Dry Fly Essentials – Equipment and Rigging

Dry Fly Essentials – Equipment and Rigging

June 24, 2015 3:18 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


Here at the Bighorn Angler we are dry fly finatics. We live for casting small dries to large trout in glassy flats or twitching large foamies along a perfect bank feature. Every aspect of the pursuit while casting a floating fly defines why we play the game and the Bighorn River is the place we love to do it.

Our passion for the dry fly game has made us dependent upon a number of products that have become essential for our pursuit. They not only make us more efficient dry fly anglers, but allow us to enjoy our time doing so that much more.


Fly Lines

There might not be a more important piece of equipment in dry fly fishing than your fly line. Taking that a step further, your fly line needs to match the action of the rod you are fishing. Line companies such as Rio and Airflo have provided us with a wide array of specialty fly lines to do just that. I was skeptical of low-stretch lines at first, but after fishing them for some time I have come to enjoy them greatly, especially on fast action rods. The Rio In-Touch Gold  works well with an array of rods in the medium-fast to fast action categories. The low-stretch core makes the line ultra-responsive both during your cast and when setting the hook. For anglers looking for a line with a more classic feel and a longer more delicate front taper the Rio Trout LT and Airflo Elite will serve you well.

I look for three things in a good dry fly reel – a ultra-smooth drag with low start up inertia, a good line retrieval rate and light in weight so it balances today’s lightweight rods well.The reel market these days is a crowded one with a variety of good options. The competition in this category has created a lot of good value for consumers.

The first reel I really like, especially if you are looking for you your first dedicated dry fly reel is the Lamson Liquid. This reel has a buttery smooth, sealed conical disc drag housed in a cast aluminum spool and frame all for $100. At this price it is a no brainer – would also make a good back up reel. Moving up to the reel with the best all around value is the 3-Tand TF Series. These reels are ultralite – both the 4 and 5 weight models weigh under 4.0 ounces. The drags are ultra-smooth and the reel is made from premium bar-stock aluminum all for under $200. If you want the best of the best – Look to the Hatch Finatic. These USA made reels are bomb proof and their sealed drags are incredibly smooth. Plus, it’s a great company. At $400 – $450 you will have a reel for life.

Fly Rods
While most of us here at the Bighorn Angler have an affinity for classic slow action dry fly rods, today’s modern rod actions and tapers will serve you much better when it is time to make the perfect presentation. For the past five years the Hardy Zenith 8’ 6” 4wt has been my go to dry fly rod for the Bighorn River. It is the perfect rod for match the hatch dry fly fishing with flies in the size 16 – 22 range. I find that 8’ 6” rods tend to more accurate than nine footers. I will jump up to a nine foot 4 weight when I am dealing with wind or longer presentations on big rivers such as the Missouri or Henry’s Fork. The Sage Accel and Sage ONE are both exceptional Nine Foot four weights when your fishing calls for a nine foot rod. Even though the four weight is my preferred dry fly rod weight, certain situations may dictate jumping up to a five weight.

The Hardy Zenith 9’ 5wt and Sage Accel 9’ 5wt are my two favorite all around dry fly rods. Both are delicate enough to fish small dries, yet pack enough punch to throw large foam bugs against the bank in the wind.

Leaders and Tippets
Your leader and tippet is just as critical as any other piece of equipment that you fish with, especially when dry fly fishing. Having the right line will allow you to make the right cast, but having the right leader configuration will allow you to properly present your fly. I find myself most often fishing Rio Powerflex 9’ and 12’ leaders they do the best job of handling a wide array of dry fly fishing situations. For the most delicate of dry fly fishing situations – tiny dries on flat water – I like to use Trouthunter’s Rene Harrop Signature 14’ leader. Learning how to fish longer leaders will increase your dry fly efficiency. If I am facing windy conditions or want to turn over larger dry flies I turn to Umpqua’s Power taper leaders because of there exceptional turnover.

For tippet I use nothing but Trouthunter Fluorocarbon Tippet. It’s knot strength is second to none and it’s abrasion resistance is even better. Plus, it has the best spool on the market. For dry fly fishing I carry 3X, 4X, 4.5X, 5X, 5.5X, 6X and 6.5X.

Keeping your dry fly floating so it is visible and fishing properly is critical. I use a variety of products to achieve this. The shimizaki products are hard to beat. This includes – Dry Magic which is great as a moisture barrier for small dry flies, the Dry Shake which is perfect as an all around desiccant for shaking your fly dry and Dry Shake liquid which is an excellent all around waterproofing agent for flies of all size.

The one other product I don’t fish without is an Amadou patch. These patches while expensive last a long time and do wonders for re-conditioning your fly after catching a trout or after long use. One squeeze between the pads and your fly is back to like new condition right out of the bin or vise. Hareline stocks them in two sizes and they work wonders.

Fly Boxes
I prefer to organize my dry flies by hatch if you don’t have a ton of flies like I do you can do it by type of fly – midges, mayflies, caddis, stoneflies, etc… I love to use the Myran Compartment fly boxes to organize my dry flies. I carry one box for each hatch and fill each compartment with a different style of dry fly. I mostly use the 16 compartment Myran box. If you are one of those people that like to put your dries perfectly in rows then the Tacky box is a good one. The reason I use the compartment boxes is that none of the materials on the fly get crushed or ruined in a compartment box. Mainly the tails in a slit box.

Steve Galletta is the co-owner of the Bighorn Angler in Fort Smith, Montana and the author of Fly Fishing the Bighorn River, a 240 page comprehensive guide to fishing the Bighorn.

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This post was written by Bighornangler

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