I know we all wish we could do nothing but swing flies or watch a size 8 Grass Hopper get inhaled but the simple reality is that nymphs catch fish. When nymph fishing, having the right indicator for the type of water you are fishing can make the difference between catching fish or not. There are quite a few different indicator choices on the check out counter at your local fly shop, which one do you choose?
The appropriately named Thingamabobber was one of the first “bubble” style of indicators to hit the market and it has been helping fishermen see strikes and subtle takes since it’s introduction. Thingamabobbers come in a range of sizes, float like a boat, and are easily attached to your leader. One complaint is that they can kink up your leader or even leave your line slightly frayed, especially if you are sliding it to change your depth. The ease of attachment and simple but effective design have this as the most commonly used indicator by guides and clients alike.
A new indictor that recently hit the market is a spin off on the Thingamabobber, called the Airlock Indictor. Created by fly fishing royalty Tim Rajeff, the Airlock takes all the benefits of the Thingamabobber but addressed the line abrasion issue. The Airlock Indicator is attached by a small plastic screw that covers a post where you can thread your leader into. It can easily be loosened so that you can change the depth you want to fish without fraying your line.
Ease of attachment and superior floating ability have the bubble style indicators very popular with guides. They can be effective in a range of fishing situations meaning they are never a bad thing to have in your pack. However, when fishing to spooky fish or on “softer” water, I find yarn indictors to be a better choice.
One of my favorite parts of fishing yarn indicators is how soft they land on the water. If you are fishing a spring creek or river without much current, the splash of a larger, heavier indicator can send fish running. Yarn indicators are also much more sensitive allowing even the subtlest of takes to be detected. The cons of fishing yarn are they cannot support very heavy rigs (although adding some floatant/gink can help keep your yarn riding high) and they can be more difficult to attach to your leader than the bubble style of indicators. Yarn can also provide more resistance when casting which guides do not like for beginner fisherman. For spooky or heavily pressured fish though, yarn is almost always my choice.
Other style of indicators include “pinch on” or cork made indicators. Both were very popular at one point but the invention of the bubble indicators seem to have taken over the market. Pinch on indicators are the easiest to attach, but you cannot move them on your leader to change your depth. Cork is the original strike indicator material and floats great, they can however be difficult to attach to your leader and adjust your depth.
For those times when the fish aren’t willing to chase down a streamer or the bug aren’t hatching, nymphing can result in hook ups. When picking which indicator you use, consider factors like buoyancy, ease of attachment, and find the right indicator for your nymph fishing needs!
More on Nymph Fishing: