When you learn fly fishing one of the first tactics you are going to learn is nymphing with a single nymph. It’s an excellent tactic for catching fish but while you’re getting used to it on the river, you’re going to notice other anglers fishing two flies which is called using a tandem rig.
What is a tandem rig?
Now, when you see anglers fish two flies they are either fishing a two fly rig consisting of two nymphs, two dry flies, or one with hopper dropper fly combinations which is when you fish a dry fly and a nymph. It’s very unlikely they’ll be using two streamers but it is possible.
A tandem rig is when the two flies are connected with one piece of tippet. Whereas a dropper rig has the two flies on their own pieces of tippet.
Fly fishing with multiple flies using tandem rigs does help you catch more fish, as two flies are always better than one fly, but, it doesn’t come without its challenges. Suddenly you have a tow fly rig to control which makes casting harder and the chance of tangles a lot more likely.
If you think you’re ready to start fly fishing with two fly rigs, then here is how to tie and fish a double nymph rig.
How To Tie A Double Nymphing Rig
Before we get started, let’s just iron out some details. The steps below are based on tying tandem multi-fly rigs that consist of two nymphs and we are going to assume you’re using a 9ft 5wt fly rod that has a reel, and a fly line with a welded loop at the end.
Step 1 – Tying your leader to your fly line
Before you tie on your leader you should consider what material you are going to use. When fishing with nymphs, you want your leader to be able to sink, and fluoro is best for this as mono floats.
Your leader should be around 3-4x depending on water clarity and 7-9ft in length to which you’ll add the tippet and flies in the next steps.
Attaching your leader to your fly line is very easy if you have a pre-made knotless leader that comes tied with a loop at the butt end. If this is the case, make a loop-to-loop connection and you’re ready to go.
If you don’t have a pre-made loop in your leader you can tie one at the butt end with a perfection loop knot or surgeons loop knot and then make the loop-loop connection between the leader and the fly line.
Step 2 – Attach a section of tippet to your leader
Now it’s time to add a tippet section to your leader. The piece of tippet should be smaller in diameter than the leader and around 1-2 ft in length. We highly recommend using fluoro tippet material as it sinks and is more invisible to fish than mono tippet material.
Attach a section of tippet to your leader using or tying a blood knot or a double uni knot. I prefer the double uni knot but it’s up to you. Make sure to trim the tag ends as each tag end can catch on your casting stroke creating a tangle.
Step 3 – Selecting and tying on your point fly
Your point fly is the first fly, or top fly you add to tandem rigs.
The point fly should always be the heavier larger fly you’re going to use. This is in line with your tapered leader as making the top fly larger makes casting easier.
Also if it’s heavier it will pull both flies deeper in the water column near the bottom where the fish are feeding.
Attach your point fly, the heavier larger nymph, let’s say a size 14 Gold Head Hares Ear, to your tippet using the improved clinch knot. Again, trim the tag end very small so the tag doesn’t catch when you’re casting.
Step 4 – Attaching the second fly
Before you can tie on your second fly (aka dropper fly), you’ll have to add some more tippet to form the two fly tandem rig.
You should use the same size and material of tippet as in step 2 and the same length. To do this, tie your tippet to the hook bend of the point fly using an improved clinch knot again.
This might be tricky as there is no eye to thread the line through – I used my finger and then slide it onto the hook bend to tighten the knot. Again, trim the tag so it’s easier to cast and make sure the knot is secure against the bend.
To finish the setup, tie your dropper fly with to the end of the tippet with another improved clinch knot and trim the tag end to make it easier to cast with.
Step 5 – Add weight if you need to
To catch fish with a two fly nymph rig setup, you need the flies to get down to where the trout are feeding. Now if you’re using weighted flies with say a tungsten head or bead head, you might have enough weight to get down to the fish.
Whether you need to add weight to your double nymph rig depends on the river you’re fishing. If the water is high and fast, then adding some weight in the form of split shot or putty above the leader to tippet knot is a good idea.
Step 6 – Add a strike indicator
Many anglers choose to add a striker indicator to their double nymph rig setup. It does make it a lot easier to notice a trout eat your fly and you’re likely to set the hook at the right time more often.
When adding a strike indicator to your two-fly setup, the rule is to add it about two-thirds of the way up the leader.
The reason for this is that it should allow enough room for your two flies to get into the trout feeding zone near the bottom. And so it’s not too high to create a lag between a trout biting and your indicator letting you know to hook it.
Always make your strike indicator movable so you can adjust for depth as you change spots on the river.
- Pick flies that are weighted enough to avoid using split shot as it will make the rig easier to cast
- Make sure to trim the tags so they don’t catch each other on your cast
- Test all your knots to make sure they’re strong
- Here is a video showing you how to tie the two fly setup above
Fly Fishing A Two Fly Nymph Rig
When fly fishing with a double nymph rig you are going to get tangles and since there are two files involved, you’re likely to hook the bottom and weeds more often too.
You should fish a double nymph rig the same way you fish a setup with a single nymph but pay more attention to your cast. Make sure your rod angle stays high and close to you and try make some space between the rod and line so that they don’t hook each other on your forward and back cast.
Once your flies are in the water, let them drift naturally paying attention to your strike indicator in case a trout bites. Make sure the nymphs are at the right depth. If you’re hooking the bottom too often or not catching fish, then adjust your strike indicator.
How do you rig a double dry fly?
To rig a double dry fly you do the exact same process we described above but you should stop at Step 4 as you don’t need any weight to fish your dry flies. You should add some floatant such as Gink to your flies so they stay on the surface and you can even add some to your tippet to stop it dragging the flies underwater.
How do you tie a double dropper rig?
Tying a double dropper rig follows the same principles above except in Step 3 you’re going to tie a Surgeon’s knot and leave the tag end long to attach the first point fly to. The allows the first fly to be connected to its own dropper of tippet instead of being in tandem with the second fly.
Some people prefer fly fishing with a dropper set up as the first fly looks more natural without tippet tied to the hook.
You can also check out our post here for a detailed guide on how to build a dry dropper rig.
How do you stop droppers from tangling?
To stop droppers from tangling, make sure the flies cannot reach others in the rig. This will stop them from hooking each other. But, to be honest, tangles are always going to happen with two flies and there isn’t much you can do about it.
If the current is doing strange things, your flies might come up in a mess and if it’s windy they will probably tangle when you cast.