A Simple Drop-Shot Nymph Rig (Revisited)

After last week’s Nymph-o-Mania! post I received a lot of questions about drop-shot nymphing: how to build a rig, can you use it with an indicator, is it better for a tight line presentation, etc. Let’s start with the rig.

A drop-shot nymph rig with sighter for both indicator or tight line nymphing.


And a PDF of the same diagram: SighterDropShotNymphRig

So: I’ve been drop-shot nymphing for quite some time now. Being the curious sort (and a confirmed autodidact and DIYer) I tend to change things around until I find what works best for me. What you see is my current default trout nymph rig. I’ve been using 6X for the drop shot tag to make it the weakest link in the system. I’m lazy, so I build a sighter into the system whether I’m going to indicator nymph or not. Maxima if the water is high or off-color, 5x if it’s skinny and clear. (Please, use your favorite material to build this rig. It will work whether or not you use Maxima, P-Line, or Stren.)

When to tight line and when to indicator? Chapters in books have been written on this. Here are some of my thoughts in brief.

When to indicator:

  • When I want to cover longer stretches of water
  • When I want to reach pockets and runs farther than a rod-and-arm’s length
  • When I want the nymphs to swirl around in a mixer-like pocket
  • In conditions where takes may be subtle/difficult to feel (winter, windy days, just to name two)
  • When the wind is blowing upstream

Note: The distance from drop shot to indicator on the leader is about 1.5 times what I estimate the deepest water to be. I use my own home brew yarn indicators almost exclusively. They are light, denser that store-bought kinds, don’t spook fish (it seems that every season I have at least one trout hit my indicator) and I am very dialed in to their nuances.

When to tight line:

  • When I’m fishing in close
  • When the water is low and clear
  • When I feel the indicator is difficult to manage/adversely speeding up the drift

Hope that helps. I’m sure there will be more questions and as always, I am happy to answer them.


15 comments on “A Simple Drop-Shot Nymph Rig (Revisited)

  1. Ray Hamilton says:

    Great information. I have been using your drop-shot system for some time now. Always good to read your explanations.

  2. Greg says:

    Why is there a power swivel used? What about using a tippet ring instead?

    Below the power swivel, are these sections including flies tied up before you go out and then just attached to the power swivel on the river? Thinking you could have different combinations of flies
    ready to go and just change them as needed once on the river.

    Thanks for re-posting the diagram.

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hi Greg. I like a power swivel to help prevent leader twisting, in particular with an indicator. You wouldn’t get that benefit from a tippet ring. But you can use whichever you like. Or nothing at all.

      I don’t pre-tie my lower sections. Again, you can and should do as suits you. Thanks for reading and thanks for the question.

  3. michael taguiam says:

    I could be mistaken did I not win a dozen wet flies I did receive notice I was a winner back in April but no flies were received

  4. Will K says:

    Great – thanks Steve!!!

  5. Bob Matuzak says:

    Great stuff! Thank you very much. You mentioned you make your own indicators. Can you provide me with a tutorial?
    Thanks, appreciate it.

  6. […] play in all of them. The method was a combination of indicator and tight line nymphing, both using a drop-shot rig. We fished a size 16 Starling and Herl top dropper and a size 14 Frenchie variant on point; the […]

  7. […] was to cover some water and work on the nymphing game. The specific method was indicator nymphing, drop shot rig, and we went with a sz 14 Frenchie Variant and a sz 18 SHPT. The trout liked both, the Frenchie […]

  8. […] we also spent some recon time at several other pools. The method was indicator nymphing with a drop-shot nymph rig. I didn’t get a water temp, but it was cold — I’ll guesstimate 36 degrees, […]

  9. […] the power of tiny soft hackles this time of year. I almost always make my top dropper on my drop-shot nymph rig a soft hackle. Congratulations, […]

  10. […] going on underwater and the feed was on. We spent the first half of the lesson on indicator drop-shot nymphing. Once Michael got used to the nuances of the rig, he stuck four fish. Great job, Michael, on a day […]

  11. […] guide extraordinaire Antoine Bissieux showed up with his client at the same mark.) I showed Alan how I build a drop shot rig, then we moved to fly […]

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