Willowfly Anglers

ORVIS Endorsed Fly Fishing Outfitter
in the Colorado Rockies, offering
guided trips on the Gunnison River,
Taylor River and East River

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Three Rivers Resort
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Willowfly Anglers
Three Rivers Resort
P.O. Box 339
130 County Road 742
Almont, Colorado  81210

(970) 641-1303
toll free: (888) 761-FISH


River and Fishing Information

Fishing a Tandem Rig

Fishing a tandem rig involves fishing two flies at once. This is sometimes also referred to as a dropper rig. A tandem rig can consist of any two flies in any combination, such as nymphs, dry flies, emergers, streamers, etc. Fishing two nymphs is a very standard approach here in the Gunnison Valley, and it is an extremely successful technique. The following steps include basic instructions for setting up a standard tandem nymph rig:

1. Attach a tapered leader to your fly line (such as a 9' 4X or 5X leader).

2. Attach about 20 inches of tippet (4X to 6X) to the leader with a double surgeon's knot or other knot of your preference.

3. Attach the first fly to this tippet end so that is about 12 to 16 inches from the knot. An improved clinch knot can be used for this.

4. Tie another 20-inch section of tippet (4X to 6X) to the bend or eye of the first fly hook. You can use an improved clinch knot for this, or another special dropper knot.

5. Attach the second fly to the end of this tippet end so that the flies are 12 to 16 inches apart.

6. Attach any weight needed above the knot tied above the top fly. The knot will keep the split-shot in place.

7. Pinch down the barbs on both flies. (Fishing barbless flies is recommended.)

8. Attach the strike indicator at a distance of about 1.5 to 2 times the depth of the water you will be fishing. This is the distance from the strike indicator to the split-shot.

9. Adjust the strike indicator and split-shot as needed based on water depth and current speed. The distance between flies can also be adjusted based on experience and preference.

Tandem Rig Examples

Two Nymphs
A standard tandem nymph rig includes fishing two flies sub surface. This can be two mayfly nymphs, a stonefly nymph with a small mayfly nymph or midge trailing behind, or an egg pattern with a nymph under it. Typical examples include an egg pattern with a Barr Emerger under it, a stonefly nymph with a small Pheasant Tail under it, or a Copper John with a midge trailing behind it.

A dry-dropper rig includes fishing a dry fly on the surface and dropping an emerger or a nymph below it to fish in the film or deeper below the surface. Typical examples include fishing an adult mayfly or stonefly pattern, or hopper (hopper-dropper), while dropping a small nymph (which could be weighted) below it. The distance from the dry fly to the nymph depends on how deep you want to fish (typically one to three feet). You can also fish two dry flies in tandem. You might fish a larger dry fly up front with a small dry fly behind it.

Two Streamers
Fishing two streamers can be a challenge due to the combined weight of the rig, but it can be very effective. You can also add split-shot above the first streamer to get the flies down deeper (and faster). No indicator is required with this rig. Vary the size and color of the streamers for the best results. A typical example of this rig would be fishing a large streamer pattern like a Muddy Buddy with a wet Western Coachman trailing behind it. This rig can be very effective in spring and fall.

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