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Thinking outside the box- Drop Shot Flies?

Blog by: rk hancock 1/29/2020
Colorado’s population is exploding and because of that our water bodies are receiving more and more fishing pressure every year.  I believe to be successful in high pressure areas you need to come up with creative presentations that set yourself apart from the rest of the fisherman. Those fish see hundreds of the same lures, flies, and baits each year so what makes your presentation stand out enough to trigger a bite from picky fish? For me, matching the hatch is overrated and the more important thing is to think outside the box and do things that other people have not thought of to trigger that bite. One thing I have been doing recently, with success for multiple species, is drop shotting with flies through the ice. I am writing this blog to explain my technique and help others catch more fish. 

The Rig:
Perhaps the most important aspect of any drop shot rig is the Palomar knot. This is how you will attach your fly to your mainline. I tie a Palomar knot to the fly with an extra long tag end which will become the drop line to your weight. The key part of a drop shot is that your fly sits completely horizontal in its most natural presentation. To do this run the tag end of the Palomar knot through the eye of the hook one more time after completing the knot. The length of tag end will vary upon the type of bottom I am fishing and where the fish are in the water column. I pretty much always want my weight to be in contact with the bottom and I usually start with my fly around 6 inches above the weight if I am fishing a sandy or mud bottom. If I am in an area with a lot of rock I will switch to a 12-18 inch space between the fly and the weight to ensure fish can see the fly above the rocks. If you have access to electronics and see suspended fish then adjust the gap between fly and weight accordingly, you may have a 5-6+ foot gap between your fly and the bottom weight if there are fish suspended off bottom. 

The weight: 
Another important part of this setup is to not shy away from using relatively heavy weights. For example, even if I am using a size 14 nymph I will still use weights up to 1/8th ounce in size because this allows me to have firm contact with the bottom. If I am drop shotting a larger streamer then I may go up to a 1/4th ounce weight. You want to ensure that your weight is in contact the whole time with the bottom no matter how high you’re fishing in the water column, this will give you the best feel for what is happening with your fly. 

Typically with this rig I will fish two different presentations. One deadstick rod and one rod for jigging. On the deadstick rod I will use a small nymph, size 8-14, as there will not be much action in the fly even when jigged. I usually custom tie all of my flies to make them specific to each scenario I am fishing and have found that the most effective nymphs are extremely simple. I tend to start with natural whites and gray nymphs with a small tail, yarn body and a little bit of hackle for the head piece. Then I will mix it up with colors such as yellow, blue, or orange. For the jigged rod, I will use some kind of streamer, size 6-3/0, with a lot of tail action such as a wooly bugger, leech pattern, or bunny strip patterns. This thump or wiggle in the tail is what makes this rig so effective while jigging. Typically when I jig I am doing a series of many short quick jigs that are just enough to keep the tail of that fly moving. Usually only lifting my rod tip a couple inches on each jig, but occasionally I will lift the rod tip 2 or 3 feet off the bottom so that the fly gets that falling action. When jigging, it is important to understand exactly what the bottom contact feels like with the weight so you can distinguish between the weight hitting bottom and a bite, this part may take some practice. One thing that can also be effective when you're trying to establish a pattern is rigging two to three flies on the same line that are 6 inches or so apart. This will not only give the fish the chance to see different flies but also allow you to fish a slightly different depth in the water column. 

Creatively thinking outside the box is one of the most important things to consider when fishing highly pressured waters. For me this is the drop shot rig because it is extremely versatile in the ways it can be fished. It can be fished, with a huge variety of flies and lures then deadsticked near the bottom or jigged 6 feet up in the water column and everywhere in between. So, in conclusion, next time you’re out and you’re struggling to catch fish, ask yourself “does my presentation stand out enough to trigger a bite from a fish that has already turned its nose up to dozens of other flies and lures?” If the answer is “probably not”, then perhaps this rig setup is something you should try. Let me know if you have any feedback on how you use the drop shot rig through the ice.

Here is an example of a drop shot fly rig with a 6 inch gap between fly and hook.An example of some of the nymphs I would use for this rig. Remember, keep it simple and creative.A quick photo of different knot and rigging option for this technique
Blog content © rk hancock
Blog Comments
Matt, CO   1/29/2020 7:28:30 PM
Good stuff! I fish flies through the ice often, but never have used this setup. I'll have to think of this next time
Salmon Slayer, CO   1/29/2020 7:34:46 PM
Thanks. I'll give it a "shot".
nparker, CO   1/29/2020 8:50:51 PM
This is good info for ice fishing and open water. Balanced Leeches are popular among fly anglers in open water, mostly under an indicator. These flies can be a pain to tie. I have been using a method similar to your ice fishing rig. I use a weighted fly, usually a bead head, at the point instead of a sinker. I will have a look at the Palomar knot.
Coyute, CO   1/30/2020 11:46:11 AM
thanks for the blog. good stuff.
GoNe_FiShIn_11, CO   1/30/2020 4:06:08 PM
Kool read thanks for sharing
SirGreg88, CO   1/30/2020 4:49:26 PM
I invented this technique 35 years ago. At least I think I did. trying ta think.
bron, CO   1/30/2020 6:14:51 PM
Well done RK! Thats good stuff for sure.
Ty One On, CO   1/30/2020 7:13:01 PM
Good stuff! Been using some jigs tied by myself to use and found fish thumbing their noises at them. Never thoufgt to use that style of presentation. Strong work!
Steelhead, CO   1/31/2020 9:02:09 AM
or you could just tie your flys on a weighted jig hook
PJBrowne, CO   2/3/2020 7:29:21 PM
Thinking of Scuds & Shrimp flies in 10 - 14 range for a three dropper rig as you'e shone. Nice report idea, Thank You.
nparker, CO   2/12/2020 9:45:58 PM
Or you could use a weighted fly instead of the lead at the point. If you do use lead then attach it with the weakest tippet so you don't lose the flies if the lead snags.