes with an unexplained magnetism to the mountains. So, for those few out there who are not yet indoctrinated into the fold of the “Dry & Dropper” I will drop the knowledge. (As the comedian Daniel Tosh says, “Don’t worry, baby birds. I’ll feed ya!”) It is a simple two fly rig. And a staple in the culture of Rocky Mountain fly fishing. Start with a 9 foot 5x leader. Tie on a dry fly. My suggestion this time of year is bushy caddis fly adult, something that has a ton of elk hair and hackle packed onto a small dry fly hook so that it is super buoyant. A size 16/14 Stimulator is a practical choice, although the new hi-viz Clown Shoe Caddis (just arrived in fly bins yesterday!) is my new favorite. Now, once the dry is in place, tie on some 5x spooled tippet material onto the bend of the dry fly using the same knot you used to tie on the eye of the hook. Trim this tippet material to about 18 inches and select a sub-surface fly to use as the “dropper”. I like to go double caddis…adult on top, pupa underneath. The Banksia Bug is one of my top picks as it has such a great “buggy” look as well as the proper weight and durability needed in a bottom bouncing fly. Fish this rig exactly how you have been fishing a single dry fly. Cast upstream and let the flies drift back downstream as naturally as you can…being sure to keep your rod tip held high and as much fly line and leader off the water as possible. If the trout eats the dry you will know (duh) but if the dry fly suddenly disappears, please set the hook. The trout has just eaten your dropper. Yes…also duh.
Pictured above are the Clown Shoe Caddis and the Banksia Bug. Two brand new flies from Umpqua Feather Merchants. Together they make the best (arguably) autumn caddis dry and dropper partnership!