Indicators or bobbers by contributor Brandon Murphy
Strike indicators or bobbers depending on what side of the proverbial fly-fishing aisle that you sit on can be an easy and extremely effective way to present different flies to hungry fish from a variety of angles and positions. In this article we are going to look at the normally overly looked piece of gear and what some of your options are as an angler.
First let’s talk about a few things that will stay true, regardless of the indicator that you choose. When fishing in rivers the most important thing that we as anglers are trying to achieve is a dead drift. This is the act of presenting the fly to the fish as naturally as possible, letting the fly drift as it would in nature. With an indicator that is too large, it will catch current and seams and pull the fly in an unnatural way and put fish off. The second thing to consider after a dead drift is how big of an indicator do you need to suspend your entire “rig”. Are you fishing a single #22 midge for picky trout, drop shotting a deep hole for summer bass, maybe you break all the fishing laws and put an indicator on a euro leader to fish the next seam over. All the above will utilize a different size of indicator. The last thing that I look at is castability; this is going to very angler to angler but just remember the more weight the harder the cast.
The indicator that everyone is used to and probably has heard of is the thingamabobber. This indicator is a blown piece of plastic that has a small hole in the top of it. The angler will pinch their leader where they want to place the indicator and push it through the metal gromet. Then they will pull their leader around the indicator to lock it in place as shown from BWC flies.
This type of indicator is rock solid and will not slip at all. It has decent strike detection and has been implemented all over the world with success. The downside of this indicator is that it will leave a small kink in your leader where you tighten it down, if switching from dry flies to nymphing this can cause a small problem if the same leader is implemented.
The next most common indicator is the air lock. This indicator is the same premise as the thingamabobber with the main difference being the air lock has a threaded connection at the top instead of a hole. This allows the angler to adjust the depth quickly and easily they are fishing by simply loosing the threaded connection and sliding the indicator up or down the leader. The downside to this indicator is they nut that holds your leader tight to the air lock. I have dropped these in rivers, drift boats, lakes, my pack etc. Now you can purchase replacement nuts and I would recommend that if you the angler decide to fish the air lock to keep a few spare nuts on hand, you’re gonna need um.
The newest indicator that has hit the market is the oros strike indicator. This indicator has all the benefits of the air lock and its high floating ability but eliminates the pesky nut. With the Oros indicator the indicator unthreads in half and your leader go’s into the center. This leads to a better drift, early strike detections and better castability. The biggest drawback to this indicator that when going to thinner diameter leaders about .007” diameter leader and the indicator will slip. The depth that you are fishing needs to be verified after every missed strike to verify your flies are still fishing at the depth that you want.
Now my personal favorite indicator. The New Zealand strike indicator. This indicator uses a synthetic wool material that is through tubing to act as your indicator. All the above indicators leave a noticeable “splat” sound when they hit the water and have been known to spook fish. The New Zealand indicator will land like a dry fly not spooking fish To set this indicator up the angler will thread their leader through the tubing, insert enough indicator material to suspend the desired rig, then pull the leader back into the tubing trimming the excess wool off. The drawback to this indicator is that there is a process to use it. You will need the tubbing, wool or a synthetic substitute, dry fly shake, scissors and a flotant like fly agra to use this indicator. For the euro anglers this indicator casts extremely well on a euro leader.
Although there are many more styles of indicators from pinch on foam, dry droppers, sighters, lil corkys, or the spring leader indicator and picking a style can be confusing and intimidating. Remember that above all else use the indicator that can give you the angler the best dead drift. Don’t shy away from experimenting with different sizes and styles of indicators until you find the style you like and fishes the best for you, you can always trade the unused indicators for the hot fly of the day.