More Indicator Secrets

Have you ever felt like your indicator rig was moving too fast? As if sliding over the water's surface and preventing your flies from presenting deeper?

More Indicator Secrets

Aug 2023

You've heard it over and over: you need a drag free drift. But have you ever felt like your indicator rig was moving too fast? As if sliding over the water's surface and preventing your flies from presenting deeper?

Whenever you feel like your drift is cruising downstream too fast, or you can't quite figure out why your nymph rig isn't working as effectively as it should be, keep this indicator tip in mind to help you improve your drift.

Cross section of a river channel. Channel velocity slows as depth increases (Brikowski, 2007)

Remember that water doesn't flow at the same speed on the surface as on the river's bottom. As you increase in depth water moves slower. Slower water on the channel bottom allows rocks to settle, macroinvertebrates to thrive, and even provides relief for trout searching slower water. With that in mind, think about your flies drifting vertically in the river. Your indicator, albeit essential for strike detection, also acts like a sail, catching the fast current on the waters surface and propelling all the submerged flies underneath. Sometimes the sail effect is great enough to swing your nymphs up from the depth, and shortening the depth of your rig. So whenever you feel like your indicator and nymphs are moving at the same speed of the water your seeing, that might be too fast for an accurate presentation deeper in the water column. Your flies might be cruising over the heads of any trout holding in slightly deeper water.

When fish are suspended, eating emerging insects, a shallow indicator setup moving at the pace of the surface water is appropriate. BUT, when presenting flies deeper, say in a long smooth run, or in a roiling pool, you actually should watch for your indicator to be moving at a slower pace than the surrounding current. Watch bubbles and anything on the water surface to clue you into the speed of your indicator. You aren't looking for a major drop in speed, too slow and your flies might be caught on the bottom. But if you can customize the pace of your indicator to slightly lag (without visible signs of drag) compared to the current, you'll have visual confirmation that your flies have reached the slower deeper section of the water column. This means that your indicator isn't pulling your flies too quickly downstream, allowing your flies to extend deeper. Also consider different styles of indicators, larger isn't always worse, sometime they can prop up better weight when needing to hit the breaks through faster water.

Though it takes a minute to get an eye for what this looks like, it's surprisingly easy to achieve. You can incrementally increase weight, by splitshot or heavier flies, and observe how your rig responds as it drifts. Alternatively, you might be able to find a seam within the river that naturally slows down your presentation without any tinkering, cuing you into likely feeding lanes for trout. The longer your leader, the more important this technique is to maintain a deep drift.