How to Make an Adjustable Dropper System for Dry Fly Fishing

How to Make an Adjustable Dropper System for Dry Fly Fishing

You’ll be able to use this system to slide your dry fly up or down based on the depth of the water, which will either bring your dropper fly up higher or lower within the water column.

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What is an adjustable dropper system?

An adjustable dropper system is a special rig you can use for dry fly fishing. It’s designed to allow you to slide your dry fly higher or lower based on the water depth you are fishing. If you are using a conventional dry-dropper rig, your dry fly is stationary at one height. This is a major disadvantage to you.

Ideally, you want your nymphs to be rolling near the bottom. As most runs and pools vary in depth and speed, this can pose a major problem because you’re not getting your nymphs or emergers down to feeding zones; in most cases you’re short of the bottom. Using this adjustable rig will allow you to change your fishing depth to match the water depth and speed of flow, making it easier to present your flies right in their face.

Here is a good rule to follow in order to determine how high above the dropper you should position your dry fly.

  • Slow flow: 1 times the depth
  • Medium flow: 1.5 times the depth
  • Fast flow: 1.5 to 2 times the depth

Measuring the depth of the water does not need to be an exact science. You can estimate it just from observation.

So let’s put this into practice. For example, if you determine the water to be moving quite fast and the water is roughly 3 feet deep, you’ll want to position your dry fly between 4.5 feet and 6 feet above your dropper. Of course, you don’t want your dropper constantly snagging on the bottom so slide it up or down to get it just right.

Here’s what an adjustable dry dropper rig looks like.

First, you have your barrel knot made from backing material positioned below your dry fly. This acts as a stopper and is easily positioned up or down your leader.

With your dropper nymph below on your fly leader, your dry fly is placed on a seperate 6-inch section of 5x or 6x tippet with a perfection loop knot fed through itself on the end. A barrel knot made from a 6-inch snippet of backing keeps the dry fly from sliding down your leader.

How to make a perfection loop knot.

Perfection loops are commonly used for making loop-to-loop connections from your fly line to your leader. Most commercially available leaders and fly lines come with a perfection loop right out of the box.

How to make a barrel knot out of backing line.

Barrel knots are a simple knot consisting of 5 to 6 wraps that, essenciatally, wrap over itself to create tension. Many use this same knot in Euro Nymphing or tight-line nymphing techniques to place strategic sighters with 1-inch long tag ends on their leader for better visibility.

You can use any color backing line that you prefer as it won’t likely detract from your overall presentation.

  • 6-inch or so of backing material wrapped around the leader.
  • 5 – 6 wraps. You’re basically trapping the backing material on the leader by wrapping it over itself.

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