A fly-fisherman has one distinct advantage over spin fisherman—it is the ability to fish several baits at one time to cover multiple water columns.
Water column is a term often used to describe the water from bottom to the surface. Spin fisherman will cast a lure, say a crank bait, to find what depth fish are holding. Once they find actively feeding fish, they concentrate on placing baits in that section of the water column.
Fly-fisherman can use several flies tied together to catch fish from the bottom of the creek to the surface. The technique is referred to as fishing a tandem rig. Tandem rigs come in many shapes and sizes and the possibilities are endless. Let’s look at several common rigs and how they allow you to catch more fish.
The dry fly/dropper rig
It is the most common used tandem-fly pattern for fishing small freestone creeks and gin clear-spring creeks. It is a very effective way to blind fish a creek or to scout the water while fishing.
Simply tie on a dry fly of your choice, preferably one that floats high and you can see on the water surface. Pick a common attractor like a Caddis fly or Stimulator, a dry fly that has a proven reputation for catching fish. On the shank of the dry fly hook, tie a small piece of tippet material and connect it to the dropper fly. An improved clinch or fisherman’s knot will work just fine.
Look at the average depth of the water to determine the length of tippet needed. A common nymph like a Hare’s Ear or Prince Nymph will do just fine. A nymph should be run along the rubble at the bottom of the creek to be the most effective. Fish the rig upstream making sure the dry fly is drifting naturally. The nymph will be below the dry and behind it because the water will be moving slower towards the bottom of the creek compared to the faster surface water. A quick tip, if the dry fly moves in any direction that does not appear natural, set the hook. Once you determine which fly the trout are taking, you can slow down and concentrate on that particular water column and fly pattern.
The streamer/dropper fly
In conditions where a dry fly is not the fly of the day, usually in the winter or early spring before any insect hatches have occurred or during periods of high and off-color water, a streamer and dropper fly tandem rig is often times a great combination.
Tie on a streamer of your choice. A Woolly Bugger is hard to beat anywhere in the world. Pay attention to the depth of the creek and add weight to the fly if needed. You will want to run the streamer in the middle to upper sections of the water column. On the shank of the streamer’s hook, tie a piece of tippet material to the streamer fly. Once again notice the depth of the creek to determine the length of tippet needed. The dropper should be rigged concentrating on flies that will run correctly under the heavy streamer. A traditional wet fly, like the Royal Coachman wet, is an excellent choice. A weighted nymph will work as well. As you strip the line back to the rod, the streamer will be jigging its way through the middle and then the top sections of the water column. The dropper will be following behind hitting the middle to lower sections of the water column thus allowing the angler to cover the entire column with a fly.
A casting note
When casting a tandem rig, slow down. Tight loops and landing the fly hard on the water can cause frustrating knots in the line or leader. A smooth cast that allows the line to completely straighten out behind you will keep the flies and your line in check and more fish on the end of them.