Ask George Daniel | Drop Shot Nymphing

by | Sep 16, 2018 | 25 comments


This is Part Two of my conversation with George Daniel, author and guide at Livin’ on the Fly. We had lunch to talk about his new book, Nymph Fishing. If you haven’t yet read Part One of this short series, back up and give it a read.


Drop shotting makes a lot of sense. Placing the weight on the bottom of the rig and tying in the flies above provides some significant advantages. Anyone who has tied a tag dropper somewhere above the point fly understands the effectiveness.

Trout whack a tag fly riding anywhere from slightly above the streambed to mid column (or even higher.) They do it a lot. No matter the conditions, my go to nymphing rig has a smaller, lighter fly on a tag. What varies is the distance from the end of the line and the type of nymph I use.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing Strategies — Tags and Trailers

Drop shotting is an alternative way to present those tag flies. And in fact, by putting the weight at the end of the line, we can have two nymphs (or more) riding off the bottom and above the trout’s head. That’s a good thing, because trout look up for food an awful lot.

If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a quick primer on drop-shot nymphing from Kelly Galloup. Yes, he fishes more than streamers.

My job in this article is not to explain drop shot nymphing from the ground up. I promise to do that in another series at another time. I’ll bring in some drop-shot experts who take the method to another level. (It’s on my big to-do list.)

Instead, I’d like to share the two most interesting points that George Daniel made about drop-shot nymphing. We got around to the subject about midway through lunch at Happy Valley Brewing Company in State College, PA.

George is the deepest critical thinker I’ve met in the industry. I learned this fifteen years ago, while tirelessly picking his brain about tight line tactics. George was on the clock as manager of the State College TCO store at the time. And he was always ready to engage an angler who brought a boatload of questions. He still is.

Photo by Bill Dell

Pause and Hang

So let’s talk about drop-shotting,” I said to George. “It seems to me that as soon as most guys rig up with drop shot, they immediately think they have to touch bottom more. They think the way to fish drop shot is to have the weight going tick-tick-pause, tick-tick . . . all the way through the drift. But I don’t do it that way so much, because the trout don’t respond as well,” I said.

READ: Troutbitten | Tight Lining — Not all that Tight

“I guess what I do most,” I continued, “is to aim for the same type of drifts that I would with two weighted flies — to touch bottom once in a while, but not too much.”

George nodded. But then tilted his head sideways, signaling “Yeah, but . . .” And I knew something unusual was coming.

“Have you ever been nymphing with two flies, and the bottom one hangs up?” George asked.

“Sure.” I nodded.

“Then all of the sudden a trout takes the upper fly,” he said.

George’s hand turned into a trout’s jaws as he gestured against an invisible line over the table.

“I use drop-shot like THAT sometimes.” George said.

George explained that he likes to use the drop-shot method to create pauses in the drift — to hold the nymphs in position for a moment before resuming their downstream course. The shot at the bottom of the rig makes contact with the streambed, and it hangs up less than most nymphs. If the shot does snag to the point where it can’t easily be pulled free, we can choose to break off the shot and not lose the flies. Simply replace the shot in a few seconds and get back to nymphing.


Bouncing Nymphs

“So, what about weighted flies in a drop shot rig?” I asked. “No one ever seems to mention weighted flies as an option. I understand keeping the bottom fly unweighted. I’ve tried weighted flies there, and they hang up too often — defeating the point of the drop shot rig, really. So I keep my lower flies unweighted in a drop shot rig. But I regularly use the same small and lightly weighted flies on my upper tag — the same nymphs I use in my go to nymphing rig.”

George had another interesting point.

“Some of my friends call it a bounce rig,” George said.

“Sure. I’ve heard it called that because the shot bounces on the bottom. Right?” I asked.

George shook his head a bit.

“Well . . . unweighted nymphs in a drop-shot system bounce and jiggle every time the shot touches bottom. Weighted nymphs don’t do that in the same way.”

I smiled.

“I love it.” I said.

George pointed out that nymphs in a drop-shot rig are connected to a tight line, with the shot on the bottom. When the shot touches, an unweighted nymph has the freedom to flutter — to bounce — with every touch. And weighted flies don’t react quite the same way.

This also happens best when the nymphs are rigged on a tag rather than inline.

Much more . . .

It’s the little things in fly fishing that add up to big success. Many small adjustments combine for a twenty-trout day instead of a two-trout day.

There are more gems like these in George’s new book, Nymph Fishing.

In Part Three, I share George Daniel’s thoughts on floating the sighter.


You can buy George Daniel’s trio of books here to support Troutbitten.





Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. Thanks for the very interesting interview.

    I go back and forth between more traditional Euro style nymphing and drop shot nymphing. What I like about the drop shot approach is the great feedback I get from the bottom. I know when my nymphs are where I want them to be and, by adjusting weights, I can slow them down or speed them up.

    However, I also like the simple elegance of Euro nymphing. So, like you, I asked George what I think is the central question: when does he Euro nymph and when does he drop shot.
    This is his reply:

    “I tend to euro nymph when drifting my flies when fish are actively feeding in the water column. i use drop shot tactic to drastically slow down my presentation to a crawl, especially in slower deeper pools where trout may not actively be feeding but I can hold the rig there long enough to where it may entice a fish to strike. Long story short…euro for drifting and drop shot when crawling my patterns slowly on the bottom during slow periods of activity.”

    So, now, let me ask you, Dom: when do you Euro nymph and when do you drop shot? And, which style do you prefer to fish either because it gives you more confidence or because you find it more aesthetically pleasing?


    P.S. And, what do you think about bounce nymphing, the way many anglers fish on the Provo River in Utah. A bounce rig, as I understand it, is simply a drop shot setup with a bobber. The bobber “bounces” on the surface of the water as the lead skips along the bottom.

    • Good stuff as always, Alex.

      I don’t have a clear distinction between the two. Meaning, I’ll drop shot or fish two weighted flies just about anywhere, and I’ll fish the drop shot rig without hardly touching the bottom (as mentioned above) or I’ll fish it to touch bottom a lot.

      I do fish it with unweighted flies more than not. And that’s why I liked GD’s point about the unweighted flies bouncing — that’s something that may not happen with weighted flies, and it might explain why drop shotting sometimes outperforms weighted flies.

      But, overall . . . I tend to choose drop shot when I want to touch bottom but not lose the flies. I also use it a lot in places that develop a lot of salad on the streambed — so the junk slides off the shot and the flies rarely touch bottom. I also use it for night nymphing a lot.

      Regarding the Provo River bounce rig — to me, whether I add a suspender to the rig or not is not usually a factor for what I’m using for weight or how I rig it. Make sense?

      When do you like to use drop shot, Alex?

      • Thanks for asking, Dom.

        Here are some somewhat random thoughts on the matter:

        1. I drop shot when I want to get small flies deep.
        2. I drop shot when I want to use a bobber because I like the tight connection between bobber and shot.
        3. I drop shot with a bobber when I want to fish across stream, for many of the reasons George mentioned in the first part of the interview.
        4. I drop shot with a bobber when I want to get to the bottom fast. The reason for that is that a lot of lead will slow down the bobber to the point that it’s moving at around half the speed of the surface flow. That translates into approximately a dead drift on the bottom.
        4. I fish drop shot in deep water.
        5. I fish Euro when I feel that tungsten beads work best.
        6. Finally, I fish Euro when I want to keep things simple and beautiful.

        And, to be honest, I don’t know which method works better day in day out. I’ve discussed the topic with Devin Olsen and Gilbert Rowley, and they both maintain that, even if drop shot were allowed under comp rules, they would still fish Euro because they feel it is the most productive method. At times, for me, at least, that seems to be true, at others not. So, the puzzle remains, well, a puzzle..


  2. Some of his friends? haha Friggin half of Utah calls that a bounce rig. I fished the Provo about 5yrs ago and that’s all anyone talked about.

    • I don’t think George was excluding half of Utah. He simply mentioned that that’s what some of his friends call it. George and I are both aware that the bounce rig is a Provo River staple.

      Also to consider: drop shotting can be done with or without a suspender.


  3. I have been using the drop-shot method quite often on deeper fast Scottish rivers.I either tight line it or use a bobber.On what you call the mono rig.It has been very effective especially for grayling.I have been fishing it heavy.I usually want to feel it bounce along bottom & slow the drift down.You don’t blunt hook points or loose many flies.I am probably still a drop-shot novice .Keep the drop-shot stuff coming.(love it).Cheers

    • Good stuff. Send some pics of Scotland!

  4. I’m anxious to try this drop-shot business. It makes total sense; get your flies close to the bottom but not ON the bottom, less hang-ups, yada yada. Practical question – I presume that you tie a knot at the end of the tippet so the shot doesn’t slip off. What knot do you recommend for that? Just an overhand knot? Will that come out with the shot pushing down on it?

    • Actually, you want the knot to fail if the shot gets stuck on the bottom. That way, all you lose is the shot.

      Another idea is to put a single overhand knot above the shot. That way, if you get stuck, that knot fails and the rest of your rig is safe.

    • Right on. You can do it a number of ways. Check out the link above, and search the web for drop shot rigs and you’ll see many different options. I’ll cover these in another article too.

      If I’m in water where I can’t retrieve my snags, then I often rig with no knot on at the bottom, so the shot will slide off. Other times, I might rig the tag with a lighter line so it breaks off, but the flies stay.

      Most times, I fish water where I can retrieve my snags easily, so I rig with a knot below the shot, and if I hang up, I just get it out. I don’t really like to leave anything on the river bottom if I can help it.

      • I can dig it. Thanks, guys.

  5. Have you tried drop-shotting with micro-slinkies (1, 2, 3, 0r 4 BBs)? Virtually snag-less on rock bottoms and easy to change weights. Glad to send you some.

    • Thanks, Rick. I have tried them, yes. And I appreciate your offer to share.

      For our rivers, they are mostly overkill. It really doesn’t take much weight to get down. Often it’s just a #1 or a #4 shot.

  6. My flies are on rotating tags but with a figure of eight knot loop instead of a perfection loop.My leader bottom has a figure of eight loop also.I just tie on a length of weaker tippet to the figure of eight loop for my shot. Usualy if i need to break-off it’s just the shot section that goes.Cheers

    • Nice

  7. Hello all. I have been watching loads of YouTube videos on the Provo river bounce.Everyone seems to fish it with a fly line with a thingamabobber a short distance from there fly line.Then they do lots of mending of fly line.Don’t see any videos with anyone high sticking it on the mono rig.Does it work better with fly line.Cheers

  8. love that, I am just starting more eurostyle but really like the use of unweighted flies and softhackles — and since I am not competing…I can add weight via drop shot instead. I also often feel like the point fly is at least in the first pass “riding the bottom” and a trout isn’t going to “suck it off the floor” so the point in the first run is a waste. I have drop shotted before (heck I do it with various “worm” setups spinning all the time) and to me the hardest part is the cast, there is a lot of crap to get twisted around each other. so for now, I am giving “euro” a run and my first time out tonight…it worked 🙂

  9. I made an interesting observation while drop-shooting this weekend. I tried using a piece of bright orange backing material uni-knotted to my leader (i.e., a “backing barrel”) as a sighter. I colored the knot part black and coated it with UV resin, trimmed to down-facing tag, and left the up-pointing tag around 1 – 1.5 inches long.

    What I discovered is that the tag bounced around a lot as the shot was skipping over the bottom. So, as a result, I had great feedback that was both visual and tactile (more often than not, I could feel the rig bouncing), and when I had a take, the little sighter moved in a way that was noticeably different than when the shot was simply bouncing along the bottom, which helped a lot with strike detection.

    An added advantage of this tactic is that the sighter is extremely easy to adjust up and down the leader, making it a breeze to keep it just above the water’s surface.


  10. What if you set up your preferred nymphing rig (anchor on point, lighter weighted fly on dropper tag), but set up a tag below the anchor, a la drop shot, and added any extra weight you might need there to get down, as opposed to 4 or so inches above your anchor fly?

    • I see now actually after reading again you said if the bottom fly is weighted it hangs up too much.


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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