Tenkara Dropper System

Updated: Jan 9

Tenkara Dropper System

Here is a visual representation of what I mean by "attaching at the hook shank". Also, this image is relatable to the images below and may help in visualizing the overall dropper system.

Before diving into the types of setups for a Tenkara dropper system, I’d first like to highlight why a dropper system is used for those that do not know. For myself, a dropper system is a system made up of 2-3 flies attached to one another at the hook shank with tippet (yes it does work). At least for me, I use a dropper system in order to determine which water column the trout are feeding in, which leads me to what they could specifically be feeding on. In addition, a Tenkara dropper system adds to the amount of flies presented in different areas of the stream, which in turn, leads to better chances of catching trout. Or at least I like to think so.

The three types of Tenkara Dropper Systems

  • Bead to Bead Dropper System

  • Emerger to Bead Head System

  • Dry Dropper to Bead Head System

Bead to bead dropper system

The first type of Tenkara dropper system I would like to discuss is a simple, two fly dropper system. This particular system is made up of two bead headed flies (attached at the hook shank) that serve the purpose of “getting down deep”. The style, color, or lucky charm behind the fly is up to the angler to decide, but one characteristic of the flies is that they must sink fast and be weighted in order for this system to be successful.

Notice the adjustable tippet pieces included in this system. The pieces of tippet can be longer in this system in order to reach deeper depths where trout are holding. For me, I prefer an upper tippet length of 2' and a bottom tippet length of roughly 2.5'.

Emerger Bead System

In past situations and experiences, I have found this particular system to be most effective when trying to determine what trout are feeding on and at which depth. This Tenkara dropper system is made up of an emerger (I typically use an RS2) acting as the upper fly with a bead headed, or heavy fly, acting as the bottom fly (Again, attached at the hook shank). Like the other dropper systems, fly preference is different for each angler, but one idea must to stay the same: the bottom fly (the heavier fly) must be heavy enough to sink fast, maintain depth, and hold down the emerger at the desired depth as well.

The setup in this dropper system is very similar to the bead headed dropper system. For me, I prefer an upper tippet length of 1' and a tippet length of 2.5' for the tippet piece between the emerger bead headed fly. Determining the perfect length of tippet takes practice and is different for each situation.

Dry Dropper System

The dry dropper system, although not used often by me, is still an effective and unique way to catch trout. The reason behind the little use of this system for me is that if I do indeed use a dry dropper rig, I typically use a 5wt 8.5’ fly rod instead of a Tenkara rod. Regardless, this system is effective for both styles of fishing and has produced results for me. This system in particular is made up of usually a larger dry fly, or one that floats well, as the upper fly and a lighter, but still weighted, fly as the bottom fly. As mentioned above, the fly preference is up to the angler, but there is a common rule of thumb involved: the upper fly must be able to support the bottom fly (meaning it doesn’t get sunk by the bottom fly) in order for this system to be successful.

For the dry dropper system, I prefer and overall shorter length. I typically use 1' of tippet between the sighter piece and the dry fly. For the tippet piece between the dry fly and the bead headed fly, I usually use 2' of tippet. The bottom tippet piece depends on the depth of water, but I have found that those dimensions work well to start.


A little backstory on my experience with dropper systems. The first time someone told me about two flies attached to one another, I nearly laughed in their face. Then, there I was, standing in the middle of the South Platte somewhere in Colorado having no luck. So I thought, “What the hell” and tied up the system. A few casts later, a brown trout in my net. Regardless of my ongoing stubbornness, I have found this system to be extremely effective between hatches, especially on a Tenkara rod. My point is, throw away the idea that this system causes more problems than it solves, and try it out. You might be surprised at the results.

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