I’m not sure why but it took me so long to start using dropper rigs. Maybe it was because I wasn’t sure about the rigging techniques? Maybe it was because my initial experiences with droppers created some bird’s nest tangles? Or maybe I was just catching enough fish on one lure or fly…. Who knows, but a few decades ago a fishing trip on a local estuary changed all of that.
At that point in time my freshwater trout fishing was on heavily-fished public waters. While many of my Western cohorts were slinging hopper-dropper rigs and catching tons of fish, the fussy and finicky trout in my home waters thumbed their noses and two-fly rigs. A single, well-placed fly out fished a dropper rig 10 to 1. Like most anglers, I followed the “keep a winning game plan, change a losing game plan” approach. I never much thought about it for the salt, and stuck to one plug, bait or fly.
But in the early 1990’s I was fishing a saltwater estuary during a transitional time. The herring was in, but so were the silversides and the sandeels. I was near some grass beds so there were shrimp around too. The bait was all mixed together and the fish were very picky. They were so picky, that even after a few hours with fish busting all around me, I didn’t have a hook up.
My frustration peaks during times like that, and I retreated to the bank. I could see the various baitfish swimming by and the idea struck me like a defensive back hits a wide out. I’m going to tie a bunch of patterns on and see what happens.
I pulled out one of each pattern from my box and retied a leader. I left six inch tags of monofilament off my leader. At the point, I tied on a blue over a silver broken back Rebel, about 7 inches of a herring look-a-like. Above the plug I tied on a series of flies. The first was a Ray’s Fly which is one of the best silverside patterns known to the fishing world. Above that I tied on a Ray’s Fly Flatwing which is one of the best sandeel patterns going. And above that I strapped on a General Practioner shrimp fly.
The tide had dropped so I moved down to a bar that created a perfect current seam. I flipped my bail, gently lobbed out my Rebel
rig, and let it drift for a bit. After 20 seconds or so I closed the bail and let the line come tight. I moved my rod tip to the inside of the seam and when the plug swam into the slower water I felt nothing. I waited for a bit, still nothing. What a colossal waste of time.
Then bam. I set the hook and waited. Bam, bam, bam. The fight wasn’t like anything I ever felt before, and it was like a bunch of cats in a bag. No long runs, just an erratic, fierce fight. When I got the fish close I saw four schoolies! They were all small fish, but I broke the curse. And after the first schoolie bass hit the others got competitive and grabbed the droppers. Since that day, I always fish droppers. Let the fish decide, I say.
Dropper-rigs are like a buffet. They make the catching a lot easier any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Tom Keer is an award-winning freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com