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  • Writer's pictureCooper Zikan

Dropshot Nymphing: Pros, Cons, and How to Rig/Fish


Recently, drop-shot nymphing has become one of the most trendy ways to catch fish. This technique is particularly well when fishing smaller flies in clean bottom streams and rivers. The term drop-shot refers to the weight being below the flies. Typically, the weight will bounce along the bottom, while your files stay about 8-16 inches off the bottom. This keeps your flies in the strike zone longer, which often equates to more hookups. The Indicator will appear to be "bouncing" as it drifts downstream. As long as this is happening, your nymphs are in the strike zone. Because your weight is bouncing on the bottom, adequate current and clean bottoms are crucial to prevent hang-ups and snags.


Drop shot nymphing has several key advantages when compared to a traditional in-line setup. Because the weight hits the bottom quickly, you are able to keep the flies down in the strike zone better as mentioned above. In tailwaters where the fish often feed on small nymphs in the size 16-24 range, the drop shot rig helps get the smaller flies down to where the fish are. Tailwater trout often have an affinity towards weightless flies instead of bead-head patterns. Drop-shot nymphing also provides a more natural presentation.


Drop shot rigs snag really easily in boulder gardens and places with lots of wood and other structures. Weight management is also key, so paying lots of attention to how the indicator moves is critical. The rig does take a long time to properly tie and can tangle easily if proper casting protocols are not followed. While there are more pros than cons, it's important that you match the technique with the proper water conditions.

25 Inch Brown Trout Taken with a drop-shot rig

What You Will Need:

  • Tapered Leader

  • Split-Shot B or BB Size

  • 3x through 6x tippet dependent on the size of the fly

  • Tippet Rings or Small Swivels (Recommended)

  • Indicators in a Medium or Large Size

Here is a basic diagram of how this particular rig should look.

Step 1: Typically, I will start my rig with a fresh tapered leader. Once I have that tied to my fly line, I cut the entire tippet section off and tie a tippet ring on the heavy butt section.

Step 2: Tie a 3' Ft piece of 3x tippet to the tippet ring.

Step 3: Using a triple surgeon knot, tie a piece of 4x on that about 24 inches in length. Make sure you use a longer piece so you can accommodate the 4-6 inch tag length.

Step 4: Now that the tags are made, proceed to tie on your fly patterns of choice using a small profile knot like the Davy or Palomar knot.

Step 5: Add the needed weight to the long tag end underneath the bottom fly. The weight should be 6-8 inches underneath. Start light and add as you need.

Step 6: Add a medium or large indicator to the butt section of the leader. Oro's indicators are the best in my opinion. I recommend running the depth of your indicator at 1.5 times the depth where your fishing.

Personal Preferences:

After the tippet ring or swivel, I prefer to use fluorocarbon tippet material for several reasons. Fluorocarbon is much more invisible to fish, which allows you to run heavier lines and still catch the same number of fish. Fluorocarbon is also much thinner in diameter for the same strength. When connecting the different sections of the line, you will want to use the triple surgeon's knot for ultimate simplicity and strength. Tying the flies onto the tag ends is crucial for the rig to be successful. 4-6 inch tag ends are the sweet spot. Too long equates to many tangles, too short will make for a poor presentation. 12-16 inches in between flies is also important to cover different water depths. Once you get to the weight, I will always through an overhand knot above the weight so I won't lose my flies if I get snagged.

Fly Selection When Drip-Shot Nymphing

Since each of the two flies is fished at different depths, your flies should cover different spectrums and insect types. The fly that's fished closer to the bottom should imitate an insect that is associated with the bottom. For example, when fishing in November, I often fish a stonefly pattern as my bottom fly, because stoneflies are not hatching this time of year, yet are always present. For the top fly, I always like to fish with a pattern that mimics an insect that's hatching when I'm fishing. Whether it is a Blue Wing Olive, or a midge pattern, hatching insects will be throughout the water column. Since the hatching fly is off the bottom, using an emerging insect for the top fly matches the hatch, and usually increases your catch rate.


Overall, drop-shot nymphing is not the most effective method to fish in every river. Certain locations with low numbers of snags and consistent current will be the best areas to use this technique. Fishing weightless flies is really where the drop-shot rig shines the most. The rig while easy to tie takes a long time to properly do. Always make sure to run a hatching insect as your top fly and keep a consistent bottom dwelling pattern as your bottom fly. In the right water types, this technique is hands down the most effective way to put fish into the net.

Tight Lines and Heavy Nets,

Cooper Zikan

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