Strike indicators are available in a number of styles; here are the four most widely used.
These are usually made of brightly painted hard foam (sometimes cork) and may be round or oblong. Perhaps the most popular (and least expensive) of these is a steelhead fisherman’s corkie (drilled out to the diameter of a toothpick). The corkie slides on the leader and is held in the desired position by a short piece of toothpick inserted in the hole.
Advantages: highly visible and buoyant; easily adjusts for depth.
Disadvantages: added air resistance during casting; splash when hitting the surface can spook fish in shallow or calm water.
Best Uses: fishing heavier nymphs in medium to deep waters, or currents with a broken or choppy surface.
A piece of buoyant yarn–usually polypropylene–is affixed to the leader with the slip knot. The ends of the yarn can be trimmed to the desired size and treated with floatant.
Advantages: may be dragged under by heavy nymphs or swamped in turbulent currents; adds wind resistance to casting.
Best Uses: fishing shallow to moderately deep water with nymphs of light to medium weight. Particularly useful in smooth, glassy currents.
Made from a small, brightly colored piece of adhesive-backed foam, these are simply rolled around the leader and held in position by the adhesive.
Advantages: quick to apply; low-wind resistance when casting; the land without a splash.
Disadvantages: cannot be re-used or repositioned on the leader; lack durability and buoyancy; not very visible.
Best uses: lightly weighted nymphs fished shallow.
FLY LINE SLEEVE
A short, hollow piece of fluorescent fly line is slipped over the leader and butted up against the tip of the fly line.
Advantages: no interference during casting; lands unobtrusively on the water.
Disadvantages: not very visible; very low buoyancy; sinks easily.
Best uses: smooth, shallow water with very lightly weighted nymphs.
Regardless of the indicator type, there is one rule: observe the drift of the indicator relative to current speed. If it does anything unnatural–dives underwater, stops, pauses, hesitates, twitches, darts sideways, or even looks a little confused–strike. Don’t rip the fly out the water. Draw the rod back sharply, but only enough to determine if there’s a fish. If not, set the line down and continue drifting the fly.
STREAM POSITION AND CASTING
As a general rule, fish feeding underwater is far less ward of an angler than those rising to the surface; positioning yourself correspondingly closer reduces casting distance and helps minimize the effects of drag on the line. You can fish nymphs in any direction, from straight upstream to straight down, but your location relative to the trout determines the type of cast you make. Here are the three basic situations, and the governing rule in each is to place as much fly line and leader upstream of the nymph as possible. Doing so creates slack on the fly free-fall quickly to the bottom and, again, helps avoid drag.
Fishing upstream calls for a tuck cast. Deliver the fly directly up-current, aiming the cast about 4 feet above the water Keep the rod tip high, and almost vertical. At the end of the forward cast, briskly snap the rod forward, stopping it abruptly at the 11 o’-clock position. Aimed high, and overpowered by the wrist snap, a weighted fly will first straighten out, then curl beneath the leader, and finally land downstream of the fly-line tip. As the fly line drifts down toward you, strip in the accumulating slack to be ready for a quick hookset.
Fishing directly across the current calls for a reach cast. Strip off enough line to overshoot the target by 5 or6feet. Deliver the forward cast perpendicular to the current; as the line straightens out, swing the rod upstream, pivoting your body into the current and extending your rod hand upstream as far as you can reach. At the end of the cast, the rod should be parallel to the surface of the water. The fly will hit the cross-stream target, but the reaching motion will lay the fly line upstream of the nymph. (The extra 5 or 6 feet of line is needed to compensate for the fact that reaching upstream will pull the fly toward you slightly.) What you are actually doing is mending the line while it is still in the air. Once the line settles on the water, you can mend again if necessary and begin stacking the line to lengthen the drift.
The opportunities for downstream nymphing are often overlooked. The situation calls for a drop cast. Deliver the fly directly down-stream; aim the cast about 4 feet above the water. As the cast straightens out, draw the rod tip back sharply, but slightly. The line and fly will spring back upstream and land on the water in a series of “S” curves, providing slack for the drift. As the curves straighten, start stacking line. The slack, however, must be carefully managed–you need to provide enough for a drag-free float, but don’t pile so much line on the water that you can’t set the hook on a strike.