We are a group of avid fishermen: COAF Field Team. We post tips on our blog and publish articles for those who may be interested in fishing!
Tandem Rigged Fishing Flies
Tandem Rigged Fishing Flies are one to keep in your fly box of tips and tricks when pursuing trout.
Two fishing flies are tied to your leader and fished simultaneously with one fishing fly leading the other. As the fishing flies drift by, oftentimes trout will strike one of the fishing flies.
In this article, we detail four variations of tandem rigged fishing flies that have been proven fish-getters for trout in our area - specifically,
- Streamer and Nymph
- Nymph and Streamer
- Dry Fly Dropper
- Too Deere
Do give tandem rigged fishing flies a try on your next fishing trip and increase your opportunity to catch more trout!
Streamer and Nymph
The Streamer and Nymph Tandem Rig calls for a streamer and a smaller fishing fly like a nymph or midge pattern.
In our area we tend to use an Bead Head Wooley Bugger or Near Deere in size 10 for the leading streamer, and either a Stonefly Nymph, Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Nymph, or Rainbow Warrior in size 14 to 16 as the trailing fishing fly.
Starting with a foot of monifilament line (4-6 lbs test), we tie one end to the hook bend of the streamer using an improved clinch knot.
Then, we tie the other end of the line to the nymph/midge also using an improved clinch knot and set about 8" to 10" from the streamer.
After clipping off the tag ends, we tie the streamer to our tippet and proceed to fish the tandem rig under a strike indicator.
We normally set the strike indicator at three feet above the streamer initially, then make adjustments depending on the depth we are getting strikes.
Nymph and Streamer
The Nymph and Streamer Tandem Rig is the reverse of the Streamer and Nymph Tandem Rig.
That is, the Nymph or Midge becomes the leading fishing fly and the streamer will trail behind.
The Nymph/Midge is tied on a 10" to 12" dropper using the excess tag end of a barrel knot (or an Uni-Knot).
Then, the Streamer is tied to the other tag end and set 2' to 3' from the dropper.
We may use a strike indicator but will typically fish this setup without one. Instead, we use this to "scout" the water column to determine where the fish may be lurking.
Letting the rig slowly sink and eventually the streamer bounces the bottom, we will count in one second intervals.
When we get a strike, we will note the count, and hopefully, fight and land a fish. Afterwards, we will recast, start counting again, and let the rig sink to the bottom.
Comparing the difference between counts we can approximate where the fish struck in the water column.
- A fish struck our tandem rig after counting to five.
- We recast and counted to ten when the tandem rig sank to the bottom.
- Given five is half of ten, we approximate the fish struck midway from the top to bottom
- We then focus our efforts on presenting our fishing flies to that area of the water column
Dry Fly Dropper
The Dry Fly Dropper Tandem Rig uses a large dry fly and a smaller nymph or midge fishing fly.
The intent is to target fish feeding at or near the water's surface while working the upper 3' to 4' of the water column where fish may be feeding on emergents.
For the dry fly, large patterns like a Chernobyl Hopper or Patriot Fly work well. These do double duty as a fishing fly and a "strike indicator".
For the smaller nymph/midge, the same patterns as used in the Streamer and Nymph and Nymph and Streamer Tandem Rigs work nicely.
Similarly, an improved clinch knot tied to the hook bend of the dry fly is used to attach a 1' to 3' of monofilament line.
Then, the nymph/midge is tied to the other end of the monofilament line.
Next, tie the dry fly to your tippet, and you are ready to fish!
The "Too Deere" is similar to the Streamer and Nymph. The key difference is the trailing fishing fly is another streamer - specifically, a John Deere.
Using two streamers - a leading Near Deere and trailing John Deere, allows the rig to sink quickly and fished near the bottom.
This works well in fast currents and deep holes where the trout tend to lurk near the bottom where the water flow may be slightly slower than the upper water column.
Trout lurking in the slower current while waiting for food to pass by will readily strike a "Too Deere" Tandem Rig.
Where as lighter, slower sinking fishing flies will tend to pass above the trout's strike zone and are ignored.
What Knots to use...?
Three knots are typcially used when setting-up Tandem Rigged Fishing Flies. They are the Improved Clinch Knot, the Barrel (or Blood) Knot, and the Perfection Loop.
Use the Improved Clinch Knot for the Streamer and Nymph, Dry Fly Dropper, and Too Deere rigs.
- Tied at the hook bend of the leading fly, a length of monofilament line is secured.
- The other end of the monofilament line is then tied to the trailing fly of which an improved clinch knot may be used as well.
Use the Barrel Knot (also, called a Blood Knot) for the Nymph and Streamer rig. Two options are noted:
- Option 1 - Using only the Barrel Knot, leave one tag end long and tie it to the lead fly. Snip the other tag end like normal, and then tie the trailing fly to the main line.
- Option 2 - Use the Barrel Knot to connect two lines together. Snip the tag ends, tie the trailing fly to the main line, and then make a dropper for the lead fly using a Perfection Loop. Next, attach the dropper above the Barrel Knot as shown in the picture below, then slide down so it jams itself against the Barrel Knot.
Other knots can be used such as your favorite knot for tying on fishing flies. Also, you can use an Uni-Knot instead of a Barrel Knot to connect two lines. Or, you can use a Surgeon's Loop over a Perfection Loop when making a dropper.
The variations are numerous; our suggestion is to use the knot that you are proficient at tying even when your fingers are numb from the cold.
Murphy's Law comes in to play more often than not when the temps are freezing and the fish are biting. Which means you will have a break-off and need to re-tie your tandem rigged fishing flies when your fingers are thumbs.
Why Use Tandem Rigged Fishing Flies?
Short snippets of why we like to use Tandem Rigged Fishing Flies:
- Two fishing flies are better than one at times.
- Heavier, sinks quicker, fished deeper and therefore, in the strike zone longer.
- Lead streamer fishing fly attracts the fish's attention; trailing nymph/midge gets the fish to strike.
- In reverse, trailing streamer "chasing" the lead nymph/midge, targets the fish's competitiveness.
- And, dry fly targets surface feeding fish, trailing nymph or midge targets fish feeding below.
Suggested Fishing Tips!
Here are a few suggestions to keep handy when fishing tandem rigged fishing flies:
- Start fishing the tandem rigged fishing flies using a strike indicator set three feet above the lead fishing fly. Adjust the strike indicator in six inch increments above/below until you get strikes.
- Once you get strikes and land a fish, note the fishing fly. It will likely tend to be the "go to" pattern of the fishing trip.
- Also, observe both fishing flies as they sink. See which fly sinks below the other. This will be important when re-tying after a break-off.
- And, measure the distance between the strike indicator and lead fishing fly. You will need this measurement to set the strike indicator after a break-off.
- Use a "Dead Drift" when fishing tandem rigged fishing flies. Key off the bubbles and their rate of drift in the current. Mend your line to adjust your strike indicator rate of drift to match the bubbles.
- Also, try a "Swing and Twitch" presentation when working fast currents. That is, cast upstream at a 45 degree angle, allow your line and tandem rigged fishing flies to swing downstream, and then at the end of the swing, pause and then start twitching your rod tip. This will cause the fishing flies to rise upward in short spurts simulating emerging "bugs" working their way to the surface.
- Anticipate tangles and fouled leaders. If they require more than a few minutes to untangle, snip the line and re-tie instead. Better to spend more time with your fishing fly in the water being fished, then dangling in the air while you struggle to untangle your line.
Do Give Them a Try!
Tandem Rigged Fishing Flies can be a trip saver at times when the fish are lock-jawed and not in the striking mood.
We do hope you give them a try on your next fishing trip, and we do appreciate your support in reading this article.
Good Luck and Good Fishing!
"COAF Field Team"
hbng84 (author) on January 09, 2020:
Jearl625 on January 09, 2020:
Great article. Thanks for sharing your love for fishing success with us.