A Look at Strike Indicators: Part Two

A Look at Strike Indicators: Part Two

This time around we’re going to discuss the two most popular strike indicators on the market . The “Thingamabobber “and the “Air-Lock”. Both work using the same basic approach – a hollow plastic sphere that floats. Both come in a range of sizes and colors. And both are reusable and never need floatant. Still there are “pros” and “cons” to a consider. Lets dive in.

The   “Air-Lock’s” claim to fame is its unique way of attaching to the leader.  On top of the each sphere is a slotted thread. You place the leader in the slot and then, using a small supplied washer and nut, you tighten down. This snugs up the indicator to your leader, holds well, is quick to adjust, and never puts a kink in the leader. Wonderful stuff. Now for the rub. When working with cold, wet hands, it is easy to drop the small washer or nut in the stream. Ugh, I know from personal experience. Good luck finding them little critters or replacing them.  

Slotted Thread System

Recently “Air-Lock” released a new version. It utilizes the same attachment method,  but now the sphere is made out of biodegradable foam. Good idea. If dropped on the stream it will degrade over time. Thoughtful touch. Unfortunately the cost shot up too. Ouch. I felt the original “Air-Lock” was a little pricey. The new one is even more so. Frankly, in my opinion  this going to greatly hurt sales.   

 

Thingamsbobbers

This brings us to the very popular “Thingamabobber”. Priced more reasonably. Simply loops on your leader. Works well, but is a bit of a nuisance to adjust up and down, and during the course of a day may kink the leader a hair. I always carry a leader straightener. It pretty much solves the issue. But a new version called the “jam-stop” comes with an attached peg that you may like better. Also note, there are several videos on YouTube offering tips on leader setups for the “Thingamabobber”, including using the Frog Hair Indicator Retainers. Check them out for more info.

Jam-Stop

 

My streamside box with indicators and split shot

Overall, I think the “Thingamabobber” is the winner. But whether you pick it or the “Air-Lock” be sure to purchase a range of sizes. You’ll need then to properly support different size flies. But always use the smallest indicator that works. It will give you that best sensitivity to a strike.  Besides a selection of sizes, you should have a couple of colors to choose from. White indicators are fine but blend into foam lines making them hard to see, especially in low light. For that reason I use a marker to put some color stripes into them. Neon colors are easy to see, but some feel they may spook fish. I’ve seen times, however, when trout actually strike at a bright colored indicators. If that happens, consider removing the indicator, nymph and any split shot. Then tie on a bright colored dry fly such as yellow belly Stimulator or Hopper.  You may catch that fish. Okay, onward to part three.  

 

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A Look at Strike Indicators: Part One

A Look at Strike Indicators: Part One

Lets take a look at strike indictors. They are in widespread use, cheap, and very effective. They richly deserve a spot in your vest. Now I’m  going to limit our discussion to several popular types. These are the ones I have personal experience with. We’ll examine their “pros” and “cons” and perhaps get around to examining how-to rig them. Should be fun. But before we go any further, let’s tackle the 900 pound gorilla-in-the-room. Fly fishing purists love to bad-mouth indicators. Yes I agree, they have a right to their opinion, even though they’re flat ass wrong. May God save their wayward souls. Please ignore them. Onward.

So what makes for a good strike indicators? As I see it there are several factors to consider. One, it should be easy to put on the leader and take off. Two, it should be easy to adjust, slide up or down the leader (Stick-on foam dot are not) Three, it should not be difficult to cast. Four, it should not badly kink up your leader. Five, it should be sensitive to a strike. Six, it should not need floatant to stay afloat. ( That eliminates Yarn indicators) And lastly, it should be reusable. (The stick-on foam dots fail here too) Lots to consider, actually.

Strike Indicators

Here’s a pile of strike indicators. Well, I’ve been using them for over a decade, and hence the collection. Is it the world’s largest? Hope not. The first kind of indicator I ever used were the cork-and-toothpick style. You don’t see them much anymore. Almost never. But they were inexpensive, worked reasonably well, came in different sizes, slid up and down your leader, and were reusable. Sometimes the toothpick would tangle your leader, however. Or the toothpick would snap off.  And with most of them you had to remove the fly to put the indicator on or take it off. I’ll give them a “C-“. 

Toothpick Style Indicators

The next style I used were the football shaped strike indicators. Initially sold as the “Fish Pimp” suddenly they became all the rage. Everyone had them. Easy to put on, easy to move up or down, and reusable. But they were a flop for one big reason. Without warning they could fly off your leader during the cast. Read fatal failure. Many a day I lost one or two. Or saw loose ones float by me, lost by anglers upstream. I’ll give them a solid “F”.

Foam Football Indicator

Okay onward. In part two we’ll hit “Thingamabobbers” and “Air Lock” strike indicators. And perhaps in part three we can discuss “release indicators” and the “hopper-dropper” rig.

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Early Black Stoneflies

Early Black Stoneflies

Today my luck was better. Caught a nice rainbow and dropped one; all on nymphs. No “Euro” style nymphing this time. I stuck with an strike indicator, a small nymph and one split shot about 18″ up the leader. (Maybe next time I’ll give you my opinion on various kinds of strike  indicators.)

Today’s Gear

Which nymph did I pick? Yesterday I saw a few early black stoneflies come off in the warmest part of the day. Ummm? Obviously stonefly nymphs were active. Made beacoup sense for me to use a dark nymph in the 14#-16# range. Now I call them early black stones, but they may actually be early brown stones. Frankly I can’t be sure. Our country has over 500 different kinds of stoneflies in the order Plecoptera.  Regardless whether they are black or brown, however, we can treat them the same. Just know that early stoneflies are an important part of trout fishing in March.

Rainbow on an Early Black Stonefly Nymph

I snapped the above shot with my cellphone. Run your eye down the fly line and you may be able to see the fish. Its a small dark line angling downward. Tough to see, but a nice size rainbow.  Moments later I hooked and dropped a bigger trout on the same rig. After that the pool started filling up with anglers. Best to go back to the truck and have lunch.

Lunch on the River

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No Fish Today

No Fish Today

No fish today! Yeah, it happens. Face it, you don’t win them all. Fishing is wishing. Still it was a great day to be outdoors. Enjoyed it. Temperatures climbed well into the sixties. Sun was shining. Wind was down. Blue skies. Great to be alive after a long winter of discontent. 

No Fish Today

Along for the ride was my Winston Stalker fiberglass rod. First outing of the year for that limber pup. Man, I was itching to do battle with it.  Always a hoot. It’s only 6′ 6″ and weighs under 2 ounces. Armed with a DT2 floating line and a small Hardy reel measuring only 2.75″ in diameter, this is a fun ultra-light fly outfit. A twelve inch trout feels like a twenty incher. Well I’m sure the Stalker will see action at some point this season. Its a superb dry fly rod. The  Hendrickson hatch would be perfect.

If you’re trout fishing here in Connecticut don’t forget to purchase a “trout and salmon” stamp with your license. Only five buckeroos. 

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The Art of the Soft Hackle

The Art of the Soft Hackle

Soft hackle flies are easy to cast, easy to tie, easy to fish and deadly. What more could you want? But the truth is many anglers avoid them. Why? Well soft hackles, and for that matter wet flies in general, fell out of favor years and years ago. Swept under the rug. Trout anglers saw them as old fashion, no longer the right way to go. In my view, the ever growing popularity of nymphs is largely to blame. Nymphs seem so much more sophisticated, more complex, more talked about, more written about.

Pat Torrey teaching a Soft Hackle Class

In recent times,  however, soft hackles have reemerged, developing a cult like following. And you can expect that to expand for all the reasons I initially mentioned. And let me add one more. Soft hackle are ideal for the novice angler. Give me five minutes on the stream with someone new to the sport and I’ll have them correctly fishing a soft hackle. I mean it.

Nymphs are often tied with great realism. (Remember the caddis pupae we just did?)  Soft hackles, on the other hand are not. Instead they’re only meant to be impressionistic. They mimic life in a general way rather then attempt to closely reproduce it. And that keeps soft hackles flies simple and uncomplicated. An abdomen, a few turns of hackle and bingo your done. Yes, you can doll it up – add a bead, glass or tungsten, behind the hackle, or rib the abdomen with gold or silver wire. But that is about it.

The basic way to fish soft hackles is by swinging them “down-and-across” the current. During the swing you have to follow the fly line downstream with your rod tip and “mend”  line to control the speed of the fly. Both are not difficult to do. Strikes often come near the end of the swing  as the fly rises upward toward the surface much like an emerging insect. Or even as the fly hangs directly down current below you.  Typically strikes are solid and easy to detect. Without warning the fish is hooked.

Some Well Worn Soft Hackle Flies

A more sophisticated and less known method to fish soft hackles is to cast them upstream. Honestly, few anglers seems to know about this tactic.  It is a “dead drift” approach that works very well over educated trout, such as you find in Trout Management Areas. This technique takes more time to master. No question. Line control is the central issue. You must remain in touch enough with the fly to feel the strike without disturbing the fly’s natural drift. Still I urge you to try this idea. You’ll be glad you did.

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