Fishing two or more nymphs simultaneously is almost always a good idea. You can cover more of the water column, and by mixing, matching, and swapping fly patterns, you can key into what the fish want faster. However, the moment you tie on that dropper tippet to attach your second fly, a door is opened to a world of wind knots, rats nests, and other inexplicable tangles.
To help you spend more time fishing and less time re-tying leaders, here are some tips to sidestep the many frustrations associated with multi-fly nymph rigs.
Stay Calm and Keep Things Orderly
Tying on a new leader and two brand new flies after you get snagged and break off is one of the most frustrating instances in fly fishing. Sometimes experiencing the sting of lost tackle is unavoidable, but there are things you can do to make the rigging process go smoother every time, especially when fishing elaborate nymph rigs.
- Know where all your rig components are and make them easy to access. The less fumbling around you do when searching for tippet, strike indicators, or that certain box of flies, the less you’ll pull out your hair when it’s time to repair or totally rebuild a tandem rig. Utilize the pockets on your vest or pack for the most efficient rigging.
- Consider pre-rigging. By tying up a day’s worth of tandem nymph rigs at home before you hit the stream, you’ll save yourself considerable time in the event of a break-off. Storing pre-tied multi-fly rigs used to be cumbersome, but now thanks to products like the Smith Creek Rig Keeper or the Orvis Dropper Rig Fly Box, the process is incredibly easy and streamlined.
Tweak Your Rigs to Minimize Tangles In and Out of the Water
Every time you tie on a fly or crimp on a split shot, you’re adding a pivot point to your leader that creates a sort of hinging effect. In the air, the leader is prone to kink and wrap around itself in any number of ways. Casting mechanics become hugely important when casting multi-fly rigs, but there are a few tweaks you can make to your leaders to combat tangles from the start.
- Tie your dropper fly off the bend of the first fly’s hook. This is perhaps the most tangle-free way to fish two or more flies. This method keeps the leader in one line without droppers flying around. There are a time and place for using droppers, but if you’re struggling with fouled leaders, it might best to switch to the off-the-bend rigging method.
- Space your flies properly. If you are using dropper tags, you need to make sure they’re far enough apart. And since the length of the dropper tag increases range of movement for the fly, be sure to consider it in your tippet length estimations. Generally, 18-inches is plenty of distance between two dropper tags as long as the hooks can’t touch.
- Add more taper to long leaders. There are times when it’s beneficial to have lots of space between your flies, resulting in a long leader. But for most anglers, longer leaders are more difficult to cast and inevitably result in more tangles. Stepping down your tippet sizes to bridge long distances between two flies is a great strategy to help transfer energy throughout the leader to turn over the flies more efficiently.
Back Cast as Little as Possible
In the next article (chapter), we’ll go into greater detail on how to adapt your casting stroke to successfully deliver a heavy, awkward nymph rig to your target. But for now, here’s an important tip that applies equally to all forms of fly casting:
You can’t catch fish with your fly in the air.
Furthermore, the more time your fly spends airborne, the more tangle-prone your rig becomes.
Since most of the casts you’ll make with traditional, indicator, or Euro nymph rigs are relatively short for close-range fishing, back casts are largely unnecessary. If you can train yourself to give up false casts, you’ll soon find that a single backcast is all that’s needed to get your fly back into position for another drift — without becoming a jumbled mess.