Tag-team trout

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How often have you been fishing and wondered if you are using the right fly? I know when I first started fly fishing, and wasn’t having much success, I would constantly change flies because I was certain I didn’t have the right one on.

With experience we gain confidence in our fishing and our gear. However, there are times when you can’t decide if the trout are taking on the top or bottom, or what they are feeding on that day. At times like that I borrow a page from the wrestling world and use a tag-team approach. This technique involves gearing up two flies instead of one and gives the trout a choice.

The use of two flies has a long tradition in angling. In England, where the technique originated, a multiple fly rig is called a cast. Traditionally three flies are used but I find fishing three flies usually results in a tangle so I normally stick to two. A fly at the end of my leader, called the point fly, and a second fly, called the dropper fly, tied about 16 inches above the point fly on a short piece of leader.

The point fly is usually fished wet and I generally use a small streamer like a mickey finn or muddler minnow. Weighted nymphs are also effective and lately I have been having some success with bead head nymphs. The choice of dropper fly offers the anglers several possibilities. Traditionally it is also a wet fly.

If you fish a shiny fly at the point try something completely different, like a black gnat or dark Montreal on the dropper. This will give the fish a choice. Today many anglers use a dry fly as the dropper. This not only offers trout a fly on the surface but can also serve as strike indicator.

There are several ways to rig a dropper fly. The simplest is to tie on a piece of leader using a blood knot and leave one of the ends long. Some anglers tie a piece of leader to the bend of the dropper fly and tie the point fly on that. The trick is to not make the dropper leader too long. I find anything over a foot will wrap around the leader and leave you with a tangle. The use of multiple rigs is not limited to fly fishing.

Tying a wet fly or streamer above a spinner or bait can be very effective as well. Make sure that the use of multiple rigs is legal where you fish. In Nova Scotia you are allowed a maximum of three hooks, except for Atlantic salmon where only one, unweighted fly is allowed.

The greatest value in using a dropper fly is to allow you to zero in on what trout are feeding on that day. Once you have that figured out you can dispense with the two fly rig and concentrate on matching the menu item they want that day. Tag teaming trout will double your chances, and your fun.


Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.


Geographic location: England, Montreal, Nova Scotia Atlantic Pictou County

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