The title of this blog post might have slightly offended a few people – but I bet it got you to look! In all seriousness, we’ve come a long ways from the dark days of cutting up pieces of old fly line to slide on our line for strike indicators. I was fortunate enough to never have to do that, but I do remember the horrifying experiences I had using balloons for indicators! Or even worse – The dreaded glob of neon poly yarn with a couple O-rings cinched around it for good measure that would grab several flies, your weight, and possibly some fly line at once if given the chance . These days we have a plethora of bobber/indicator options that will cover every nymphing situation. However, staring at the wall full of fluorescent colored yarns, plastics, and corks can be slightly overwhelming if you don’t know what each style’s advantages and disadvantages are. I’m going show you the indicators that I find myself using most often, and the situations that I feel they work – and don’t work – in.
I distinctly remember the day that I threw my plastic bag full of junior-sized balloons away and replaced it with a plastic box full of Thingamabobbers – these things were the best flyfishing indicator the world had ever seen! No longer were we popping balloons or struggling to inflate them small enough to cast. That being said, these are probably the most popular strike indicating bobbers – as offensive as that may sound. They come in sizes from 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ to cover pretty much every situation short of nymphing for Humpbacked Whales. I like them because they are fairly easy to adjust, reusable, (even though most indicators are now days), and they’ll hold up a pretty hefty amount of weight. Everybody has some of these stashed somewhere in their box, and people love digging them out of the little candy-container at the shop counter. The downfall is that they kink the living hell out of your leader, and it’s nearly impossible to get that out once it’s been mangled. If you’re nymphing deep with your indicator way at the butt of your leader these are great, but they aren’t the best option for the slimmer part of your leader.
Airlocks are Thingamabobbers on some serious Hulk Hogan steroids. They have all the perks of their injection molded predecessors, minus the leader mangling kinks. Airlocks have a threaded stud coming out of the top with a slot built into it and a mating nut that goes over that. To install them, you simply take the nut off, slide your leader into the slot, and put the nut back on. They are super easy to adjust because of this – you just crack the nut loose, slide it to wherever you need, and tighten the nut back up. If you’re a plastic bobber-fancier, these are just the ticket for you. They come in 3/4″-1 1/4″, perfect for all you Bighorn and North Platte guys. My only complaint is that they don’t come in the sexy little 1/2″ size that is perfect for our smaller Black Hills streams.
These babies are most definitely my new favorite indicators. They install just like a regular Thingamabobber style indicator, but again, without the leader slaughtering kinks. The rubber O-Ring rather than a solid piece of metal/plastic forms to your leader rather than vice-versa, so your leader stays nice and smooth. You still get a little bit of a kink, but it’s a livable one that smooths out with a single stretch. Another big plus with the CorQs is that they are incredibly light for their size, and they don’t splat on the water like their heavier cousins do. I just used these on the Bighorn River for a few days, and I was very impressed with how they casted, how sensitive they were, and how nicely they treated my leader. They come in 1/2″-3/4″, including a sweet in-between 5/8″ size that we’ve all always dreamed about. I’m a big fan of these, and I haven’t found any real disadvantages to them yet.
New Zealand Strike Indicator
These are another one of my favorites, but for a different situations. If you have spooky or educated fish, these are the only commercial indicators I’ve found that land softly enough and don’t throw a big shadow, so they don’t spook fish like a conventional bobber-style indicator will. With the New Zealand Strike Indicator tool, you use the provided tool to slip a small piece of surgical tubing over your line, slide a piece of the wool into the loop you created, and snug the tubing up on the wool. It sounds way too complicated, but trust me, it takes 15 seconds to do. I really like how you can make any size indicator you want, from fishing emergers in the film to throwing two Pat’s Rubber Legs on the Miracle Mile. Yes, you do have to treat them with floatant and dry them out from time to time. But, if you have spooky or picky fish, this is absolutely the route to go – I always carry these with me. One of my favorites for spring creeks, or on Rapid Creek below Pactola.
Lightning Strike Pinch-Ons
I used to absolutely despise these things – mostly because I’d only used them about twice. Now I fish them a ton, especially on Tenkara! The real appeal to these is that they’re ridiculously simple to use – peel them off the little piece of paper, put your line in the center, and fold them over so they stick to themselves. Easy Peasy. They’re nice for when you’re just using a heavy nymph with a dropper, or any other time a regular bobbicator is overkill. They’re my go-to on Tenkara rods. I place them a few inches down on the tippet from the line, and they cast great and enable you to keep your line up off the water. They have two downfalls – they’re not reusable, and sometimes they leave a little sticky residue on your line. For as inexpensive as they are, those two things don’t bother me really, and I always have at least a couple bags of them in my pack.
Strike Foundry Nuggets
These are a new style of indicator that really hasn’t been available before, and they definitely have their place. For all you Bighorn River nymphers, these things are going to make your life 10 times easier. Tired of using 3 BB shot to try and get your nymphs down, along with the fat part of your leader? Fret no longer, Strike Foundry has come to the rescue! The idea behind these is that you tie a short, heavy butt section onto your fly line, which the ties onto one loop of the indicator with a clinch knot – maybe 6-12″. Then, you tie straight tippet off the other side to however deep you want to be. I usually use 3x-5x. The sweet part is that you seriously have to use 1/3 as much weight as you normally would, because you’re only sinking a level, thin tippet rather than you 250lb butt section of your leader. Okay, maybe it’s not 250, but you get the point. These are great big river indicators, for situations where you have to get deep fast. They also indicate strikes faster because there’s almost no “sag” in your leader – your flies are directly connected to your indicator with just tippet. I’m a big fan of these for big rivers, but the larger size splashes a little much for small streams – but the lil’ nugget size is just right for our local streams.
Hopefully this answered a few of your questions surrounding the mysterious world of strike indicators! I’m always trying new styles, and I think it helps you become a better fly fisherman by learning when, where, and why to use each style. Here’s a link to all of the different styles on our webstore – http://shop.flyfishsd.com/collections/strike-indicators
Give a few of these new indicators a shot, you’ll be surprised how just using a single style can limit you. Thanks for reading!