Making the Bobber Better

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

If you’re going to fish a bobber, you should make your bobber better.

I’ve written a little lately about my growing discontent towards bobber fishing. I’m going to say again, on the record, that there is a time and a place for a big gaudy bobber and when it’s time to fish one, you want it to work at its absolute best. Right?

There are two common problems with the way a bobber functions. They are both a matter of drift. On the one hand, a bobber can negatively impact the drift of your fly, pulling it up in the water column and causing an unnatural drift. On the other hand, there can be too much slack between the bobber and the fly, causing your bobber to react slowly when a fish eats.

I was talking about this with my friend Whitney Gould the other day and she showed me a cool trick that solves both problems. This is ironic because Whitney is a renowned Spey caster who will not fish a bobber under threat of death and openly makes fun of anyone who does, including me. I don’t mind, because I’m not too proud to learn something and this trick is so simple I’m shocked I’ve never seen it before.

Simply place a piece of split shot or tungsten puddly about six inches below the Thingamabobber. This takes the heavy end of the leader straight down under the bobber and accomplishes two things. It gets your fly down in the water column, where the fish are, and by taking the butt of the leader with it, minimizes the effect of drag from the faster surface water. It also takes the slack out of the system and turns the bobber right side up, making it far more sensitive.

I tried it and the difference was obvious. A more responsive indicator and a better drift meant more fish. There are still a lot of times when a different style of indicator or no indicator at all is a better choice but for the times when the bobber is the ticket, this trick makes the bobber better. Give it a try. I’m sure you’ll like the results.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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17 thoughts on “Making the Bobber Better

  1. I just find a bobber way too big to cast. I guess our streams are too delicate and we don’t have wild white water. So I tried one on still-water the other day. Trying to lay out a long still-water cast with one of them on the end was like trying to fly a Boeing sideways! I am sticking with my New Zealand yarn indicator, and for the rest, I am with Whitney on this one.
    But thanks for the tips, they are thought provoking, and on a miniature scale, probably applicable to the yarn indicator too.

  2. It’s always the simple tricks that make the difference. I found this tip when my thingamabobber would slip down too far and get near my split shot, I noticed how much more responsive the thingamabobber was. That being said, I now prefer NZ strike indicators much more. They are even more sensitive than the set up you mentioned above and aside from fishing whitewater, the wool yarn seems to work much better in almost every scenario.

  3. Louis, Thanks for a great tip! I’ve been noticing that issue lately in my fishing so this was well timed for me. Couple of questions. What size split shot are we talking about? Second question do you do anything thing to keep the split shot from sliding around, and if what how do you make depth adjustments to the system? Thanks again for some great articles!

  4. Another option is substituting small under inflated balloons for the thingamabobber. The adding a small split-shot under the indicator is a great recommendation it does make a difference in managing drift and detecting strikes. Thank you for another great tip. I recommend this website to anybody I know who fly fishes.

  5. Little trick makes a lot of sense…..When running straight 1X or 2X fluoro as the majority length of the leader (with a thicker section of leader attached to the fly line to allow better turnover of nymph rig) you figure this is necessary as well? Will have to give it a shot and see the results.

  6. Bobbers/drift/strike indicators certainly have their place. Thanks for the tip! The only thing I’m confused on is why the angler in the picture above is using a Thingamabobber in the first place. He’s high sticking/ tight lining/Czech nymphing at close range and would probably be better served by using a sighter. Unless he’s casting out of tight line tactical range, he’d probably feel a strike…Also, a white or glow-in-the-dark bobber would look more like a bubble and still be easy to see at that range. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-bobber and I use them all the time, but any chance I can get away without having to use one, I feel quite liberated. Stay tactical my friends…

  7. Pingback: Three Good Articles | Good Fly Fishing Articles from Other Web Sites

  8. Sounds like a great idea which mimics one of the centerpining concepts. Although I have been doing a lot more sighter, Czech nymphing there are times when an indicator is much more effective. There is another option to the Thingabobber that anyone that uses it makes the switch. It’s website is SKRU-IT and it is distributed by Rajeff Sports. I think I learned about it on this site and after just returning from Alaska the guides I fished with both ordered some right away.

  9. These new indicators distributed by Rajeff are actually named Air-Lock Indicators. Once you use one you’ll throw out all your Thingamabobbers! The only negative is that they are pricey at $2.50 each.

    • John….I agree with your assessment of the Air Lock/ SKRU-IT indicators and have already donated my Thingamabobbers to stubborn friends. Although $ 2.50 is on the steep side (2.30 if bought in a three pack ) how many indicators do you loose. I’m sold on them and wish I had thought of it.

  10. Yes, perhaps… But again another tool!
    I cut some very little sections from a ballpointer pen cartridge (or from another little thin tube) and I put them in my Fly box. Perhaps,it’s no so easy but it’s free and easy to find it!
    G. Baudin from Normandy…

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