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Try Losing the Indicator

May 21, 2014

Indicator and beadhead nymph rigs have revolutionized fly fishing in recent years. Now beginners can readily catch fish and have fun on their first day on the water – fantastic!! Guides can put anglers of any skill level in position to have a banner day on our big western rivers.
As you might suspect, I see a flip side to that picture. Success with the bobber & beadhead has sometimes made both guides and anglers a bit complacent in trying other methods. Guides want success for their clients, so why not stay with the high percentage play? Anglers know what’s worked in the past, so stay with that one technique wherever and whenever they go fishing.  
Though I have no dispute with those choices or methods I do have some suggestions or strong opinions, as the title of this piece suggests. The main reason is that an angler will never truly learn how to fly cast with a bulky indicator and weighted nymph on the leader.
Once a flyfisher has become comfortable handling the gear, managing the line and drifting the fly without drag I think it’s time to take the next step – actually casting the line and fly.  With the indicator and weighted nymph rig it’s mainly a sort of ungainly lob, not a real cast, that gets your fly out there.
Learning how to cast means taking that paraphernalia off your line and maybe sacrificing some fish catching in the short term, but will pay off enormously in the end.  Nothing at all wrong with indicator nymphing, but my suggestion is you try something else as well.  
Many of our guests have experienced an exciting revelation when they’ve tried fishing without an indicator and working on their casting.  It’s fun!! Fishing dries, stripping streamers and swinging wet flies all become possible and open a whole new world of fly fishing.  Give it a try next time!