INDICATOR OR NO INDICATOR February 16, 2015 – Posted in: Nymphs


It is my opinion that a strike indicator will help a fly fishing novice catch more fish on nymphs. I am also of the opinion that the indicator will keep the intermediate nymph fisher from becoming an expert if used all the time. That does not mean that a fly fisher should never use an indicator. It just isn’t necessary all the time and in fact is often a hindrance to good nymphing.

When is an indicator not needed? Certainly an indicator is not indicated when fishing pocket water or when the water is no deeper than three feet. Very often when fishing pocket water, or shallow riffles, the end of the fly line is visible, the leader is visible, and very often it is possible to see the trout take the fly. With an indicator you get tunnel vision and don’t see all the other clues that a fish is taking the fly. If you are using Scientific Anglers Dry Tip technology you might not need any indicator. Why use an indicator when you have a high floating fly line tip that is the best indicator you can have. You can make this an even better indicator by using a bright felt tipped pen to put several bright bands near the tip of the line. Then it really stands out. I even mark my leader butt section sometimes for better visibility.

An indicator also puts one more hinge in the whole system. Casting weight is always a problem not because of the weight itself but because it hinges the line at the point it is applied. Now add another hinge to the casting system where the indicator is applied and you have the making of what are called “wind knots” and which have nothing to do with the wind. They should be called “hinge knots”.

When is an indicator needed? When fishing deeper water in long runs it might be the only way to keep contact with your flies and for deep water angling weight is usually used which can pull the tip of the line under the water. When this happens you lose contact with you whole system. This is a good time to apply an indicator in the terminal system. Of course it is a little mind numbing to spend a day “watching bozo” float down the river. Catching fish will relieve the tedium but if the fishing isn’t on it can become a pretty boring way to fish.

Another time an indicator is required in when fishing size twenty and smaller dry flies. In this case an indicator is necessary to keep track of the fly. In this case the indicator is usually another fly that you can see, or a conventional small strike indicator will also work.

Last, but not least, an indicator can be used to suspend a nymph just under the surface where the trout might be feeding on an emerging insect. Again the indicator will usually be a dry fly but can also be a small to medium sized indicator.

In all cases the SA Dry Tip technology has changed the equation. The Dry Tip floats so high in the water and floats so well even after a day of fishing that you will have to try the Dry Tip to determine whether or not you now need an indicator at all.