Figure 3-1

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

In Part I of this article I took cheap shots at the established, accomplished, noble-blooded practitioners of strike indicator fishing; then I described how I personally use an alternative “watch the line” method in Part II. Now I’ll wrap it up with some summary comparisons.

The best anglers are adept at both, of course, although we’ll each have our individual preferences.

And I admit that, as with anything, this “line of sight” strike detection method does have limitations. Distance to the fly can render it less effective (although if the fly is still upstream of you, odd line behavior is much more odd, and the distance is also decreasing every second). Chop on the surface can make the line impossible to see. Use of stealth line colors can aggravate those problems (although I’ve lately been using a “moss green” floating line and have still done quite well in calmer tail-outs and pools).

There’s at least one definite and noteworthy advantage to using indicators as compared to this “line of sight” approach: The line from fly to indicator is straight. A strike cannot help but be noticed, and if the indicator is drifting freely, the fly is likely to be drifting freely as well. In numerous scenarios including lake fishing and complex interceding currents, it’s difficult to present the fly any other way.  This is a key upside and a powerful case for the float, I agree.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s a mixed bag; using the line as the indicator also excels in numerous ways. The approach has, in my mind, given me quite a number of major advantages:

  1. The visual indicator is long; a well managed line drift can ensure the line gives critical information even quite a distance from the fly.


  1. The information I get from watching the line lets me set a hook exactly how I want; if there’s a fish there but I miss it, or other fish watching, I don’t have to spoil the rest of the drift by doing the “mighty yank” thing.


  1. I can let the fly sink to whatever depth I want, throughout the drift or retrieve. I can make it rise, let it settle back, speed it up without hauling it to the surface, slow it down…as I elect.  I can let bottom micro-currents change the fly’s depth just like natural food would behave.


  1. I can maintain a relatively straight line to the leader and probably to the fly. It’s not difficult because the mindset just becomes an extension of the mending process.


  1. Wind doesn’t tow my fly around, into the weeds or out of the eddy or running aground.


  1. I can easily move the fly how I want, with relatively fine control, to miss a problematic snag or to get sucked into the fine line of an eddy; there’s no big delay wherein I must drag an indicator quite a lot and then hope the fly follows at some point later.


  1. I can still take strikes by “feel.” If a fish takes the fly a bit less timidly, that event still comes to me on a fairly tight line rather than it being damped out by a 90-degree bend in the line’s path.


  1. Transitions from up-and-across to down-and-across to straight downstream are absolutely seamless.


  1. It also works with floating lines that leverage sink tips or sinking poly-leaders. And it works well in calm shallow water with leaders partly greased to sit atop the surface tension…watch the leader.


  1. I don’t have to keep messing with depth. Time is my depth control knob — I just give the fly enough time to get down to where I want it.


  1. I can use the technique regardless of how short my leader is, whereas generally an indicator can only be as far above the fly as the leader is long.


  1. I can set the hook opposite the direction I lay my line…and do it laterally if I want, without ripping any bobbers across the surface. I can set it with much less rod motion, and can even ensure that tree overhang will not impede my hookset.


  1. I can pull in as much line as I need to when it’s time to bring the fish to the net.


  1. Using the line as my indicator has taught me so much about how to coax strikes that I truly believe I’d still be (more of) a hack at this fishing stuff if I’d gone another route. Admittedly it has been a gradual process, and I haven’t forgotten all the skunking that the decision has cost me.  (But eye lern slo, ewe no.)


I’ve done very well with these techniques, as Figure 3-1 through Figure 3-9 (during just the last four mornings of fishing at time of this writing) shows. I include a few shots of small ones whose colors were magnificent. None of these were monsters by Alaskan or Lake Taupo or Madison River standards, but out of the tiny winter creek I’ve been fishing and the “every yokel with a pole steps into the water right here” spots I’ve waded and flogged, I think these represent truly excellent results.

Figure 3-1.


Figure 3-2.


Figure 3-3.


Figure 3-4.


Figure 3-5.


Figure 3-6.


Figure 3-7.


Figure 3-8.


Figure 3-9.

So on it goes. Almost every stretch of water I have access to lends itself to this approach. Above, I listed 14 things I’ve always liked about it. But for me, the very best advantage is this:

  1. It’s so damned satisfying to catch wily fish this way! Imagine…you’re going head to head with true masters of stealth, in their own environs and on their own sneaky terms…you’re pitting your volleyball-sized noggin and your vector-math-capable intellect against the peanut brain of a finely tuned product of Nature’s million-epoch experiment…and with glory…and sometimes you’re coming out ahead.

Now what could be better than that?

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