Skill of the Day: Dry/Dropper
We've gone over the traditional nymphing techniques and now it's time to add another. Yes, dry/dropper is an extension of nymphing. There are water types that suit this method over traditional nymphing techniques and can make the difference in a good and great day on the water. Let's talk about water types. Slack water and Skinny water are the two types of water that is best suited in my opinion for dry/dropper techniques. Slack water can be described as deeper slower water where nymphing is a challenge to maintain a good drift. Skinny water can be described as water that is less than 2.5 feet deep and is not really turbulent but running fast. How to use your dry/dropper in these waters is where this discussion will focus.
Slack water is perfect for using a dry/dropper technique called the twist or spin. I usually use a size 10-14 stimi in this water but an elk hair caddis or terrestrial will do as well. Depending on the depth of the water, I will usually only fish a single dropper. If the water is 10 feet deep or more, than I might use two but it becomes a challenge to manage and land fish as well. The twist or spin technique is watching your dry fly for rotation which usually indicates a take. In slower water like this, the fish do not always take and run, they will suck the fly in and spit it out when they realize it's not food. Trout are taste testers, so if it looks like food they will sample the menu. The twist or spin indicates that moment the fish has tasted the menu. Pay attention to what your dry is doing and you'll increase your catch rate. A stimi is a little easier to see this happen in my opinion. Adjust your dropper to find the feeding lane. You may want it very close to the bottom or a couple of feet below the surface. Change up till you find out where they are.
Skinny water can come in two types. Riffle runs and fast shallow water that is spread out. Riffle runs is perfect for the dry/dropper technique called the "Y" technique.
Remember, we are fishing the dry off of a tag so it's off of the main line by use of a tag knot.(double overhead surgeons, Orvis, or even a blood knot) In this method you are keeping the knot above the water and forming a "Y" by keeping your fly in contact with the water and the knot above the fly. This creates a hinge point which when a trout takes the dropper the dry fly will hop from the hinge created. This is the strike detection to react to. This method is very good in that fast shallow riffle water that most people skip over but the fish ARE holding there. The second set is fast shallow water and the twist or spin sometimes works in this water, but I usually react to the pause or twitch of the dry in this water. The pause or twitch is just what it sounds like. I'm watching my dry fly for any deviation in drift speed. Any change and I'm providing a downstream hookset. One final note, in skinny water, stay low, on your knees if you have to, as the fish will be very spooky in this type of water.
These are proven techniques when the water conditions warrant it. The last competition I competed in, I probably dry/droppered 75% of the time. The water conditions called for it and it was very successful for me. So, next time you are on the water, pay attention to the water types and select the fishing techniques that have the highest likelihood of success. You need to change to the varying types of water you encounter while trout fishing and that's why reading water is so important. Good luck and see you on the Reever!