FOR YOUR FRIENDS TOO
A full set of strike indicators, using the
tying methods below, will last for years. You might as well give
some to your friends while you're at it.
I fish strike indicators
almost every time I nymph. You might think that's an abolishment to the
pure form of flyfishing. Well, it can be if you are using strike indicators
merely as a bobber, which isn't a bad reason in itself. But there's so
much more they can do!
Let's start by reviewing
three basic ways to use strike indicators.
1. Get Depth-Charged
I use strike indicators to help depth-set my nymph rig.
For this reason alone, I want a strike indicator that is easy to move
up and down the
leader and would keep the depth I prefer. In other words, it won't slip
toward the fly every time I cast. I also design my leaders to fit the
use of strike indicators. For more on leaders and leader construction,
see my article entitled Hyper-Compleat
Principles of Leader Design and the downloadable companion software,
Strike Indicator Placement
= Fishing Depth
+ (2 or 3) feet
two basic things into consideration when choosing where to place
a strike indicator. First, the depth at which fish are feeding and
secondly, the speed of the current. The faster the current, the
higher to place the indicator. The deeper the fish, the higher to
place the indicator. This only makes sense. I do not believe in
nor follow the commonly reiterated rule-of-thumb where the leader
must be 2x-3x as long as the depth in which you fish. This
is absurd...if I am fishing a deep pocket of 5 feet or so with a
moderate current, just where do you think your fly will drift using
a 15-foot leader? Your guess is as good as mine! You must gain control
of a nymph rig to be effective; a well-placed strike indicator will
help you do that. I estimate the depth to fish, add 2 or 3 feet
and place the indicator on the leader at that point. Then, I use
a combination of weighted flies and split-shot to get the leader
to sink faster.
2. Avoid the Vortex
I often use a strike indicator when I dry fly fish over choppy, white
water. The indicator helps keep the leader afloat around the butt section,
avoiding that treacherous leader dunking that fast water can present.
It also allows me to more easily locate my dry fly in fast, white, roily
water. I've found that leaders with smaller butt sections and longer whispy
tippets are best for fishing this type of water.
the Fish Attack
It's no secret that strike indicators are the flyfisherman's version of
a panfish bobber. But how you use it will make or break your success.
Simply attaching a big ball of brightly colored yarn to your leader isn't
going to make you a better nymph fisherman. You must learn where
to place the strike indicator and how to read its' movement to
help you "see" the fish strike.
Strike Indicator Movement
on two movements to distinguish being snagged from "seeing"
a fish take. A snag looks oh-so-close to a real take. And to make
things worse, subtle takes are not very distinguishable from touching
the bottom. However, being snagged stops the strike indicator from
moving, whereas a fish take many times makes the indicator move in
an abnormal direction. This distinction is ever-so subtle and takes
time on the water to distinguish. Another way to tell a real take
is the angle in which the indicator goes under. A real take will oftentimes
go more directly downward, whereas being snagged/dragged will drag
the indicator backwards, against the flow of water, at a subtle angle.
Just practice and play with the position of the indicator to get the
right depth...and, learn to spot the flash of a feeding fish's mouth.
If you fish to that sentinel, you won't need indicators!
a Strike Indicator:
Form a Loop-to-Loop Connection
Form a loop with
the butt section of the leader. Insert the loop through the
O-ring on the indicator, bringing the loop over and around
the top of the yarn. Pull the loop taught against the O-ring
and throat of the indicator. More on this issue...
MAKING STRIKE INDICATORS
Orvis' Marabou Hair or McFlyFoam's McFlylon is the author's two favorite
choices for making strike indicators.
Not all yarn is created
equal. Don't bother with wool, cotton or most soft acrylic yarns...unless
of course you like making pretty sponges. Some wirey acrylic yarn is marginally
OK, but most is soft and merely unacceptable. The best yarn to use is
poly yarn. There are many different deniers of poly yarn, some unsuitably
heavy for making strike indicators. I have found that craft poly yarn
has the right denier, or fiber thickness, to help trap air and resist
trapping water, ill-reported as "absorbing" water. Taking the
yarn concept even one step further reveals a few flytying products are
actually excellent materials to make indicators. I prefer Orvis' Marabou
Hair or McFlylon as the all-around best material in which to craft an
indicator. The denier is perfect, the density of the fibers is perfect
and the fibers are irregularly crinkled, breaking up the uniformity in
which straight hanks of poly or yarn may have.
DISCUSSION OF COLOR
I prefer strike indicators that mimic what floats down the river naturally:
moss, weeds, leaves, etc. I have seen too many times fish deliberately
moving out of the path of my rig well before the leader gets into sight
of the fish. After changing to smaller tippet and ensuring a drag-free
drift, I surmised my big fuzzy fluorescent pink glo-bug yarn strike indicator
actually acted as a beacon that something unnatural was about to come.
I don't use bright colored strike indicators any more. So, choosing the
colors for strike indicator yarn hasn't been difficult. I prefer a mix
of grey and bright green to mimic most of the plant debris that floats
down rivers I fish in the Rockies. I know others that prefer tan, brown
or dark olive, but those can be more difficult to see in marginal light.
There are times, however, where adding some fluorescent colored yarn makes
perfect sense. Twilight hours either in the morning or late in the evening
prove to be the most difficult times to see an indicator. Adding a bright
color in the middle of the indicator will help you see the drift, but
will hide the "beacon" from the fish. I have found using yellow
or orange yarn is great for advancing morning light or shaded fishing
runs while orange or pink is great for declining evening light. You'll
notice I like orange yarn to cover all lighting situations.
O-rings are commonly found in any hardware store and are the "glue"
that holds a strike indicator together.
The O-ring is essentially
the "glue" that holds the whole contraption together and keeps
the indicator on the leader. With that said, it's essential to pick the
right size. An O-ring that is too small will lock up on the leader and
disallow moving the indicator around. An O-ring that is too big will slide
too easily and may force the leader to fold over on itself. Look for O-rings
between 5/16" OD (~8mm) for smaller indicators and 3/8" (~10mm)
for larger indicators. Any hardware or home improvement store will carry
O-rings this small.
A FRAYED KNOT...
Notice the fraying yarn clogging the loop. This fraying will increase
over time, preventing prolonged use of an indicator. Surgical glove
rubber will solve this problem.
A Global Fly Fisher EXCLUSIVE!
Developed in the
secret Fly Flyfishing Labs at The Global FlyFisher!
You'll notice that
strike indicators will fray over time, almost to the point of becoming
unuseful. The picture to the right displays how used indicators (L:tied
with thread, no O-ring; R: tied with O-ring, no yarn protection) will
fray with just a few times of use. Enter the surgical glove. With just
a small slip of elastic rubber snipped from a surgical glove, you can
craft a protective cover for the yarn. This little trick will make your
indicators last almost all fishing season. You most likely will never
see this feature in any flyshop strike indicator. I have also found that
it helps prevent the indicator from slipping on the leader. You'll find
that taking a moment to tie in this extra material will pay off many times
The materials are simple. Yarn, elastic rubber and an O-ring (not
A slip of surgical glove rubber, an O-ring, two strands of Orvis Marabou
Hair, some twilight vision yarn and sturdy 6/0 thread.
The Detailed Steps
Follow the steps
below to create your own durable strike indicator. Prep the strike indicator
yarn by cutting approximately 9" (23cm) lengths of yarn. You'll need
two 9" hanks for each strike indicator, plus a 2" strip of visible
yarn if you choose to make your strike indicator more visible in twilight
situations. For the two main 9" hanks of yarn, use the same color
or mix colors as shown in the tying steps.