2 Alternatives for Attaching Your Split-Shot

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2 Alternative for Attaching your Split-Shot. Photos By: Louis Cahill

You’ve been fishing hard all day long searching for that perfect honey hole. You know the one I’m talking about, it’s the one that holds that trophy trout that keeps haunting you in your dreams.

It’s getting late, your tired, and you know you should be heading back, but there’s a bend just up ahead, and your curiosity keeps pushes you forward with those powerful words, “This could be it, just see what’s on the other side”. Sure enough, as you round the corner you lay your eyes on a picture perfect run, offering everything a trophy trout could desire. You get into position, make the cast, mend your line, and begin following your strike indicator with your rod tip, when out of now where, it shoots under the surface like it was just attached to a iron dumb bell. You set the hook and feel the heavy weight of the fish thrashing its big head, and you’re immediately on cloud 9. The adrenaline rush doesn’t last long though. It’s quickly replaced by painful heart ache when you feel your tippet snap, and watch your rod go straight. The excitement is all over…, you won’t land that trophy fish or even be graced with a quick glimpse of it for that matter. The only memory you’ll have to remember that trophy trout by is the few aggressive head shakes. You bring your fly-less rig to hand and find the tippet broke at the split-shot.

Has this ever happened to you before?

If you attach your split shot too tight on your tippet it can weaken its strength significantly. Most anglers try to avoid this by tying a triple surgeon’s or blood knot above their tandem nymph rig, and attach the split-shot above that. The knot keeps the split-shot from sliding down to the flies during fly casting, and it only has to be snugly secured, which limits the chances of it damaging the tippet. It’s not 100% full proof, but it’s the most popular method used by experienced nymph fisherman. To limit the break offs during fierce fights, anglers should get in the habit of regularly checking their nymph rig for weak spots and abrasions throughout their day of fishing, particularly after each catch.

Attaching Your Split-Shot on Tags

An alternative method that eliminates the possibility of split-shot weakening your tippet is to attach it to the tag of your knot above your lead fly. Instead of trimming off both tags from the knot, leave one three inch tag, tie a quick overhand knot, and attach your split-shot. Tie on your lead fly and dropper off the bend of the hook just like you do in a standard two-fly system. This works really well and it doesn’t add any time rigging if you want to change out fly patterns.

Attaching Split-Shot At the Bottom of Your Nymph Rig

A second option is attaching each nymph with a sliding dropper loop, and having your split-shot positioned at the very bottom of your nymph rig. To fish this method, first tie on a piece of tippet onto your leader 18-24″ long, with a standard triple surgeon’s or blood knot. Then tie a simple overhand knot at the end of your tippet and attach your split-shot. Next take two separate pieces of tippet 12″ long and tie a perfection loop at one end for each. Take one of them and secure it above your first knot (surgeon or blood knot) running the tag through the perfection loop just like you do when your putting on a fresh leader. Then take the second piece of tippet with the perfection loop and attach it above your split-shot. Finish off each sliding dropper loop by tying on a nymph. Anglers that fish this rig generally have their first sliding dropper and nymph around 6″ long. The second sliding dropper loop above the split-shot can be as much as 12″ in length.

I really like this rig over fishing a standard czech nymphing rig. It’s basically the same thing but instead of using a heavy point fly to get your flies down, you instead substitute split-shot. I like this because it gives you more versatility in applying weight. Moreover, the sliding dropper loops allow you to change out flies once or twice without having to completely rebuild the rig, which is a big negative with standard czech nymphing rigs. When your sliding dropper loops get too short to change out flies you can quickly detach them and add a new one.

Warning: This rig is suited best for roll casting or short casting with wide loops. It tangles easier than the other rigs mentioned, and it isn’t recommended for novice nymph fisherman.

I wrote this post because it’s so easy for all of us to get set in our ways, fishing only certain rigs, because that’s what we’re most comfortable with. The fact is, sometimes there’s situations where alternative rigs will out perform your goto rig. Furthermore, no one ever truly stops learning in the sport of fly fishing. Don’t limit the growth of your skills by being unwilling to try new things. You never know, those new techniques may end up turning that unproductive day of fishing into a productive one.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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19 thoughts on “2 Alternatives for Attaching Your Split-Shot

    • You know it, great hat and you can get one on there website. The SCOF boys would really appreciate the love. Funny story about that hat. My 11 month old son Jack finds it very intriguing and is obsessed with it.He will play with it for twenty thirty mins sometimes. Must have something to do with the logo. Pretty funny.


      • Its a great read. I met the SCOF crew at the GSFS this past weekend and they seemed like a solid crew guys. Look forward to next issue esp your contributions about local SE trout waters.

        • @Brett

          Glad you talked to them. I really wanted to be there but I had scheduled guide trips and family obligations.

          I will forward the message you want to see more info about SE waters and I also look forward to contributing again to the strategizing section of the magazine next issue.


  1. Kent, great tips. A lot of anglers on the Provo river use the tag line/split shot method you described. They call it the Provo River bounce rig. The shot bounces over the rocks and keeps your flies from snagging. However, they attach a ridiculous amount of shot, like 8 or 9 pieces. Not much fun to cast but they catch a lot of fish using this method.

  2. Below is a tip on this post from one of our Facebook Fans. Thought I would share it with everyone.

    Dan Sedergren

    I use a similar setup with one minor difference. At the end of my leader I attach a Climax Tippet Ring, then when I need to change tippet I simply tie a new piece to the ring. If I’m fishing nymphs and need to use split shot, I tie another short piece of tippet to the ring and suspend the shot like in the photo.

    The ring also works well when I’m fishing wet flies or soft hackles. I tie a 10 inch piece of tippet to the ring and another about 18 inches long. One fly on the short line and another on the longer. The tippet rings are light enough that they don’t sink the leader when I’m fishing dries on top.

  3. “Next take two separate pieces of tippet 12″ long and tie a perfection loop at one end for each. Take one of them and secure it above your first knot (surgeon or blood knot) running the tag through the perfection loop just like you do when your putting on a fresh leader.”

    So when you hook up, especially a big fish, what’s to stop that sliding dropper from sliding right off the end of your rig? Seems like your perfection loop that’s wrapped around the main line could pretty easily slip over the surgeon’s knot if there was a lapse in line tension… and then your split shot is the only thing left to stop it… I’d be too paranoid and tie a double-double overhand knot at the end to make sure that split shot doesn’t slide off the end, followed by my dropper and fish.

    When you pull that perfection loop tight on the main line, does it kind of “Set” or will it loosen up if nothing’s pullin on it?

    • Derrick,

      I believe I said in the post that you should tie an overhand knot below the split-shot. It’s a very good point you bring up though with the alternative nymph rig. I won’t argue that it’s a perfect rig. This is a popular nymph rig used by many western guides. Kelly Galloup has talked about using this rig. I myself, tend to fish my tandem nymph rigs with the dropper tied off the bend of the lead fly most of the time. The whole point of the article though, was to point out it can pay off to think outside the box every once in a while, and to not get too set in our ways.

      Thanks for chiming in on the post. You make very valid points, and the post is better from your feedback.

      Keep it Reel,

      Kent Klewein

      • Yes, Kent… You did say to tie an overhand knot… I was attempting a joke about the double double overhand… I’m just now learning about the countless ways to do up a double nymph rig, so I’m always full of questions. The thought of being able to slide your droppers around seems interesting…sometimes you want your flies further down the tippet without having to re-rig. Hence the questions about which knot to tie at the junction.

        The ironic thing is that on another forum I posted about whether or not drop shotting would work for tight line nymphing…seems better to me to have the shot behind the flies on your rig so you can feel strikes better. Almost all the stuff I saw online simply said, “Bass fisherman do it all the time.” Which totally doesn’t apply to drifting nymphs in current for trout. Your article was the first I saw regarding drop shotting for nymphing, which is a nice confirmation… Very helpful post.

        Thanks man.



      • Just read your method of rigging by using the sliding dropper loop(s)My ? is do you place the bottom loop right up against the split shot to tight line nymph or do you leave a little space(about 12″) as is described in the bounce nymph system?

  4. Pingback: Fly Fishing Q&A - What Would Kent Do | Gink and Gasoline, The Blog home of Kent Klewein and Louis Cahill-Fly Fishing photography, video, tips and news.

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  6. Great article. am laided up recovering from a massive. When I Am recovered,plan to use your ideas with a Amago tenkara setup

  7. I have used it for trout years ago..
    I like having fly 6 inchs from bottom and also use long drop off like 6 inchs it lets fly move more.
    Next I do not use beadhead flys with this..I want fly to float around not sink to bottom…
    Also above fly no beadhead……
    I also use mini swivel lowest size is #14 on most sellers like 1/4 inch long..
    I use this instead of tippet ring off leader this keeps the flies untangled somewhat.
    As for line to sinkers I crimp sinker very lightly so it slides off and I use cheap sinkers…
    Another tip leave a 12 inch tag on sinker if you want to raise your fies just move sinker down another six inchs …….
    On caddfis flies I bend the hook makes caddis spin or wiggle.
    Using a bobber causes rig to move more making flies move it will increase your bites but I use Cortland indictor line I just like it …
    All season I use nothing but stonefly on bottom and flies on the top dropper…
    Only place we disagree at times is beadhead vrs no beadhead ,I like no beadhead…..

  8. I run my tippet through a piece of rubber tubing and slide my slit shot inside of it. It holds to the line good and doesn’t hang up as bad.

  9. I was watching some of your comments but I’m still not sure how to tie a split shot from sliding down your fly linesome people told me to use a tippet ring someone told me to use a ordinary knot

  10. Regarding split shot at the bottom of the leader… This really works well when you fish waters that have a vegetation load. You can figure out the space needed to keep the hooks above the debris and let the fish see your offering.

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