To be successful, the first thing a new fly guy needs to understand is that patience is everything. There are so many ways your gear can get totally screwed up with tangles, it's just not funny. But, patience does have its limits. When my line gets all tangled, up, I make an instant judgment call - will it take longer to untangle than to just start over? If so, the nippers get busy and cut out the heart of the problem - the fly and any knots. As a new fly guy, I end up making this decision often.
Given that I would rather spend my time on the water fishing, I have looked for shortcuts. I noticed the Orvis catalog had a special fly box that contained some long, rectangular yellow foam inserts that you can use to hold your pre-rigged tandem nymphs. Great idea. But, I don't want to deal with either the expense or size of that box. Here's how you can get to the same place for pennies.
Get some of the small hobby plastic bags, rig your nymphs and then stick them in the bag. Works great. I did not have a clue where to get these bags. As an avid fan of the TV show, Cops, for years, I just presumed they were available in catalogs oriented at drug dealers. When I asked the professional shopper in my life, the Basswife, she indicated that these were readily available in hobby stores and even WalMart. A few days later, she delivered the goods - a set of bags that were 1.75" x 1.75".
So, I tie up about 10 of my favorite nymph pairs before I go out now. Once tied up, carefully wrap the line around two fingers while holding the top nymph. Take the bottom nymph and wrap it around the roll of line - the same way leader comes. I always wrap the bottom nymph the same number of times to make it easier to figure out how to unwrap. When done, stick it in the small bag.
As a result of trial and error, I recommend you get bags that are 2 x 2 - it will be easier for clumsy guy fingers to navigate the tandem rig into a larger target.
With this approach, it's not a big deal to cut away the problem on the stream. All I do is roll out the next set of nymphs, put the bag back in my pocket for future use and get to fishing!