Sometimes, two flies are better than one
The use of two flies has been a common practice for fly fishermen for quite some time. The old adage “two heads are better than one” also applies to the practice of using two flies. Two are definitely better than one!
Anglers use two flies to effectively reduce the time in finding out what insect, and what stage of it, the trout are feeding upon. The nymphal, or larval stage of an insect, is typically the stage that fish feed on the majority of time.
As a result, many anglers fish a large dry fly as an indicator. This fly takes the place of the yarn or hard bubble type of indicators. From this fly, a nymph is suspended with a length of leader material. Some anglers even will add a split shot to get the second fly deeper. Doing this requires a very large and highly buoyant dry fly. Too much weight will obviously sink the indicator fly.
Anglers attach the second fly by tying the leader of the second fly off of a tag end of a line splice ” called a dropper ” or by directly tying to the bend of the hook on the indicator fly. Both methods will work, and anglers all have their personal preference.
I have used both and sometimes will change to fit the conditions. One day last winter while fishing Pyramid Lake, where using two flies on a sinking line is common practice, I tied directly to the indicator fly because of the wind conditions. The wind was averaging around 60 mph, making casting extremely difficult even for the most experienced anglers. By tying directly to the front fly, I was able to fish tangle free.
Some anglers feel that tying the fly directly to the hook impedes the ability to hook and keep hooked a fish on the first fly. While I have no scientific study, my own observations using both methods tend to indicate that this is true. I have always done better with the dropper method when fishing two flies.
This time of year you will see many anglers fishing grasshopper patterns as the top fly and a nymph or some other stage of an insect beneath it. As indicated above in the Pyramid Lake example, both flies may also be sinking flies. Using multiple nymphs is very common.
A couple of the favorite two-fly combinations for our area are a caddis and caddis pupa or larval stage, or two soft-hackle style flies. More recently, Czech nymphing techniques have made it common for an angler to fish three heavily weighted flies in tandem. This technique has proven itself all over the country, and our own local waters are no exception.
Fishing multiple flies can be a very productive means to catching fish, particularly when you are not sure just what the fish are feeding upon. If you have not tried multiple flies, the next time that you are out on the water give it a shot. You may have to adjust your casting slightly to be tangle free, but once you get the hang of it, catching fish may just be a little easier!
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other
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