Indicator Indications

by Jim Enns
from Beavers Bend Fly Shop

Nymphing with indicators, it’s the best way to go but it isn’t without its drawbacks.
Just as the name implies, strike indicators can and do just that, detect strikes. But the indicator doesn’t know the difference between a fish strike, a rock, a stick, moss or anything else that may seemingly “strike” at your fly. I have done a tip of the week “Got Indicators ?” in the past and don’t want to repeat any of that. Instead I want to focus on more of reading what the indicator is telling you. You may have observed someone nymphing before and have seen them setting the hook and catching fish all the while wondering what they saw the indicator do because you saw it do nothing. Some call this “zen nymphing” or a “sixth sense” but it is really learning to discern what is causing the motions or the non-motions of the indicator. Here is what will bring more fish to hand and at the same time keeping nymph in the water more of the time.

It’s all about ratios.
Comparing the flow rates of the current to the drift of your indicator. Sure, there are the lucky times when a fish just jumps all over your nymph and jerks the indicator two feet down. If only all the takes were like that!!! One thing for sure is that, more often than not, a fish that takes your offering like that is going to be a “dink”. Nothing wrong with that, but bigger fish may have been striking your fly all along…without your knowing. Now, back to the ratios.

Watching the current and always comparing it to the movement of the indicator is vital.
If the indicator is doing anything but flowing at the mercy of the current, then some thing else is influencing it. For now, I will leave out the dreaded drag caused from the angler, line, leader, in-correct mending and all the such. Preventing and/or dealing with that is another whole tip or even a book of which I’m not qualified. But again, always pay very close attention to the flow/speed of the water. Then realize that if the indicator goes under the surface at that same speed/ratio then most likely your fake has come in contact with something stationary in the river. Read, probably not a fish. Consistently being able to notice that difference in the indicators movement, no matter how minute it may be, takes a while master. And learning this one thing will advance your nymphing skills immensely, leading to more efficient time fishing and catching. Meaning, you won’t be striking at every indicator movement and spend more time with your nymph in the water and getting longer drifts, what the fish often require. Now you will know that when your indicator moves any different than the “flow ratio” it would be in your best interest to strike. Strike with a short, very quick hookset. Hooking up you’ll know that you did and read everything right. Not hooking up can mean you were to slow, you didn’t read the “flow ratio” right or possibly a variety of other reasons. But be assured, you’ll be more in-tune with what all is going on and making more educated hook sets rather than always shooting from the hip.

Thanks go to Jim Enns and for permission to use this article on This article was written by Jim Enns and is published on the Beavers Bend Fly Shop web site at This article cannot be reproduced anywhere else without their consent.

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