Tip # 72 – Tandem Fly Fishing Rigs – Mayflies

Fly Fishing is one of those things that really gets you in touch with your surroundings.  The fish, the stream, the environment all come together with Fly Fishing.  It can be tough at times though.  When doing this sort of thing, you really have to tune into what the fish are doing.  What are they eating?  Are they taking bugs off the surface?  Are the trout eating nymphs below the surface?  Or are they taking emerging insects in the stage between nymph and air borne bug?

It can be a little daunting at first, but theres one really good trick that you should really know about in order to figure out what fish, and particularly trout are keying in on when they’re on the feed.

Generally, trout will feed on four different stages of mayfly.  The Nymph, the Emerger, the Dun and the Spinner.  Were going to focus on the first three stages here.

First is the nymph, you can generally tell this is occurring when you see consistent flashes below the surface of the water.  Usually there are no splashes associated with this.  When trout are feeding on nymphs, there is little chance they are going to come to the surface to hit a dry fly.

Second is the Emerger.  This stage is named as such because the mayfly nymphs are swimming to the surface preparing to emerge as a winged insect.  Rises to emerging nymphs tend to be splashy, violent and fast.  This is because the nymphs are swimming quickly from the stream bed to the surface where they struggle to get themselves up on the surface of the water where they’ll crack out of their nymphal shuck.

Third is the Dun stage.  This is the stage right after the mayfly has emerged from its nymphal shuck, and is now drifting on the surface of the water, drying its wings and preparing for flight.  This is probably the most vulnerable stage of the mayfly.  Rises to duns are generally lazy, and confident.  The Duns are simply drifting with the current, allowing their wings to dry before they take flight.  Trout exert minimal effort when gobbling up this stage of mayflies.

Tandem Rigs for Mayfly Stages

Where allowed by law, fishing a tandem rig of 2 or 3 flies can be an extremely revealing approach to figuring out what stage of the mayfly life cylce the fish are feeding on.  If you are able to use 3 flies, which in itself can be tough to cast, this is the way to go.  First, tie on a dun pattern of something similar to what you are seeing either in the air, or drifting on the surface.  Below this, attach an emerger pattern between 18 and 20 inches below the dun pattern.  Finally, attach a nymph pattern below the emerger pattern.  Fish this rig for a while until you determine what stage of mayfly the trout are keyed in on.  Once you’ve figured it out, you can either choose to remove the other flies, or simply keep fishing with them!

Tight Lines!


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