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Strike Indicators yes or no while Fly Fishing

Some Thoughts On using Strike Indicators by Wolfgang Fabisch

Fabisch Fly Fish Blog


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About Strike Indicators

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The ever ongoing discussion about strike indicators while fly fishing is really a nuisance to me: yes or no, illegal or legal?

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Above all, there are very different versions of strike indicators. We find some made of plastic with a very high buoyancy, and then we have some others made from water-repellent fibers. In my opinion, the indicators consisting of fibers have several distinct advantages.

strike indicators for fly fishing

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1. when the time comes to land your fish, you can easily pull them through the rod guides, which may be essential when fishing long leaders

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2. they do not have much weight to interfere with your casting

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3. they have only a very limited buoyancy (extremely important!)

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By now you may have already guessed that I don't like the plastic bits too much. Why that? The low buoyancy of those fiber-bundles is one of the most striking arguments for these indicators. Several times I have had rangers complaining that strike indicators would enable anglers to offer their flies at a preselected depth. Rubbish! This is prevented by the lack of buoyancy and by the fact that the length of your leader for upstream nymphing is roughly two times the depth of the run you fish. Now how do you adjust depth under such conditions? This kind of argument is typical for people not having even the faintest idea of what they are talking about. Strike indicators are no floats. Their only purpose is to mark the end of your fly line, period!

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Then there are fellow anglers babbling about indicators being unfair, and about how they would catch their fish just as well without them. I'd love to see one of those artists fish a river the size of e.g. the Copper River in BC wading in a swift current almost up to their nipples, casting 20 meters upstream and at the same time keeping an eye on the end of their fly line and then tell me they can see it! Guess I should see an ophthalmologist, because I can't do that.

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There is another problem, and it is even worse. Modern materials allow the tying of nymphs that fish cannot even identify as artificial after they have taken them. An angler using an indicator will quickly see the take and will be able to set the hook on time.

Fishing without indicators may let the fish swallow the nymph before the angler even realizes he's just had a strike. This might then require major surgery to remove the hook and it may give the fish a very bad deal.

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I don't want to defend anglers that fish the aforementioned plastic indicators and maybe even try to use them the way bait fishermen use floats, but the use of a light fiber-based indicator might help to save many a fish.

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  • Nürnberger Str. 45
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