Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

Looking upstream at a long stretch of trout water, I tied on a stonefly nymph and a Hare’s Ear dropper and then dug out a red-and-yellow strike indicator.

Now, there are flyfishermen who rail against strike indicators. Their argument starts with the obvious fact that using a strike indicator amounts to bobber fishing and abruptly ends with the less obvious conclusion that this ruins the aesthetic of the sport.

But I just wanted to catch some fish. So I twisted the indicator onto my leader and started working the first pocket of water. I rolled out a cast and watched the indicator drift downstream only a couple of inches before it was engulfed and spat out by a rising brown trout.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but when the same thing happened at the next two pockets, I tied on a dry fly. In fact, I tried numerous dry flies that I thought would best imitate the few fluttering stoneflies and caddis around. I then switched to patterns I thought would best resemble my strike indicator. Nothing worked.

So I went back to the nymphs and sure enough, in the next pocket, the indicator again disappeared in the yellow swirl of a healthy brown.

There was only one explanation. As we all know, brown trout can be notoriously selective. I’ve seen them sip only the occasional blue-wing olive in the midst of a heavy sulfur hatch, and I’ve watched them ignore big, meaty mayflies while keying in on minuscule flying ants. Clearly, these brownies were displaying a high degree of selectivity by keying in on red-and-yellow strike indicators.

There was only one thing to do. I’ll admit I hesitated at first. Given the number of fellow fly anglers who disapprove of using a strike indicator in any capacity, I couldn’t help wondering what they might think. At one point I even said to myself, No self-respecting fly fisherman would be caught doing this. But then I looked at the empty water up- and downstream. Who’s going to catch me?

All through the rest of that long stretch of water I landed one brown trout after the next until I reached a long pool near a bridge, where I caught two more. I’d just missed a third when I glimpsed some movement upstream. I turned to see another flyfisherman who’d been sitting in the tall grass along the bank for who knows how long. He stood up and began walking toward me.

I reeled in as quick as I could and hid my “fly” in my hand as he approached.

“Looks like you’re doing okay,” he said.

“Getting a few,” I answered. “How about you, any luck?”

“Not even a sniff,” he said. “So, what are they taking?”

I looked at my shoes.

“C’mon now,” he said. “You’re not going to hold out on me, are you?”

“Um . . . well . . .”

“You’re kidding,” he interrupted, a little miffed. “You are going to hold out on me.”

“No, no,” I said finally. “I wouldn’t do that. They’re, um. . .well, they’re taking red-and-yellow strike indicators.”


I stretched out my hand, palm open, so he could see what I’d done, and he glared at it with what looked to me like a combination of horror and disgust.

“How’d you rig that?” he asked.

“I trimmed all the hackle and hair off a Stimulator and twisted the strike indicator around the hook shank.”

“Unbelievable,” he said. Then he just stood there shaking his head for while. He was clearly mulling something over. I figured he was trying to decide whether or not to confiscate my fly rod.

Finally, he surrendered. “You got an extra one of those?”