Nymphing can be tough, but considering a large majority of a trout’s diet is found sub-surface, it’s an important tool to have in your arsenal. Strike indicators are all the rage these days, and many anglers find them extremely helpful in detecting the subtle strikes that can be had while dead drifting sub-surface flies.
It’s hard to argue against the effectiveness of strike indicators. They work well and certainly have their place. We also don’t believe in the school of thought that fishing with indicators is ‘bobber fishing’ and not ‘fly fishing.’ What we do believe in is if you’re using a fly rod, it’s fly fishing, and if you’re having a good time, that’s what counts!
With that said, believe it or not there are a number of advantages to nymphing without indicators. In fact, most of our guides (including yours truly), prefer to to fish without indicators the majority of time. Here’s why.
- Ability to Adjust Depths. Most of the time when nymphing, it is desirable for your flies to be close to the bottom or tight to structure. When fishing under indicators, your fly is suspended at a consistent depth regardless of changes in structure or river bottom. This isn’t a big deal when wading, as indicators can be adjusted for multiple drifts. However, when fishing from a boat this can cause your fly to ride above those fishy pockets and depressions along the way. Fishing without an indicator allows the angler to constantly maneuver their fly in and out of promising structure much easier.
- Lose Less Flies. Even though you can fish deeper, we’ve found anglers tend to lose less flies when fishing without an indicator. Most anglers tend to ignore their surroundings and focus only on the strike indicator. By fishing without one, most anglers tend to recognize more obstructions and are able to pick their fly in and out of potential snags, while keeping the fly in the ‘zone.’
- More Fun. Just like swinging flies has an ultimate ‘fun factor.’ Fishing nymphs without an indicator can be a super fun way to fish. A greater concentration is needed allowing you to feel more ‘in touch’ with what you’re fly is doing. Give it a try and you’ll see what we mean.
- Easier to Cast. Less ‘stuff’ on your leader generally makes for easier casting, and easier casting usually makes for a more enjoyable day on the water.
- Keep the Spawners off the ‘Egg.’ In our neck of the woods, during certain times of year trout, dolly varden, and grayling start to key in many egg-looking strike indicators. It only takes a few hits to the indicator to wonder, “I wonder if they ever even saw my fly?” Fishing without a strike indicator leaves only one meal in the water.. The one with the hook in it.
- Ability to ‘Fish’ Your Fly Instead of Staring at an Indicator. If when you’re nymphing you feel like all you’re doing is staring at your indicator, odds are you’re missing out. There are many clues to indicate a fish has taken your fly including visual takes, feeling your fly, or even a subtle flash of color indicating a fish has turned. By honing in on the indicator only, you could be missing out on many other clues to set the hook.
- Solid Hook-Ups. When an indicator moves, it is often a delayed indication that a fish has taken the fly, especially if any slack is present in the leader or fly line. On the other hand, when fishing without an indicator, proper line management is needed to keep slack out of the line at all times, leading to quicker hook-sets and more solid hook-ups.
Nymphing without an indicator can be a fun and more effective way to fish than many anglers realize. Is it the most effective method for all scenarios? Probably not, but it certainly has its place. Give it a try and go get ’em!