Sunday’s Classic / Strike Indicators, What Matters to Me

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

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, because I truly believe that most of the time they don’t. Especially if you rule out flat slow moving 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 flip 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. In my opinon, that makes much more sense. 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 float your rig 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, especailly the really subtle ones? Don’t be afraid to upsize your strike indicator or change to a bright color if water conditions call for it. Lastly, when you’re going to be fishing big heavy flies or tandem nymph rigs with lots of split-shot, you’ll need to go bigger with your indicator to keep riding high. 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. That’s why it’s so important that anglers use an indicator with enough floatation.

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 strike 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 from trout are more subtle with tiny flies, and a smaller indicator will increase the sensitive to help me detect them much easier. Furthermore, tiny flies (finesse rigs) don’t call for as much buoyancy so there’s no reason to 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 very easy to see, they’re 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. Since there’s tons of brands and styles of strike indicators on the market today, it can be beneficial to 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 you may encounter.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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21 thoughts on “Sunday’s Classic / Strike Indicators, What Matters to Me

  1. Great tips. I also like using Fish Pimp indicators. They come in a variety of sizes, float all day, have great buoyancy, and can very easily be set up as a right-angle indicator.

  2. In my experience strike indicators do not spook fish – if anything they attract them. Many of the times that I’ve used them trout have tried to eat them. I’ve caught spooky, wild brookies and rainbows with them in shallow water and I’ve also caught wary, educated trophy fish with them. I’ve had loads of people tell me that you couldn’t fish any of those environments while using an indicator, because they’d spook the fish. George Daniels’ book “Dynamic Nymphing” has some good tips on how to employ floating indicators.

  3. Great points. I also find that fish will rise to the indicator frequently enough to suggest they can’t be too scary. I like little balloons just a bit over thingamabobbers though they aren’t as easy to adjust up and down the line (not hard but not as easy). You can get 40 to 50 of them for about $1 in many stores and I find they will usually last about 3 days. Wide variety of colors too.

  4. I like Thingamabobbers except when you have to readjust them for depth. That at times can be a pain. But I still use them and Pulsa floats for all of my indicator fishing.

  5. I prefer the small size Thingamabobbers, and mine have been getting blown up lately (especially in river foam). Hit hard and taken under by rising fish when there are no other fish rising. I’ve had success with the Thingamabug flies, but I’m honestly thinking about adding a small hook to my Thingamabobber to see if I can’t just hook up with it.

    • Jason,

      I didn’t forget the trait, I just implied to the reader that its always a good idea to match the indicator size or type to the rig and water conditions they’re fly fishing. If it doesn’t float 99% of the time you’re probably using the wrong style or size indicator.

      However, I’m glad you took the time to bring it up if you feel it wasn’t stated clearly enough in the post.


  6. “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.”

    Amen, Kent. This is one of the key reasons I use thingamabobbers in winter. They keep the rig drifting at or about current speed with a lot less management and movement on my part, especially with weighted flies and/or split shot. They also allow you to use a bit longer leader between indicator and the flies and still keep it moving in different depths. They are line management tools as well as strike indicators IMO.

    • TG,

      No I have not but then again I really haven’t fished for them a great deal when compared to other species. I bet you could find a way to use them for carp, particularly in moving water but I’ll leave it to the rest of the readers to chime in on that question. And I hope they do because I do find it to be an interesting niche idea.


  7. I’ve become a big time euro-nymphing angler over the past few years. I believe in these techniques and the proof is in the pudding, however, sometimes you just gotta go with a thingamabobber. Its one tool that I always carry on me everywhere I go.

  8. If you’re in the market for a fast application indicator with a wide range of colors and sizes then check out Float Master Products. They don’t slip OR kink your leader. Full range of quick depth adjustments too.

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