Much of our time is spent staring at strike indicators or sighter tippet waiting for the slightest sign of movement, so any chance to throw dry flies is a welcome change of pace!
There’s obviously nothing wrong with throwing nymph rigs since they catch so many fish, but there’s something about watching trout feed on the surface that is far more exciting. Dry-dropper rigs allow anglers to combine that excitement with the effectiveness of using nymphs. The idea behind the setup is simple: the fish can come up and hit the dry or the dry acts as an indicator for the nymph below, and when it stops or changes speed/direction, the result can be a trout striking the subsurface offering. Specific flies change through the seasons, however, and here are a few great options for those wanting to get a head start on the dry-dropper fun!
Stimulator - Little Black Stonefly
The emergence of stoneflies is one of the first signs that spring is in full swing. Typically the first stones to show up are small and dark, which makes this setup a must-have in your arsenal. Stimulators are known to float high and offer easy visibility to anglers, and the little black stonefly nymphs aren’t so heavy that they’ll sink the dry. Start with a size #12 or #14 stimulator and work the seams. Trailing a small size #16 or #18 Copper John 16-inches to 36-inches below is a great way to fish this stonefly rig. Fishing this setup in the faster riffles and bank edges can produce some great results. As an added bonus, the stimulator, depending on the exact color, can even pass for a caddis or early season hopper.
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Cutters Caddis - Emerging Caddis
April and May provide some of the best hatches of the year, and many of them are some type of caddis. One of the first insect events anglers take note of is the Mother’s Day caddis, and it’s because the hatch is so darn dependable and trout love gorging on these bugs. The Cutters Caddis is a perfect dry to use, and an emerging caddis can drive fish crazy as they torpedo through the water to get a meal before the bug hits the surface. While this rig can be dead-drifted, you can also add a little extra action to it by wiggling the rod tip or letting it swing across at the end of a drift. This imitates the erratic nature of the caddis naturals and produces violent strikes with trout literally skyrocketing out of the water to smash your fly!
Parachute Adams - Prince Nymph
This is the classic attractor prospecting rig that will work on just about any freestone stream in America. You’ll be hard-pressed to find two flies steeped in more tradition than the Adams and the Prince, and it’s because they both flat-out catch fish! When there isn’t a strong hatch going on, this is an instant go-to because both flies look realistic to a number of different bugs and can coax even the most tight-lipped trout to strike. It’s particularly deadly on small mountain brook/brown streams where fish have to be opportunistic and take advantage of every meal they can get.
Dry-dropper rigs are a ton of fun to fish as they combine the best of two more traditional setups. There’s nothing quite like watching trout rise to the surface for your fly, but sometimes they aren’t incredibly willing to expend those calories to do so. In those situations having a nymph trail behind is a great way to cover another section of the water column. While they’re commonly used during the summer months, there’s no reason they can’t be utilized now as long as the right flies are selected!
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