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What is a strike indicator?
A strike indicator is something that you look at, which helps you decide if a fish has taken your fly. They come in many forms, in days gone by, anglers would grease up their tippet or gut with animal fat, so it floated high on the surface and use that as a strike indicator when nymph fishing. These days it could be your brightly coloured line, your braided loop, a piece of hi-viz section of mono or something that resembles a small bubble float. I often use a dry fly as a strike indicator by hanging a nymph underneath it. When many anglers hear the words strike indicator they think “float”, but as you can see from the above, that’s not always the case.
What do they do?
A strike indicator can serve two different purposes. Firstly, it is something visual that your eye is easily drawn to that will help you see the fish take. A sudden stop of the strike indicator in the river or a bob beneath the surface of the still water will easily alert you that a fish has nobbled your fly. Secondly, certain strike indicators (the ones that are more like floats)will allow you to set your flys depth. If you want to present your fly just off the bottom, you can set the strike indicator on the leader, so your heavy nymph is always just above the river bed.
Isn’t it cheating?
If it’s against the fishery rules then yes if it’s not then no! It’s my philosophy that we go fishing to have fun, and if you are enjoying yourself, that’s all that matters. Fishing a fly under an indicator is a deadly tactic on some still waters (often referred to as a bung). On rivers, it can really help you detect the finest of takes when upstream nymphing or fishing a Czech or Euro-style nymph. My advice; try it if you want to and if you enjoy it, then do it!