Tom Asked: Andy .. this may seem like a rather basic question regarding strike indicators. I have not used them yet with any success. I’ve been able to detect strikes by watching my line. However, I keep reading about strike indicators. Are there some basic “how to’s” when it comes to their use? Are there certain types of indicators that are better than others?     

Bentley's Balls-colors and sizes

Bentley's Balls-colors and sizes


Strike indicators come in many different shapes, sizes, forms, and colors. The variety is staggering. They are used, as their name describes, to indicate when a fish has taken your fly. Indicators are indispensable tools that, when used correctly, enable fly anglers to be more successful at identifying when a fish has your fly in its mouth. I believe that the type of indicator you use should be determined by the specific set of circumstances you are encountering on the stream. That being said, there is one indicator that I use most often for my sub-surface fishing. Coming shortly, this indicator called Bentley’s Balls will be the first product introduced on the Product page at Gray Goat Fly Fishing and is, from my experience, the most effective general buoyant indicator available on the market today.

As I see it, all strike indicators have a set of characteristics associated with them that will determine their effectiveness in particular situations. The most important characteristic is visual. The angler must be able to clearly see the indicator and its subtle movement in order for the indicator and the angler to be successful.  This visual property could be as simple as a mark on your fly line or leader and may be what you are referring to in your comment.

This first characteristic and all others to follow are predicated on understanding the most important premise in fly fishing, the presentation of the fly . Fly presentation is another topic of discussion which is best left for another post. There has been much written about this subject and the book titled “Presentation” by Gary Borger is a good one to read.

A second characteristic is buoyancy. A buoyant indicator will allow the angler to float a fly at a certain depth. This type of indicator is visual and buoyant, as well as adjustable to enable the angler to change depth settings as the situation warrants. The buoyant indicator also allows the angler to add weight to the rig in order to compensate for current speed and still keep the indicator floating. This can be an advantage in deep pools or fast deep pockets. This type of indicator in my opinion is the best general type of indicator and has the characteristics which are exemplified in Bentley’s Balls.

Bentley's Balls- On The Leader

Bentley's Balls- On The Leader


A third characteristic I will call a “food mimic”. An example of this is the hopper dropper or dry dropper set up. Essentially your indicator is a food item (a fly) and allows the angler to fish two different stages of the same insect or two food items with one of them being the indicator. The indicator in this case is visual, somewhat buoyant, has the advantage of  looking like food, and has a hook in it. This type of indicator is great when fish are looking up or near the surface. As I have stated previously, different indicators work best in certain situations. It is of benefit to the angler to recognize these situations and pick the proper indicator characteristics to meet the needs of the situation.

Look for the upcoming post regarding  10 Tips To Nymphing Success.

Good Question Tom