Anglers in Michigan have been adding a small dry fly to their ice line set-ups for decades. It consists of either a lead or tungsten jig at the bottom of your line and about 12 inches above that, the fly. Normally this is rigged with the fly in a loop knot, and it works.
But like the commercial, and I am paraphrasing, I didn’t create the rig, I just made it better, at least in my opinion.
I have always liked using the upper tag end of a double uni-knot, which also is known as the back to back uni. I came up with the idea because like the tightliners around Central Michigan, I like using bright-colored line to be able to see it in the water. Unlike some though, I always use a fluorocarbon leader from the mainline to my jig. You probably guessed it already, my favorite knot for connecting the two lines is the double uni. Once tied up, the fly umbrellas away, creating distance from the mainline and knot.
Through the past 20 years I have been privileged to meet some of the best anglers across the ice belt, many have become good friends. Barry Williams of Brooklyn, Michigan is one such angler. You may recognize the name through a couple of articles mentioning his products in In-Fisherman’s Ice Guide the last few years. His Spooky Tungsten Jigs and Roadkill Flies have quite the cult following by ice anglers across the country.
Long story short, Barry is a good friend and we keep in contact. A couple of weeks ago, another buddy and I go to Barry’s to pick up some tungsten and dry flies. A week later he gives me a shout and asks me if I use the Michigan Rig at all, and how do I tie it. Of course I say I do and tell him about using the tag end on the double uni.
He pretty much says that would be a “bear” to get the right length from the fly to the mainline. I told I used to have the same problem, then I shared my trick to always get it the right length. The key is to tie the fly onto the leader before making the knot!
The second key to tying the Michigan Rig like this is to leave the upper tag end short to the end of the upper uni section. This way when you pull the two wraps together to give knot its strength, the end with the fly will only be 1/2 or 3/4’s of an inch away from the line. This gives the fly the perfect distance to help avoid tangles, and more importantly the ability to detect bites faster than you could with a longer tag end.
There is it is, my version of the Michigan Rig. As the fly umbrellas out, it gives the impression of a live bug. Plus while using the weight of the jig below the fly itself looks to be swimming through the water naturally.