Wool Strike Indicators Can Help Your Fish Hookup Ratio

I know I've told you to "ditch the bobber." I've been hard on strike indicators, calling them "crutches," "training wheels" and other nasty things. I still think the professional guide who does nothing but drag nymphs through trout runs all day, every day, without endeavoring to teach beyond the indicator is lazy. I stand by what I've written in the past.

But I also am a realist. I know that success breeds interest. And in some places, at certain times, nothing works on a fly river as well as the high-stick nymph rig, period.

It took a bit of convincing, but I've been noodling around with a new strike indicator system recently. And it worked so well, I feel obliged to talk about it, even if that means eating some crow.

The StrikeIndicator tool was developed in New Zealand (famous for its fickle trophy trout). It's a pretty simple deal: Small tubing pieces are threaded on a tool that grabs the leader like a mini crochet hook. You pull the leader, slide the tube in place, and form a loop through which you place chunks of colored wool. Then you cinch the loop tight, and the wool stays in place -- you can slide it up and down the leader on a whim. You choose how much wool forms the indicator, depending on the currents you're fishing. You can go with orange-dyed wool, or white. I like white, because it looks like the bubbles already on the water.

To me, the wool is the real attraction. Why do we like things like wool sweaters and socks in the first place? Because they wick water. In the case of this indicator, a little dab will do. It rides high, but sinks quick on the tug, so it's super-responsive. Casting-wise, I think it slices through the air cleaner than a hard object, and it lands on the water surface with barely a splat.

I've learned that the wool can be shaped for effect. I like to make it stand up in a tapered "flame" shape. That post stands straight up when the weight and flies drop into the zone. Any hitch or bobble prompts me to set the hook. And when the flies are grabbed hard, it plunges.

The bottom line is that when I fish this system, I think I hook fish I would otherwise miss, were I using a different indicator.

The setup costs $16.95, which includes the tool, tubing, and some wool. Sounds like a lot compared to foam or other options, but it can last a long time if you're judicious about how you use and save the wool. And if you think you're missing fish (we all do, even in the best circumstances), I think it can help your hookup ratio. Check out StrikeIndicator.com for more details, and to see a video of how it all works.

Again, I'm not encouraging anyone to lean on the indicator as the end-all, be-all solution for catching trout with flies. But if you're going to go there -- and most of us go there, sooner or later -- this option is worth a hard look.