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The Dropper Fly technique

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POSTED January 24, 2011 12:28 a.m.
About 100 years ago, my Grandfather earned his living for several years as a professional flyfisher. He would fish the trout streams of Colorado with his flyrod, & sell the fish to the mining & logging camps. Since it was his livelihood, Grandpa’s primary concern was catching as many large fish as possible, & he utilized numerous techniques to fill his fish sack. One of the most effective techniques Grandpa used was the dropper fly, which consistently produced more and larger fish. The dropper fly is still an amazingly effective technique today.

While there are many variations, essentially there are two kinds of fly: Dry Flies, and Wet Flies. Dry flies are designed to float on the waters surface and wet flies are designed to sink below the surface. Dry Fly fishers often go to great lengths to make their offerings float in the surface film. The result of successful dry fly fishing is being able to watch the fish take your fly that you have so carefully presented to him. It can be exceeding rewarding and is a beautiful sight to behold. Wet flies, on the other hand are designed to absorb water and sink below the surface. It is much harder to spot the fish hitting a fly below the surface and if you’re not really paying attention, the fish will strike the fly & spit it out before you have time to react. It can be very frustrating & humbling to be outsmarted by a prehistoric creature with a brain smaller than a pea.

Why would any reasonable angler choose to fish below the surface when he can easily see what’s going on up on top?  The fact is that trout regularly get over 90 % of their food below the surface and less than 10% of their food from the surface. Thus once you master the basics, your chances of catching fish are significantly better if you are fishing wet flies, below the surface. One of those basic techniques is the use of the dropper fly.  There is a special knot called a dropper loop which you can tie in your leader to add dropper flies. Once you master the dropper loop then fishing dropper flies can become your most productive angling technique.

There are several tricks that you can use with dropper flies. I regularly tie a light colored, brighter fly on the top and a darker fly on the bottom. Depending on the conditions it can greatly improve your effectiveness. For example, if you catch your first five fish on the dark fly, switch out the bright fly to a dark one & you have just doubled your chances of hooking up. If the fish prefer light flies that day, switch to light flies to increase your productivity. Another fun bonus is that by using multiple droppers you can actually catch two fish at once. In the Merced River near Savages Trading Post, I have caught a Trout on one fly and a Smallmouth Bass on the other. Or sometimes you’ll catch a rainbow and a brown at the same time. It’s a blast.

While the use of dropper flies is pretty rare it can open up a whole range of new fishing options for you and really improve your fishing.  Until Next Week,

Tight Lines
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