Fly Fishing: The Popper-Dropper Rig

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Justing Pickett shows off the popper-dropper rig. Photo Louis Cahill

Like a lot of kids, I spent most of my adolescent summers chasing bass and bream on the local creeks and ponds in my area.

Most days, a single rubber-legged popper tied to the end of my leader, was all that I needed to catch fat bream, and the occasional lunker bass. On days when the bite slowed, I’d put down my fly rod and head to the neighborhood pool with my best friend Ryan Evans. It didn’t take long for us to get labeled the “Huckleberry Finn” boys of the neighborhood. We got plenty of strange looks walking through those pool gates, fishing rods in hand, and both wearing cargo shorts with boxers hanging out the tops. Those dirty looks were well worth it, and we learned to shrug them off because that pool was the perfect place for us to cool down in between our fishing adventures. It also happened to be a great best place for us to keep track of the older females. We learned reflective polarized sunglasses weren’t just good for fishing. They also were great for inconspicuously eyeing the older females walking by in those skimpy bikinis. It was a time in my life when I was relatively stress free, and hadn’t yet taken on very many responsibilities. Those were the days.

It wasn’t until I started dabbling in trout fishing that I found a way to improve my warm water popper fishing. Casting dry flies with a weighted nymph off the back for trout worked great, and that sparked the question in my head, “couldn’t I use a popper with a dropper fly off the back for bream and bass too?” So I did just that, the first chance I got. I still remember clearly, the first time I tied an olive woolly bugger off the back of a popper, and made a cast across a pod of bream beds. I was rewarded with two bream on the end of my line. Even on days when the fish wouldn’t voluntarily come to the surface to take my popper, they rarely passed up the trailing fly off the back. When I grew up and started hitting the lakes with my bass boat, I never forgot this trick. That popper-dropper rig accounted for many big bass landed over the years. One of my best days ever for smallmouth bass was on this rig. I still use it regularly when I’m fly fishing on warm-water, sometimes even in the salt. Give it a try next time you’re out fly fishing. It works for many species of fish.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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2 thoughts on “Fly Fishing: The Popper-Dropper Rig

  1. I have the complete collection, volumes 1 – 25, of Lefty’s Little Library of Fly Fishing. They were owned by a gentleman whose children fish but not like their father did so they would like you to enjoy this wonderful collection of all 25 volumes.
    Printed in full color on acid-free enamel paper. Pages bound not glued. Excellent condition. Treated as a collector’s item.

  2. The dropper rig was something shown to me in the late 60s up on Cape Cod fishing for stripers. The rig was called the “Wing Ding”…..a Atom’s blue and white popper with a tiny Upperman’s Bucktail trailing behind. When casting out the rig the thing would almost do circles on the way out! But, when popped the little jig would dance and stripers looking for that small bait would be all over it like “a hobo on a hot dog”. When I took up fly fishing that set up is now used to catch little tunny and other saltwater species. Everything old is new again……old saying.

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