How to Fish a Streamer and a Dropper Nymph

How to Fish a Streamer and a Dropper Nymph

The Bunny and Beadhead

One of our favorite and most successful tactics for catching big trout is to add a dropper nymph off the back of your streamer. The “Bunny and a Beadhead” or “Dragging Junk” rig (as it’s affectionately known around the rivers of southwest Montana) is an easy way to entice strikes from trout that will engage and chase a streamer, but don’t eat it. Essentially, the streamer brings the trout to the party and the nymph trailing behind triggers the strike.Drawn diagram of the streamer and beadhead rig.

Adding the Dropper

Adding the dropper is as easy as tying a section of tippet between 10″ and 20″ off the bend of the hook behind the streamer. I like to use a No-Slip Mono Loop to attach all of my dropper nymph’s as well as the streamer. Check out Tying The No-slip Mono Loop to learn how to tie the No-Slip Mono Loop.

How To Fish a Streamer and Dropper Nymph

Here are 3 different ways you can go about presenting this rig to trout in your stream.

1. Floating line under an indicator

The dead drift method is the easiest to to execute as it most resembles dead drift nymphing. Tie on your streamer of choice to end of your leader using at least 3X (I like to use 2X) and attach an indicator approximately five feet up the leader. Take a 15″ to 20″ length of tippet and tie on your nymph. Your total leader length should be from 7 to 8 feet.

From a wading position, cast upstream and across the suspected lie. Mend your line upstream to reduce the drag on the flies allowing them to sink and drift naturally, while you take up the slack as the drift comes down stream. Feed line into the drift as you mend to increase the length of your drift. From a drift boat, cast perpendicular to the gunwale and mend up or down as needed. Use an upstream mend in deeper, faster water, and a down stream mend in shallower water or when you think the drift is about to hang up or stall out. Don’t forget to let it swing!

2. Floating line no indicator

The “Tight Line” method is another favorite of ours that works well from a drift boat and is productive when the indicator method is not. Simply tie up your leader a foot or two longer than you normally would (about 9 feet total with your dropper nymph). You may want to add some weight to the leader above the streamer if it isn’t weighted hA fine madison river brown that couldn't say "No' to the Bunny and beadhead rig!eavily enough. Pinch a BB or two (if necessary) above the tippet knot approximately 12″ to 15″ from the streamer. The tippet will keep the weight from slipping off the leader from the centrifugal force. From a wading position cast up and across the current, mend down stream and take up the slack as the fly drifts through the suspected lie allowing for enough slack to keep the fly down and swimming fairly slow. Follow the instructions for mending as described in the previous paragraph. An occasional strip/twitch is an effective addition to this technique. Again, let it swing.

From a drift boat, quarter your cast behind the typical perpendicular angle. Mend down stream (or don’t mend at all) and slowly take up the slack as the fly swims along behind the boat. The key to success for this method is “less is more.” This approach is tougher than it sounds, as we all like to strip our streamers with some speed and erratic action.

3. Sink tip

The last method is to use a sinking tip line of the appropriate sink rate according to the water you intend to fish. I like a fairly fast sink rate, at 6 to 7 inches per second, when fishing this rig with a sink tip. I also cut back the sinking portion of the line to about six or seven feet which allows for easier recasting and keeps the line from frequently hanging up on the bottom.

Using the No-Slip Mono Loop with a total length of 3 to 5 feet, tie your streamer to the end of your tippet and your nymph to the dropper tippet.  From a wading position, cast across and make a large up stream mend, allowing the flies to sink to the desired depth. As the flies start to swing through the lie, continue to mend up stream as necessary to slow the flies down and keep them in the strike zone as long as possible. From a drift boat, cast across or slightly behind the boat.  Mend down stream to allow the tip to sink and take up the slack as the boat drifts. You’ll want to keep stripping slow as you drift fish with a sink tip as it will want to hang up if you don’t. Keep your tip down and set hard when you feel a tug.

Another example of the Bunny and beadhead technique!This brown fell to a bead head dropped off the bend of a bunny streamer!

For a list of suggested streamers read Top 10 streamers for SW Montana. For a list of suggested dropper nymphs check out Top 12 Nymph Flies for catching Trout.

Read more about the rivers we fish where this is such a great tactic! The Madison, Jefferson and Big Hole Rivers.




    Posted at 08:42h, 03 March Reply

    I rig this the opposite, since when would a nymph chase a streamer(bait fish) ??

    So I tie in a nymph (heavy wire hook) and 8-12 in behind that tie in a streamer!

    When it’s stripped or swung it looks like the streamer is going after the nymph (more natural) and it induces strikes from bigger fish horning in on that action. !

    • Mike Stack
      Posted at 09:08h, 03 March Reply

      Thanks for the comments Ray. That sounds like an interesting way to rig it and I can see how that logic makes sense and probably works just great! I’ll give it a try. thanks again!

  • Greg Burk
    Posted at 11:49h, 03 March Reply

    I love it Thanks Mike! B&B the only way to be….Or maybe some Ham and Eggs!

    • Mike Stack
      Posted at 14:55h, 03 March Reply

      Sounds good Greg!

  • RockyO
    Posted at 13:11h, 03 March Reply

    I’m awesome post we will be using it for sure..

    • Mike Stack
      Posted at 14:54h, 03 March Reply

      Thanks for the great remarks! Should up your mid-summer, blue bird day streamer game!

  • Charlie Miller
    Posted at 20:45h, 03 March Reply

    Hey Michael. I can’t stand fishing this way! Dredging. No dead drift. Nothing visual other than looking at that damn bobber! Catching fish, yes. Traditional fly fishing? Not. Malarchy. Still love you, Michael, but can’t you find other methods to get your guests into fish?

    • Mike Stack
      Posted at 09:37h, 06 March Reply

      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. I can understand why some experienced anglers do not care for fishing with this technique, it certainly is not ‘old school’. I am sorry you don’t like fishing this way. Anglers who fish when the conditions are perfect can tie on a single dry every day, point the boat down river and watch fish after fish come up to eat it, but that’s not reality for guides and clients who are fishing in MT on a once in a life time adventure. We make the best of each day regardless if air / water temp, water visibility, wind….

      Most of my guests fish one or two days a summer if they are lucky and when traditional methods are unsuccessful my guests expect me to know other techniques (sometimes non-traditional) to catch fish that day. Imagine booking a trip with a guide who only knew how to dry fly fish and they weren’t rising? Hope he has lots of great jokes. This is one of those methods and most are happy to do it. Calling it malarchy is rather harsh but we all have opinions. The proof is in the pics, and not just mine. Thanks again, no love lost – hope to see ya in July.

  • BBT
    Posted at 16:25h, 06 March Reply

    Thanks for the great post! very useful stuff here. I’ll be putting this technique to use next time on the river!

    • Mike Stack
      Posted at 08:35h, 07 March Reply

      Your welcome and thanks for reading! i hope it steps up your streamer game!

  • Pat Hayes
    Posted at 07:21h, 03 April Reply

    I have started fishing this rig and been catching more fish and bigger fish. The combo seems to catch fish when I can’t get them to take anything else. I have had luck with this rig on a euro nymphing setup as well, tight lining with a sighter and heavy tungsten nymph trailing a heavy streamer. At the end of the drift swinging and stripping back often triggers the strike. Thanks for the post!

    • Mike Stack
      Posted at 10:10h, 04 April Reply

      Hi Pat,
      It’s a game changer in my opinion when things get tough. Big meal attracting, with the small meal option.Thanks for reading!

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