Waters & words : a celebration of flyfishing

Posts tagged “New Zealand strike indicator

Good Indications : Indicators , depth, and the fly zone

I often read about “hanging a fly under an indicator”. I don’t get it. If the fly is hanging, it must be heavy, and if the indicator is holding it up, it must be HUGE. Maybe its just a turn of phrase. I did however try casting a thingamabobber the other day. That would hold a fly up. It was the smallest one you could get.

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It was like trying to throw one of those practice golf balls. It made a lot of noise, and went nowhere. When it did land it was with a great big PLOP. No thanks.

I like my indicators small. PD says you need binoculars to see them, and that it kinda defeats the object. He is right.  I know that because I am using the New Zealand strike indicator tool and system, and I don’t put enough yarn, so it doesn’t wedge on the leader, and instead slides up and down. “Short and stubby” I keep telling myself.

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Put more yarn, but still trim it short enough that PD will shake his head. Then it will be delicate for presentation purposes.

If you are struggling to see it, try using two contrasting colours, like chartreuse and orange. I find that works a treat after mid day when it gets silvery on the water. That is when the orange comes into its own.

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If the indicator is sinking, even though you have pre-treated it with “waterwhisp” and greased it heavily, then consider that maybe the fly is pulling it under.

Rather than lowering yourself to a thingamabobber, try moving it further up the leader. In this way your fly will be banging along the bottom, and all that the indicator will be supporting is the tippet.

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Remember that a light tippet will generate less resistance in the current, and that a drag free drift will be further cause for the indicator to stay on top.

Of course depth varies all the time, so if you are not changing the position of your indicator all the time, you will be getting this formula wrong on just about every drift. I move mine at just about every change in the water type. In other words when I go from a tail-out to a deep pool, or from a pool to a rapid, to pocket water.  This is why the latest indicators are such a great thing:  you can move them with ease, and so long as you use enough yarn, they stick where you put them! I also find that by having to consider where the indicator should be, it causes you to focus on the water depth. I estimate the depth in a run, set the indicator position, and fish it. Then I wade on up through that run, and get to see how deep the water really was. This goes into that computer they call my head, and with a bit of luck, I get better at estimating depth.  When the fish are hugging the bottom, as they so often are, guessing that depth right is an important part of fish catching.

Perhaps a more important part of fish catching, is not focusing on the strike indicator alone. That is more difficult than it sounds. Typically after a day on the river, I fall asleep with the rhythmical images of the same strike indicator floating back at me time and time again.

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If that dream occupies most of your night, you may need to shake out of this bad habit, like I need to.  I think it was Tom Sutcliffe who wrote about trying to watch the fly (or the fly’s zone) and the indicator simultaneously. It is a lot like looking through a microscope with one eye, and keeping the other one open to do the sketch. Guys who did Biology at school might remember being taught that skill. In the “fly zone” you are looking for movement of any kind. An opening mouth, a darting shadow, a ripping tippet. It could be anything. If it is subtle you might not strike. If it is definite, you will. If it is subtle, but the indicator moves in a subtle way too, you will likely strike into a fish that you might otherwise have missed. This is all a bit like those dual garden beams of mine, that require a signal from both sensors before triggering. This avoids birds. We don’t want birds either. We want fish. And if your dream is of the indicator drifting undisturbed towards you every time, then you haven’t been catching fish, have you!

Tackling developments

Last night I was washing and treating my fly-lines, and I got to thinking.

Firstly, I was treating them with some “water shed”. If you haven’t got some of this stuff, do yourself a favour.  It really is great. It floats flies, furled leaders and the tips of your floating lines. It smells a lot like Hydrostop, which I used to use years ago. Maybe it’s the same stuff in a new bottle. I don’t know.

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But like I say, it works a treat on the special high floating tip of my new fly line.

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Sinks like a stone that tip does. It is a special dark green colour, with a different texture to the rest of the line so that you can identify the trouble zone quickly. “Revolutionary” I think it said on the box. No, it isn’t revolutionary. It sinks.

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My old line floated better, but unfortunately it wore out. Now I am back to treating it like a silk line. My grandfather must have done that in his day. This is not progress.

This line also has a long fine taper that they said was wonderful for delicate presentations. I fell for that too. I was fishing it in a strong upstream breeze the other day, and try as I may, I couldn’t punch a bounce cast into it to get myself some drag fee slack.

So my wish-list from the line manufacturer, is for them to produce a line without a special trouble causing tip. While they are about it, how about a short sharp taper up front. They had might as well do me another favour and do away with that snazzy loop they put in the front, and give me a piece of core that extends straight out the end, for me to tie on a nice neat leader with a surgeons or blood knot. Then they would really be talking.

To their credit, the fly line guys seem to be getting better at the colours. Olives and greys  are good. Please go a shade darker though.

The guys over at the rod manufacturers have come a long way in so many respects. We went from floppy things, to walking stick stiff. Now we have a huge range, with most of them tending towards a mid range powerful stick, with just the right degree of stiffness, and loading ability. A bit like the one I bought nearly twenty years ago. That was expensive though. You can now get a similar rod, and part with less cash. That’s progress. One they still don’t have right is the gloss varnish thing.  Flash, flash, flash. Come on guys: when are you going to listen to us?

Fly-boxes:  That dense grey foam with the slots in it that you push the bend of the hook back into:  Great stuff.  A big improvement on the various foam inserts that are so shredded in my old boxes. I am also pleased with the new slender boxes. There was never a need for such deep boxes in anything but the streamer and dragonfly box, and now we have thin boxes that can go three to a pocket in the vest. I like that.

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I also re-loaded my strike indicator kit with yarn and tube. That New Zealand indicator system is a huge leap forward.


That really has revolutionised things for me. To think how we used to battle with bits of balsa wood.

PD bought himself the latest and greatest pack vest while over in Canada this year. I was (still am) envious of the fact that it is waterproof. Complete with waterproof zips it is. Isn’t that a miracle:  a zip that seals completely!  The interesting thing about his pack though, is that the pattern is identical to mine. Mine is going on fifteen years plus, maybe even closer to twenty in age.

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Our tippet material has got radically thinner for the breaking strain over the years. I heard someone say the other day, that that has been the biggest advance in flyfishing in the last decade. They may just be right.

Apart from that, what technological developments have their been?  Breathable waders is quite a big one. Wading boots are a lot better, but I suspect that on that score it is just that we have more available to us here in SA than we had before.

Zingers, rainwear, hook styles, floatants,  ……..lots of little bits and bobs in there, but for me nothing that stands out. I think back to a typical day on a river back in say the early 1990’s. The experience of the day did not differ significantly then to what it is today. I hooked trees and long grass and got tangles. I had dry flies that sank, and fly boxes that didn’t close and a host of other little things, very few of which stand out as any different from today.

One thing that does feel different, is that back then it seemed easier to get out there and fish. I seemed more adventurous. I tried new places. I was more inclined to sneak in a half day here or there. More inclined to rush out the front door having grabbed my tackle at the last minute. I was more impulsive, and took more “risks”.

So here is a proposal for 2015. How about we worry less about our new fangled tackle, and focus more on our fishing experiences. Let them be numerous, and varied, and experimental. I propose more trips “on the fly”.


I am advocating more last minute , less complicated, opportunistic forays, and fun ventures onto little fished water.

I tackled this last year, and looking back on the year, I can tell you that it has a lot going for it. Give it a try. Put that credit card away, and go fishing!  A 2015 resolution maybe?