Popper/Droppers for All Kids

By Jeff Durniak

Anglers are kids at heart. Some of us have just had a few more birthdays. And all kids like action! As we transition from spring to summer, here’s a rig that will generate lots of action and entertain kids, young and old. It’s the popper/dropper (P/D) rig.

Let’s start with youngsters who want to learn how to fly fish. Mentors, please lead them AWAY from trout streams due to swift, changing currents and tangles of trees. Lead them TOWARD the promised waters of a local pond, preferably with a tree-less bank where casting will be easier and its resident school of hungry, competitive bream will make fast action. Rig up with a short (7.5 foot, 4X) leader and tie on the smallest white popper or rubber spider that you can find. Size 10 is good. To the bend of its hook, tie on 2 feet of 5X tippet (or 4-lb mono). On the end of that short line, tie on your dropper fly: a size 16 trout nymph, wet fly, or black fur ant. There’s your P/D rig!

Use small bugs so even the smallest bream can inhale them. Remember, with kids, everything is a trophy, and numbers are more important than size. Also, crimp down the hook barbs to protect everyone’s fingers and ears and some fish lips. Aggressive bream will slurp in the popper with a loud “tick,” while hesitant siblings will eat the dropper. The popper will twitch and be the strike indicator!

Practice first on open water. After your student gets the hang of it, slide closer to fish cover like weeds, dock pilings and downed trees, where bream schools hide from bass. Retrieve the rig with a few twitches and strips, with long pauses between them. Your action will be better in the cool shade or low light of dusk, so pick those places and times to hook more fish and land your new fly-flinger. Keep the session short to match their interest and attention span. See the trip through their eyes, using THEIR value system, and they’ll ordain you as Champion Guide.

Let’s not forget us big kids. We like P/D rigs, too! We just upsize them for fewer, but bigger fish. Before the evening shadows fall, it’s tough to convince river spots, shoalies, and smallies to eat a surface bug, so we’ll put a dropper behind our bass popper or Kent’s Stealth Bomber. I typically add 2-4 feet of thin 8-10 pound mono and then tie on a #4 black Woolly Bugger or Hairy Fodder. We’ll dead-drift, twitch, and then strip the rig back in. For summer’s low-water, spooky fish, we’ll just drift with smaller droppers like a #8 Bugger or Rubberleg Stonefly.

Let the P/D rig entertain your fly fishing kids, both young and old, this summer. Call (706) 878-3083 or visit our fly shop if we can help you further, since Jake and Wes are the “Huck and Tom” of summer fly fishing!

You can find Jeff Durniak at Unicoi Outfitters. Stop in or call the Helen shop at (706-878-3083) or our Clarkesville store on the square (706-754-0203) if we can help you further. After all, we are pretty darn good trouting caddies!