Strike Indicators, What Matters to Me

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Carry different sizes and colors of strike indicators. Photo By: Louis Cahill

By Kent Klewein

Do Strike Indicators spook fish?

There is a lot of debate over whether strike indicators spook fish. I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one folks. I truly believe that most of the time they don’t. Especially if you rule out calm and slow moving shallow water. Only when I’m dealing with really spooky fish, do I downsize and dull down the color of my strike indicators. The other 80% of the time I think the fish pretty much just find them interesting, possibly a tasty morsel, or just another piece of trash floating over their heads.

What I really think we should be doing is looking at the other side of the coin. In my opinion, we should worry less about spooking fish with our indicators, and worry more about matching the correct size strike indicator to the type of water and rig we’re fishing. That makes much more sense to me, anyway. Now I know there’s lots of you probably saying this is obvious rookie stuff, Kent. I hear you all loud and clear, but bare with me a minute, because I still find myself having to explain to anglers why it’s a good idea to carry different sizes and colors of strike indicators on the water. And as long as I’m doing that, there’s a need for this information to be out there for people to read.

Here’s how I go about choosing what strike indicators I use on the water.

I Fish Big Bright Indicators For: High Turbulent Water, Harsh Glare, Big Heavy Flies & Split-Shot

It doesn’t make any sense to use a strike indicator that’s too small to stay afloat in turbulent water. Some will argue with me on this, but I believe it’s much easier to see strikes when the indicator is above the surface, not below it. Same goes for harsh glare conditions. If you can’t see your indicator how are you going to be able to see the strikes? Upsize your strike indicator and change to a bright color if needed. Lastly, when you’re going to be fishing big heavy flies or lots of split-shot, you’ll need to go bigger with your indicator to keep it afloat. It’s also important to remember that strike indicators aren’t just used for seeing strikes. We also use them to control and maintain the depth at which we want our flies drifting.

I Fish Small Dull Colored Indicators For: Calm Flat Water, Spooky Fish, Tiny flies with little or no split-shot

If I’m worried my indicator is going to make too much noise when I present my cast, I’ll downsize to a smaller strike indicator. This is often the case when I’m fishing flat calm water. If I’m dealing with super skittish fish, I’ll not only downsize my indicator, but also dull down the color. I prefer small indicators over large when I’m fishing small fly patterns and not using a lot of split-shot. Sometimes the takes are more subtle with tiny flies, and a smaller indicator helps me detect them much easier. Furthermore, tiny flies (finesse rigs) don’t call for as much buoyancy so don’t go with a bigger indicator than you actually need. If it’s floating high and you have no problems seeing it, you’re good to go.

Waiting for the indicator to disappear. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Most of the time I prefer using Thingamabobbers pictured above for my strike indicators, but by no means do I insist you have to use them. I find myself gravitating towards them for several reasons: They’re easy to see, reusable, and they don’t fall off during heavy casting. They’re also super buoyant for their size, and will float all day long without having to add fly floatant to them. Lastly, beginners seem to be able to cast them easier than the bulky yarn style indicators. There’s tons of brands and styles of strike indicators on the market today. Take the time to figure out what style of strike indicators work best for you. Just remember it’s always a good idea to have a variety of sizes and colors on hand so you’re ready for any fishing situation.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “Strike Indicators, What Matters to Me

  1. I totally agree and for the larger indicators I learned a lesson for fast
    rough water. Thanks for the post and keep them coming, I’m new at this for a couple years and welcome any info and instruction. thanks

  2. Thingamabobbers are great, but even the smallest ones are too big for wary and skittish fish on spring creeks. That’s when I reach for my Palsa pinch on indicators or the new Corqs in size 1/2″ (their smallest). Both land softly and make a small footprint.

  3. Why not just learn to fish without them and then you’ll never need to worry about size and color and you’ll catch more fish. There’s a reason why most good tournament anglers won’t use them unless they absolutely have too.

  4. For real spooky trout I use white indicators. There are always some white bubbles floating around and fish don’t seem bothered with my white indicators like they do with bright colors. I think black and green would.also work.

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