Indicator nymphing growing in popularity | SierraSun.com

Indicator nymphing growing in popularity

Bruce Ajari
Gone Fishin'

Mention the use of indicators to some fly fishing purists and they will scoff at the very idea. Indicators come in a variety of different types. There are hard indicators, yarn and even balloons.

What indicators allow the angler to do is detect strikes by the fish. A fishing bobber that we used as children is a good correlation. We would watch the bobber and when it dipped below the surface of the water, a fish had taken the bait.

Indicators used in fly fishing are really no different. The flies that the angler uses are considered the bait and the various types of indicators are the bobber. Strikes are detected by the movement of the indicator.

Indicator fishing has become increasingly popular with fly fishermen in recent times. Nowhere is this technique more apparent than at Pyramid Lake in Nevada.

On a recent trip to Pyramid, I was struck by the number of anglers using this method of fishing over the more conventional means of throwing a sinking line and retrieving it.

The popularity of this method was easy to see on that particular day. It was working far better than the more typical method of stripping. Anglers who were indicator nymphing were catching fish far more frequently. Success breeds imitation, and there were many who switched once they realized what the fish were taking.

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The nymphs used under the indicator are typically some form of a bead-head, although non bead-head flies can work, too. The bead-head flies tend to work a bit better. Some feel that it could be the flash provided by the bead, and others think the weight of the bead imparts a jigging action to the fly. Whatever the reason, they seem to work very well.

The fact that they are so successful is why many anglers are employing this method today. In lakes and streams alike, the use of nymphs has made fishing much easier for the average angler.

Herein lies part of the controversy. Many feel that an angler’s skill is compromised. If beginning anglers, particularly in lakes, can be successful by just heaving out a pair of nymphs under an indicator, is that really fly fishing?

To some it will never be fly fishing. But like it or not, this technique is here to stay. You can either embrace it or fish in some other fashion. As a success-oriented society, I would venture to say that not embracing this method would put you in the vast minority.

Wasn’t there was something magical about watching that bobber as a child and seeing it go under? Whether this is really fly fishing or not will be debated for years to come.