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Choosing the Right Strike Indicator

August 12, 2021 3 min read

With the wide variety of strike indicators out there today, it can be a little confusing trying to figure out which one is the best choice for your application. Here are a few of our favorites and the best applications to use each of them in.

Air Locks – These are arguably the most popular strike indicator around, and for pretty good reason – they don’t kink your leader, they are super easy to adjust, and they float great. The newer biodegradable versions are nicer than the old plastic ones as well. To put them on, you simply take the nut off of the post, put your leader in the slot, and reinstall the nut so the indicator doesn’t slide. Air Locks are a great choice for fishing bigger rivers and heavier weight, as they hold up a substantial amount of split shot or heavy flies. They work fine on smaller streams as well during higher flows, but they can be a bit tough to cast and they land pretty hard on the water, so they don’t work great in low, clear flows.

New Zealand Strike Indicator – The New Zealand Strike Indicator tool is our favorite indicator for fishing small streams – they are incredibly sensitive, easy to adjust, and you can make them any size you want. The needle is used to thread a piece of tubing onto the leader, then you put whatever amount of wool you want to use into that loop and slide the tubing over the bottom of the clump of wool. The wool floats great, and it rides high so it’s easy to see in choppy or broken water – it’s very sensitive as well, so you see subtle takes more easily. After a while the wool will soak up some water and not float as well, so you can either dry it out with a desiccant or switch it out with a fresh piece of wool. These are great for when the water is low and the fish are spooky, as well as when the fish are biting light.

Pinch on Indicators – If you want simple and easy, pinch on indicators are great. You simply fold the indicator over the leader so the adhesive side sticks to itself. These won’t hold up a ton of weight, so you have to be fishing pretty light flies. Pinch ons are pretty sensitive, but can be hard to see in broken water so they are a better choice for smoother, slower water. These are our go to indicators for fishing Tenkara as well since they are really light and easy to cast.

Yarn – These have been around for a long time, and work pretty well. They are lightweight and moderately easy to cast, but can be a bit wind resistant if you’re casting longer distances. Yarn indicators float well as long as you keep them brushed out and dry, and are pretty sensitive and easy to see since they ride high. The biggest drawback to the o-ring attachment is that it only stays put on the thicker part of your leader – it will slide around if it’s on the thinner part of your leader or on your tippet.

Ninja Leader System – Available in 3 sizes (small, medium, large) and 2 colors (orange and yellow). Each leader system features a fluorocarbon leader, tippet ring and adjustable indicator. Indicator slides up and down the leader with a rubber grommet inside the indicator – easy to move, and stays put where you want it. Leaders are all 5′ long, just add tippet to the end. These make indicator nymphing incredibly simple, and the indicator is super easy to adjust and doesn’t kink your leader.

There are a number of other indicators out there as well, but these will cover 99 percent of indicator fishing situations. Pick the style that best fits your water and situation and go catch some fish!


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