Q: Do you use a strike indicator or do you high stick and why?
A: To answer the question, I use BOTH techniques when fishing by myself and guiding clients, as they are very effective when used under the right circumstance.
I use the high sticking method when fishing faster moving, shallow (2-3 feet deep) pocket water. I’ll use a 7 to 9′ fluorocarbon leader because it sinks faster than mono. The key to this technique is to get your fly to the bottom as quickly as possible, so don’t be shy about using some split shot to help you accomplish this. Because the faster current will somewhat hide your presence from the fish, I like to wade right up to within a rod length or two of my target area. Flip the fly slightly upstream from the pocket you are zeroing in on and extend the rod tip out by keeping your arm straight out away from your body at a comfortable angle. There will be very little, possibly no fly line out of the rod tip (think fishing with just the leader). I like to keep the drifts short with little to no slack in the leader. For the most part, you’re concentrating on the feel, as the fish will hit your fly hard in this faster moving water, but also watch your leader for ticks and jerks as the current carries it downstream. Never be afraid to give a quick hook set when noticing any unnatural movement.
When it comes to fishing with an indicator, it should be noted that there are many people who consider using “bobbers” to be repulsive. However, their use can be very beneficial to determine drift and more importantly…seeing strikes. There are many different approaches to using indicators and I’ve used just about all of them from balloons, to putty (Bio Strike), pinch on self sticking indicators and even “greased” leaders. My personal favorite is to use a dry fly as an indicator.
One great aspect of our sport is that if we keep an open mind there is always something out on the water that we can learn from. Even after 30 years of chasing all sorts of fresh and salt water species, I’m constantly changing techniques and learning new ideas.
Kelly Bandlow ~ CWO Professional Guide