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Fly Tying the Strike Indicator

Updated on December 25, 2015

What is a Strike Indicator?

A strike indicator is a type of float or bobber that is used for fly fishing. They are designed to float on the water's surface and detect fish strikes on flies below the water's surface. When a fish strikes at the fly, the strike indicator goes underwater and alerts the fly fisher that a fish has taken the fly. While bobbers for been around for a long time when fishing with monofilament on spinning and casting reels, strike indicators for fly fishing are relatively new. Fly fishing demands light-weight flies, so accordingly strike indicators are light. They generally are made of foam, plastic, or yarn. The strike indicator featured here is a little different in that it also acts as a surface fly so that the fly fisher fishes both the water's surface and below the surface.



To tie the strike indicator, you will need a size 8 hook with a moderate length shank. You will also need an orange foam sheet 2mm thick and a white foam sheet 2mm thick. You will need quick-set glue, thread (preferably orange Uni thread size 6/0), and 6 or 8 lb monofilament. Prior to tying the fly, cut a strip of orange foam about 8mm wide, another orange strip about 4mm wide, and a white strip about 2mm wide. You will also need to tie a perfection loop from the monofilament.

From the Video

The attached video demonstrates tying the fly. There are a few items to note:

  1. Attach the monofilament loop to the hook with thread and a generous application of quick-set glue. Why? Because when a fish takes the wet fly below the strike indicator, all the energy the fish applies towards the line will be going through the strike indicator, so you want the loop well secured.
  2. With the glue on the hook shank, quickly wrap the 2mm wide, white foam strip along the hook shank so that it adheres to the hook well. This spiraled foam along the hook shank not only helps the fly float, but also gives the top-side orange foam something to grip.
  3. The variety of silicon and rubber legs for fly fishing is plentiful. Use whatever color you wish, but go with light, flat, silicon legs. These are lighter than round rubber legs. Since you will be attaching a wet fly to the strike indicator, the less weight you have on the strike indicator the better.
  4. When applying tension to the thread while tying on the orange foam body, the first wrap or two go light to avoid cutting the foam with the thread. Subsequent wraps can be tighter. The Uni thread brand tends to cut foam less than other brands.

Fishing the Strike Indicator

Strike indicators arose from trout fly fishers, particularly those using nymphs. Sorry, but it has been decades since I have fly fished for trout and at the time strike indicators for fly fishing were unknown. There may be practical application for this fly with trout fishing. My typical sport fish are bluegills in still water. I've found the strike indicator best used in cold water when the fishing activity is slow. My hypothesis is that the bluegills are too cold to want to chase a fly that the fly fishing is stripping next to them. They would much rather go after something slower. Making a loop-to-loop connection with light tippet off the loop of the strike indicator on a slow sinking fly seems to work best. I favor using the hare's ear nymph for the subsurface fly (called a dropper fly). A fish attractant oil applied to the wet fly also helps. Oils are a good option if you are not a purist. The retrieve is very slow with just enough retrieve to keep the floating fly line straight. Rarely have I caught a fish with the strike indicator itself during the winter. The fish generally ignore surface flies in cold water.

The fish activity is stronger during the spring and summer with both the wet and dry strike indicator fly having action. On one occasion I caught two fish on both flies.

Three feet is about the maximum depth you can fish the wet fly off the strike indicator. Past three feet and the combination of the leader, tippet, strike indicator, tippet, and wet fly become too long and increase the chances of fouling and making knots, You can shorten the tippet leading up the the strike indicator and lengthen the tippet from the strike indicator to the dropper fly for a bit more depth.


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