Split-Shot Placement For Your Tandem Nymph Rigs

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Have you ever heard the saying, “The difference between a good nymph fisherman and a poor nymph fisherman is knowing when to add one more split-shot to your rig”?

If your nymphs aren’t getting down in the strike zone, you’re going to be missing a lot of bites. I know this sounds super obvious, but I see anglers all the time nymphing water with far too little weight on there nymph rig. Its often the only reason they’re not getting bites, so don’t be afraid to pile the weight on if you think your nymphs aren’t running deep enough.

So now that you understand you always need to have enough split-shot on your rig to get your flies down in the strike zone, now let’s talk about split-shot placement? I get asked the question all the time whether anglers should place there split-shot above there tandem nymphs or between them. Both can be the right choice depending on the type of water your fishing and the specific tandem nymph rig (fly patterns) your fishing. Below are a few examples when I place my split-shot in different locations in my tandem nymph rig.

Situations Where I Place Split-Shot Between my Tandem Nymphs

1. Big weighted lead fly with unweighted dropper 20-24″ apart.

When you’re fishing a trough for example with fast moving water and you see your dropper nymph riding up high above your lead fly during your drift, place split-shot in between the nymphs to ensure both of your fly patterns will be getting down in the strike zone. This especially holds true when your dropper nymph is beadless, lightly weighted with lead wraps, or 100% unweighted.

2. Both Nymphs are beadless or Lightly-weighted 18-24″ apart

Believe it or not, I have days where beadless nymphs are the ticket to getting consistent hookups, and when days like this come around, you’ll find me rigging up a tandem beadless nymph rig to increase my success. For ease of my explanation, let’s assume the tandem nymphs are the same size hook and and tied with about the same amount of material (This will have them with similar sink rates). In this situation, I prefer my split-shot to be placed between the nymphs.

Situations Where I Place Split-Shot In Front of My Tandem Nymphs

1. Unweighted lead fly with weighted dropper

When you’re fishing a unweighted or beadless lead fly with a weighted dropper you’ll want to add your split-shot in front of your nymphs to keep your lead fly running deep. A good example of this would be a beadless woolly bugger with a copper john dropper. I use beadless nymphs all the time, particularly when I’m fishing to educated fish. In my opinion they can sometimes be more effective and fooling wily trout.

2. Small nymphs running close together

If you’re running a short dropper I also prefer to place my spit-shot above my lead fly. A good example of this is when I’m fishing two really small nymphs (size 20-24) in fast or dingy water 12-14″ apart. Since the flies are so small I prefer to place them closer together to help the fish pick them up easier in the water column during my drift, but also since they’re closer together placing the split-shot in front will provide you with the best natural drift. One thing I don’t like, is running my split-shot too close to my flies, because it can disrupt your natural drift, cause tangles, and sometimes even tip off educated trout.

Disclaimer: Every fly fisherman has his/her way of doing things, so please don’t take this post as me telling you what’s right and wrong. I’m just expressing my opinions and letting everyone know what works for me on the water, in the hopes it may help you catch a few more fish. Furthermore, this post has just managed to graze the surface on split-shot placement in tandem nymph rigs. Depending on feedback from our followers I’ll post again on this subject.

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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11 thoughts on “Split-Shot Placement For Your Tandem Nymph Rigs

    • Bryant,

      Every once in a while I will if I am dialed in to specific patterns, but most of the time I do not because when I fish I chang patterns quite often and that rig requires more time to change flies out. It can be very effective at times though and anglers shouldn’t rulebit out in their nymphing.

      • Not really if it is set up right. I place shot on the bottom and have barrel knots placed up the leader where I want my droppers and I have flies tied unto short pieces of tippet with loop knots and this enables me to change flies very quickly. Kelly Gallop has a couple of videos that explain this system very clearly. Bass fishermen call it Drop Shot set up.

        • I use drop shot rigs all the time. When i try to explain them to someone who has never bass fished i get strange looks, slightly more than usual.

  1. I was taught to tie a single knot 12 inches above lead fly to keep split shot from sliding down. However, I have noticed that almost everytime a fish breaks my line it breaks at the knot where the split shot is. I cannot determine if it is because of the know OR perhaps squeezing the slit shot too tightly? any advise here?

    • I’m curious exactly what you mean by “tie a single knot.” If you were tying an overhand not in your leader that’s exactly why it’s breaking. Tie your Tippit using a blood not and place the shot above that blood knot. That should keep you fishing

      • Correct, a single overhand knot 12 inches above end of 9 foot tapered 5 x leader. You have confirmed my suspision that know was problematic, thanks.

        9 foot 5x tapered is the leader I have always used for Central Oregon rivers. Would you suggest that I cut the leader a foot up and retie a blood there OR do you have a better suggestion for a leader?

  2. Pingback: Split-Shot Placement | MidCurrent

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