Sunday Classic / Choosing Flies for Tandem Nymph Rigs

3 comments / Posted on / by


Tandem Nymph Rig Suggestions. Photo Louis Cahill

Today’s post is intended for beginner and intermediate fly anglers that struggle with choosing what fly patterns to tie on when they’re fishing a tandem nymph rig.

Because most of our fly boxes are stocked with dozens of different fly patterns, it can be difficult at times to know where to start. I get the question all the time, “how do I know what flies to tie on?” The answer to that question is I don’t. Sometimes I have a good idea because of the time of year or from observing the present conditions on the water, but generally, I have to experiment with fishing different flies just like everyone else does until I figure out what the trout want. One of the keys to my consistent success with fishing a tandem nymph rig is treating the rig like it’s a buffet of food choices for the trout. I always fish flies that imitate different types of food sources when I begin my day of fly fishing. This increases the chances that the trout will like one of the food imitations in my rig. More importantly though, by fishing different types of flies in my tandem rig, I can quickly gather intel from the trout on what they’re liking and disliking about my flies.

To make things easier for me, I categorize my nymphs into four different categories: Big flies, small flies, bright colored flies and natural colored flies. When I start out my day on the water, I begin rigging my two-fly rig with different combinations of these. This helps me dial-in to what the trout want much more quickly. For instance, if the trout aren’t liking big flies, I’ll downsize my flies in my two-fly rig. If the trout aren’t liking bright colored flies, I’ll swap them out for more natural colored nymphs. Whatever you do, don’t stick to fishing a tandem nymph rig that’s not catching trout. That’s a game plan that’s going to set you up for failure.

Take a close look at the header photo in this post. I’ve provided several examples of tandem nymph rigs I regularly use on the water to help me catch trout. The fly to the left is the top or lead fly, and the fly to the right, is the dropper or bottom fly in the rig. Keep in mind, these pairings are just examples and that you can experiment with your own fly patterns that fit into these categories. The most important part of the process, when selecting what flies to use in your tandem nymph rig, is pairing flies up that are complete opposites of each other. When you do that, the trout will generally favor one fly over the other and that’s the kind of information you want to use to help you dial-in further, so you can figure out what the hot flies will be for the day.

I’ll be writing a follow up post down the road discussing this subject in much greater detail. For now, I just wanted to introduce the basics on what I look at when I’m choosing what flies patterns to rig up for my tandem nymph set up.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

3 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Choosing Flies for Tandem Nymph Rigs

  1. This is a great topic. I get that question all of the time. I tell the people who ask to experiment and find out what they’re eating. People never seem to understand there are no magic flies.

  2. If it is a stream I am familiar with I usually tie I a couple of known producers on that stream. If I am not I will tie on a couple of my confidence flies. One of them will usually have a hot spot. I will also take into consideration the time of year for the size. Smaller in winter. Larger as the year progresses.

  3. Great post. I have always seemed to catch more fish on the lower fly no matter the combo. I’ve tried different spots to put weight in my rig and tying the upper fly on a tag, but the lower fly in the rig always seems to catch more than the upper fly. Do you all see this as guides? Any thoughts appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...