Fly anglers like to fish with a couple flies once in a while. The standard method for attaching a second fly is run it in-line — as a trailer from the bend of the first fly. Instead, I prefer to create a tag dropper for that attachment. Tag droppers have big advantages that I’ve detailed in this popular Troutbitten article from a few years back . . .
READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing Strategies — Tags and Trailers.
But maybe just as important is how we create the tag for the dropper. And I have three favorite ways that I use for different reasons and specific applications.
Watch the following video, and then find more detail in the paragraphs below.
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Joining two lines and leaving a long tag on one of them is what I call the splice, and it is arguably the most popular method for creating a tag dropper.
For joining these two lines, I choose the Orvis Tippet Knot, and there are a couple of good reasons. First, this knot saves material from the mainline, because we create the tag with the added-in length of line. Second, that line also creates a tag that points up and away from the mainline, instead of down. And this difference provides a real advantage for keeping lines tangle-free.
READ: Troutbitten | Tangle-Free Tandem Rigs
Blood knots are fine for the splice, but they can get a little tricky in skinny tippet diameters. And they provide no advantage over the Orvis Tippet Knot. Likewise, the Double Surgeon’s knot is a fair choice, and probably the most popular, but it requires the use of the down tag, which is created by the mainline, also shortening that by the inches required to create the tag. Using the added-in line with a Double Surgeon’s Knot, which creates an up-tag dropper, is a mistake, because it forces knot breakage on even medium-sized fish.
Use the Orvis Tippet Knot, and love your life.
What I call the layover is a close cousin to the splice, because the tag dropper is created by the exact same motions. Here, I choose the Orvis Tippet Knot again to create the tag. A Double Surgeon’s can also create the layover, but you must — once again — use the down tag.
The layover is a great method because it preserves the original length of the mainline. It also maintains the strength of the mainline, and I’d have a hard time arguing that it’s not stronger than the splice.
Lastly, by using the layover method for creating a tag dropper, I can add thin droppers on a thicker line. For example, think of using 4X to a tight line drop shot rig, then using 6X to create the tags for a pair of #20 Zebra Midges. You get the strength of 4X to the weight and the flexibility of 6X to the flies. It’s a neat trick.
The Add-On Line
This third method allows for the creation of a tag when a knot already exists on the mainline but no tag is present. With the add-on line we create a tag and slide it down to the knot.
To create the tag, simply tie a uni-knot around the mainline above the existing knot. Snug the uni-knot, but do not tighten yet. First, slide the knot into position, and then tighten it down.
READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing Strategies — The Add-On Line
The Uni-Knot here cannot be beat. Because there are five wraps around the mainline, it’s a much stronger knot than choosing a Clinch, a Davy or something similar. Those knots have only one wrap around the mainline, which can sustain damage and break easier. (Trust me. I learned the hard way.)
The Add-On line is a great choice for saving time and saving materials.
What About Loop Droppers?
I hate ‘em. 🙂
While loop droppers are the classic solution for creating tag droppers, they are also the worst. They are clunky, they slide, and they take more time and material to form. No thank you.
But if loop droppers work for you, don’t let me change your mind.
Take Your Pick
With three good solutions for creating tag droppers, there’s a method for every moment. And by getting each of these under your fingers, by practicing them and being comfortable, you’ll find uses for all of these methods as you work up a river.
Fish hard, friends.
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T R O U T B I T T E N
Like so many I’m steeped in the surgeons knot mantra. I am however forcing myself to break free from it and deploy the Orvis Tippet Knot. I’m a lousy knot tier though and fumble through the learning curve until I can obtain some semblance of muscle memory. At this point I sometimes fall back to the surgeons because I’d rather fish than fumble. What are your thoughts regarding double, triple, or even quadruple surgeons knots with a 6x tipppet?
Do you use all three methods of adding in a tag dropper?
Regarding triple and quadruple surgeon’s: I find the extra wraps useless and completely unnecessary. If I tie a good double surgeon’s, I don’t need the extra wraps.
Thanks Dom- I typically use the layover method as I primarily Euronymph. I do use the add on line method occasionally.
Great stuff as always Dom! One nuance I’ve found is to use a thicker tag when using the layover method.
For instance, if my main tippet is 5.5X to the point fly, I’ll use 5X for the tag which gives me a little more separation, less tangling, and a stronger knot at the tag.
Interesting. I often do the opposite.
Thank you, Dom. I am a better angler because of what I learn from you.
Have you ever tied a dropper off the tag of a blood knot? The blood is a clean little knot and easy to tie. Dave Rothrock promotes the use of a blood in a dropper rig in some of his videos. I like the know for joining tippet sections but wold be concerned about knot strength if tying a dropper off the tag (and which tag would you use?).
I am a double or triple surgeon’s knot junkie, slowly weaning to the Orvis tippet knot because of the advantage of the up-tag (I have lost medium sized fish using the up-tag of the surgeon’s knot).
But while we are having the discussion, I would be interested in the experience of others with the blood/dropper set-up.
Hi Eric, I mentioned the blood knot in the article above. It’s a fine solution. It just takes a lot longer to create a tag with a blood knot in thin diameters, and there’s no advantage over the Orvis Tippet Knot. In fact, I believe the Orvis Tippet Knot is actually better than the blood knot in the way I can use the up tag.
Agree the Orvis knot has advantages… and like having the “up tag” so why do we have to use the bottom tag after the Uni knot dropper?
Good question. Because using the up tag on a uni knot just pulls the wrong way. It cuts through itself.
Don’t take my word for it. Give it a try for a while, and you’ll probably see it too.
Hello Dom I must say a great explanation of three very practical, efficient and strong methods of tag attachments.
Thank you for sharing
Tight lines, AJ
Awesome info. If you have a longer tippet than you want, one thing I do that saves a little time is to use the end of my leader as the new tag. By tying a double surgeons I end up with a long loop and just clip that loop asymmetrically to leave an appropriate length tag and the rest remains the leader down to the point fly. I end up with your “layover method” but I didn’t have to pull a new piece of tippet off. Take it for what it’s worth and thanks for the info!
Good stuff, Jeff. Thanks.
OK, I spent two days learning the Orvis tippet knot to replace my 40-year-old reliance on the double surgeons. Sadly, I now realize the double surgeons has to go. Good by old friend. Now, when you tie a layover version of the Orvis to a tippet that already has a heavy fly attached, do you find yourself carefully pulling the fly through the knot loops like I always did with the double surgeons? Or in the end, do you find that that wastes more time than clipping off the existing fly and retying? Thanks much! Toney
Good stuff. For me, trying to bring a fly through a loop while tying a knot definitely wastes more time. I just clip and retie. With a Davy, it takes ten seconds and wastes an eighth of an inch of tippet.
Makes sense. Thanks much!
I can’t see the difference between the “splice” and the “layover”. What am I missing?
I lost a really nice fish today. It broke me off. I blamed it on the 5x tippet size and my poor fish fighting skills. As I was rewatching this episode, I realize now, it might have been because of how I tied my dropper. I thought I had found a neat hack in a dry dropper setup by tying a dropper tag above my dry fly with a clinch knot (similar to how you add a new tag when the old one gets too short). This gave me the ability to slide the nymph tag up and down to change just my dry without having to re-tie on a dropper every time. I thought it was so slick! Never again. No more shortcuts. I think it was you who said “Don’t be lazy” on one of the podcasts. Maybe I’ll forgo the 5x as well…
Looking forward to the next episode.