Fly fishing with droppers is common and extremely effective. It allows you to fish both the dry fly and a nymph matched to current hatches, trout behavior, and water conditions. The most important thing to consider when fishing dropper rigs is to fish dry flies and nymphs for specific reasons, to be decisive in what we're trying to accomplish. If you blindly tie an 18-inch dropper nymph below a hopper pattern and think you're effectively dropper fishing, you may be missing the point. We'll cover a variety of scenarios in this series.
Let's start by looking at two common methods to tie the dropper setup. A special notice to always use the same or lighter tippet at the tie on the nymph. In the first dropper setup, tie your dry fly to the end of your leader or tippet using a clinch, improved clinch or non-slip loop knot. Tie in a length of tippet using a clinch or improved clinch knot to the bend of your hook. It's fastest to pre-tie the clinch knot via a loop around your finger and to try to tie the clinch knot on the hook. Then tie your nymph to the end of that tippet with a clinch or non-slip loop knot.
In the second dropper setup, tie your dry fly on to the end of your leader or tippet with a clinch or improved clinch knot. The dropper tippet is also tied into the eye of the hook with a clinch or improved clinch knot. While this looks a little busy at the head of the fly, its advantage is that as the fly drifts downstream, the backend of the dry fly has no tippet hanging from it. This is a good trade-off since this is what the fish usually sees first.
There's an alternative setup that has some interesting applications. In this setup, there is no fixed knot at the eye of the dry fly and the nymph can slowly drop deeper as it drifts, as the tippet slides through the eye of the dry fly. From the end of your leader, attach 10 to 18 inches of tippet with a double surgeon's knot.
Feed that tippet through the eye of your dry fly and add another six to 24 inches length of tippet with a double surgeon's knot below the dry fly.
Tie your nymph on to the end of that tippet and be sure to clip all tag ends. The double surgeon's knot below the eye of the dry fly keeps the nymph from riding up and getting tangled with the dry fly while casting. The double surgeon's knot above the eye of the dry acts as a stopper against the eye of the dry to set maximum nymph depth. This setup is very useful when fishing drop-offs, troughs or shelving ripples as the nymph is free to slowly drop to match, the depth change based on the weight of the nymph you use.