Fly Fishing Strategies: Tippet Rings For Tag Droppers? No Thanks.
Fishing dropper rigs should be easy. But judging from the amount of questions I field about knots, dropper types and tangles, fishing two or more flies causes a lot of angst out there.
Last week, I wrote about fishing tangle-free tandem rigs, and a popular question repeated itself in my inbox: “Tippet rings would be great for droppers, right?” My short is answer, no. My long answer is . . . usually not. Tippet rings for tags can work, but I don’t think it’s worth it.
Some anglers make a chore of rigging their lines. Knowing a few knots and tying them well is a standard skill for every fisher, everywhere. Whether you’re swinging for wild Oregon steelhead or chasing Appalachian backcountry brookies, we all have to tie a few knots in a day of fishing. And if you plan to change flies and tactics often, then you’ll tie dozens of knots per day.
Knot tying is a simple, basic skill. You don’t have to be lightning quick to be efficient, you just need to have the wraps and twists patterned under your fingers enough that knot tying isn’t a big deal. Nobody likes breaking off a two fly rig. But if you hang your head and wade to the nearest bank log after a break-off, knowing it takes you ten minutes to add a new length of tippet and two more flies, then you’re doing it wrong.
I’ve heard a lot of excuses about fat fingers, old bones, arthritis, poor eyesight and more. If that’s you, then forgive me if this stings a little, but it usually comes down to practice. A double surgeon’s knot tied with big loops doesn’t take the dexterity of, well . . . a surgeon. And a three-year-old can tie a Davy Knot (that’s a first-person fact). I’m simply arguing that good knot tying is a required skill, and with enough practice, it’s available to every angler.
So what about those tippet rings?
Time keeps on slipping . . . into the future
Standing in the cool morning water, with a gorgeous run ahead of you and the bright sun cresting the ridge, the clock is ticking for a shaded, uncorrupt river.
You rig up a tag dropper using a tippet ring. And you do the following:
— Tie the upper line to the tippet ring
— Tie the lower line to the tippet ring
— Tie a tag line to the tippet ring
— Tie the fly to the tag
Okay, that’s four steps. Your buddy downstream of you rigs up his tag dropper with an Orvis Tippet Knot. And he does the following:
— Ties an Orvis Tippet Knot
— Ties the fly to the tag
So while you’re tying that third knot, you look back to see your friend — he’s already casting. And as you tie the fourth knot, you hear that son-of-a-bitch holler, “Fish On!” Yes, he caught a fish in his first spot, while you tied your fourth knot.
Alright, so there’s the math. It takes more time to rig tag droppers with tippet rings (and we haven’t even addressed the fiddling around with tippet storage or how to get rings off of the clasp or safety pin without dropping them all in the water).
But what about adding a new tag after a couple of fly changes? Isn’t it easier to just tie a fresh tag to the tippet ring?
No, not in my world. For that, I direct you to the Add-On Line article, where you can simply add a new tag just above any knot in a leader.
Fair enough. But what about breaking off? Won’t the tippet ring system save time then?
No. Not really. I’ve done this. I fished tags on tippet rings for about three months before I gave up on the idea, deciding it was, ironically, a time waster.
If you break off below the tippet ring every time, then sure, you might save time. You can try to make that happen by using a thinner, weaker tippet below the tippet ring, but fishing is . . . imperfect. And somewhere in the mid-morning sun, you’ll hook a submerged log that you can’t wade to, and when you break off, you’ll lose it all, because the snag was above your tippet ring junction. You’ll tie four knots again instead of two, and time keeps on slipping into the future.
Maybe the time issue doesn’t matter to you. Fair enough.
But there’s a second reason that tippet rings for tag droppers are a sub-par choice — the angle of the dropper tag is no good.
You may start with your tag knot positioned on the tippet ring and angled in a way that the tag sticks out perpendicular (90 degrees) from the mainline. But that doesn’t last long. While fishing, the tag knot easily slides around the circle of the ring and seats itself right next to the bottom knot. Now you have two lines running almost parallel to each other, and that is an invitation for tandem tangles.
It’s far better to use the upper tag in an Orvis Tippet Knot, where the line is propped up and away from the mainline.
Here’s the difference (notice the angle of the tag, right where it attaches):
But tippet rings are awesome
Alright, so I’ve burned through 850 words, describing why I never use tippet rings for tag droppers. However, I love those tiny metal circles! And I use them all the time. In every leader, I incorporate at least one tippet ring.
I attach new leaders via a three turn clinch knot, at a tippet ring, eight inches from my fly line.
And I include tippet rings on each end of my sighter. At these points, I like to swap out pre-rigged sections and make life easier. I might change to a two nymph rig and tie on a pre-tied dry-dropper section with just one knot. Later, I may swap out everything from the sighter down, attaching a pre-rigged two-streamer setup, again, with one knot.
That’s why tippet rings are so valuable to me. That’s how I use them. But for tag droppers? Meh. Not so much.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N