Fly Fishing Tips 2 min read

Fly Fishing with Strike Indicators

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

July 6, 2016

Ian and Charity Rutter of R&R Fly Fishing give us some pointers on fly fishing nymphs with a strike indicator in small mountain streams in their latest episode of Advice from the Guides video blog.

High Stick Nymphing Video

Filmed in the Great Smoky Mountains on Little River and Middle Prong of Little River, the Rutter’s demonstrate high stick nymphing, an effective method to fish fast pocket water often found in high gradient streams. High-sticking with an indicator is a great method for the beginner fly fisherman as it aids tremendously in detecting strikes that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Tips to Successful Indicator Nymphing

As Ian and Charity point out, keys to successfully fishing nymphs with an indicator include:

  • Fish a short line to provide better line control and ability to set the hook,
  • Fish a longer rod to enable you to reach over complicated currents and minimize drag,
  • Keep fly line off the water to minimize slack and drag,
  • Keep indicator ahead of fly to better strike detection.

Put Your Nymph Where the Fish Are

This may seem obvious, but one of the biggest secrets to successful nymph fishing is putting your fly where the fish are. To do this you must 1) read the water and 2) know where trout like to hang out during different times of the year. Ian and Charity do an excellent job illustrating the importance of fishing the seams where the fast water meets the slow water, a place trout love to hang out.

Reading Trout Water

Reading a trout stream to identify seams and trout lies takes some practice, but once you master the art your fishing success rate will go up dramatically. Seams are important as they allow trout to save energy while positioning themselves alongside feeding lanes where nymphs pass by in the main current of the stream.

Trout Lies

No I don’t mean the little white ones, but places in the stream where trout hang out. In addition to seams, in mountain streams trout will tend to hang out along the river bottom where the water current is slowest or in front or behind rocks where a cushion or eddy forms and the trout can rest.

To make things a little more challenging, trout also change places they hang out during the winter and early spring, favoring slower water in the tail-out of pools and deeper water to conserve energy during the colder months. As the water warms and aquatic insect activity picks up, trout will move up in pools and into faster runs to find better feeding lanes and take advantage of the increased food supply.

Rigging Multiple Nymphs

Why fish one nymph when you can fish two – right? Ian shows us a simple way to rig multiple nymphs to increase our chance of catching fish by covering more of the water column from the stream bottom up to the surface with each cast. An alternate method to fish multiple nymphs would be to fish the upper nymph off a dropper that allows the fly to move more freely in the current.

Weighted Nymphs

In the video, Ian mentions the importance of getting your nymph to the stream bottom (again, where the fish tend to hang out). To do so you can use split-shot or you might consider using a bead headed or weighted fly such as a Czech nymph. Anyway you do it, you want to be ticking the stream bottom with your lower or point fly in a multi-fly rig, cause that is where the fish are at!


p.s. If you like to fish with nymphs, you might also be interested in our articles on advanced nymphing techniques such as the increasingly popular european nymphing methods including Czech nymphing, French nymphing and Spanish nymphing.