Adding a second fly to the tippet section usually improves your chances of fooling a trout. Sure, there are times when the precision of just one fly is an advantage, but more often than not, I fish with multiple fly rigs. I like two nymphs, two streamers, and two wets. And I like to run a dropper from a dry fly about half the time I’m fishing the surface. Unfortunately, adding a second fly means tying more knots and adjusting the rig, but there’s a simple trick I learned from a wise friend some years back. We call it the add-on line.
First, there are two main ways to rig a second fly: as a tag or a trailer. I wrote an article considering both types in depth, detailing how and why to employ each method. I encourage you to give it a read first. Then all of what follows here will make more sense.
Briefly, a tag fly is attached to a short length of line protruding from a knot in the tippet (usually 12-24” above the point fly). But a trailer fly is attached to a second line at the first fly (most often directly to the bend of the hook).
There are good reasons to use both styles of droppers, and there are multiple ways to attach each. While the standard ways to attach tags and trailers are good primary options, the add-on line trick provides a quick alternative. Let’s take a look.
The most common way to add a dropper tag is to leave one of the tag ends long while joining two pieces of tippet. I prefer the Orvis Tippet Knot, but the Double Surgeon’s Knot or Blood Knot works well too.
But here’s the trouble . . .
The tag gets too short after a couple fly changes. Right? If you start out with a five inch tag, you are left with a two inch nub in no time. So what can you do?
You can cut the lines and rejoin them to form a new tag, although that requires clipping off the point fly. And when you reattach it, the distance between your two flies is five inches shorter. You can, instead, scrap that piece of tippet and add a whole new section. But that gets expensive, and you’re still tying more knots than necessary. So I prefer the simple add-on line trick. I add a new piece of tippet around the mainline where I want my tag.
Here’s the add-on line.
Slide this added piece down to the knot, and a new tag is created. You can use whatever knot you’re comfortable with here. I prefer the Davy Knot because it’s super quick, but the Clinch Knot or a Uni-Knot works well too.
Traditionally, sliding dropper loops are a popular option for an add-on line. But in thin diameter tippets of 4x or smaller, I prefer one of the knots mentioned above. They are simpler and less bulky than a dropper loop.
Arguably, tying a new piece of tippet to the hook bend of a fly is the most common way to add a trailer. That’ll get the job done. Trailer lines can also be tied to the eye of the first fly (both the mainline and the trailer line are tied to the eye).
But here’s the trouble . . .
What if I want to swap out the main fly? I have to cut the trailer line and reattach it to the new fly, right? Inconveniences like these seem minor at first. But as I’ve argued so many times through the pages of Troutbitten, if a rig-change isn’t easy, anglers avoid it. Inherent in every fisherman is a fear of wasting time on the water. So we skip doing the small things that cost time. And the more efficient we can make fly or tippet changes, the more likely we are to do them. Using the add-on line saves time.
To add a trailer, instead of attaching the extra tippet to the bend or the eye of a fly, I attach it around the mainline. This gives me the freedom to slide the trailer line up and out of the way so that I can swap out the original fly — a significantly quicker change with one clip and one knot instead of two and two.
I have one major caution when attaching tags and trailers this way — slide slowly. When tying the knot around the mainline, pull the knot closed, but don’t tighten until you slide it down into position. This avoids line burn and damage. Once the knot is seated (tight around the mainline and snugged up into position) it won’t slide up the line unless you move it. When you do move it, slide slowly.
And one last trick
Since I play with fly positioning a lot and enjoy adjusting rigs to the conditions, I really like simple solutions that allow me to make changes quickly without wasting material. I sometimes use the add-on method to swap out long sections of tippet with pre-rigged flies. Similar to the way I would employ a tippet ring, I use a stopper knot, then add the tippet around the mainline above.
The add-on line is just another quick solution that solves problems, and once you realize that it’s an available option, it comes in handy pretty often.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N