Different Indicators and When to Use Them

Floating indicators have long been a go-to for fly anglers looking to better detect when a fish takes your fly. While there are dozens of options around and some people prefer Euro-Style or Tight-line nymphing styles, we will focus on the basic floating indicators and when to utilize each.  

When deciding which indicator to use for your given situation, there are a few things worth considering:

  1. Are the fish in this water spooky or sensitive to surface disturbances?
  2. How heavy will your nymph rig be?
  3. How deep is the water you are fishing?


Thingamabobber Indicators

Plastic indicators, whether it’s a Thingamabobber or an Airlock tend to be a go-to for most anglers. These are easy to attach to your leader and float high in the water. These work best for deep holes and runs where the fish are not very spooky or leader shy.  Due to their construction, they can support heavier nymph rigs without getting weighed down themselves.

But like with anything they have a few drawbacks that are important to consider when you are setting up your rig. They can kink up your leader, making it important to check your leader where the indicator was attached relatively frequently to make sure no kinkage is occurring. Due to their design, they can tend to land pretty heavily, even with the most delicate of presentations, making them not the most ideal choice for casting at shy trout in gin clear waters.

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Cork/Foam Indicators:

Postfly Box Set! Indicators

Cork has long been a go-to material for indicators, it doesn’t require floatant to stay buoyant and is lighter than plastic making it easier to cast. Some anglers even refer to their indicators as “corks”. Postfly’s indicators are our preferred style of indicator and are designed so that they avoid the “kinking” pitfall that their plastic compatriots have a tendency to do. Their main downfall is that you have to use a much larger cork indicator to support heavier nymph rigs.

Yarn or New Zealand Indicators:

New Zealand Yarn Indicators

Yarn is most likely one of the oldest indicators out there. Sometimes called “New Zealand Style Indicators” they are the lightest and stealthiest indicators out there unless you are dry-dropping.  As their name suggests they have gained notoriety as the best indicator to use when casting at spooky trout in crystal clear, shallow waters. They cannot support very heavy nymphs, but in the situations when you would use one, you will tend to be fishing very small nymphs. The yarn is difficult to see from the trout’s perspective and lands softly like a dry fly, so even the weariest of trout will have difficulty detecting it. The main drawback to this item is its tendency to sink after a while. This can be avoided or delayed by applying your liquid or gel floatant of choice as well as applying desiccant after a few drifts.

If you think we left out any important indicator types, or you have advice on how to maximize indicator use, please let us know in the comments!

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8 thoughts on “Different Indicators and When to Use Them

  1. Leah August 11, 2018 / 1:54 pm

    Would you put the Loon Outdoors Biostrike in the same category as cork indicators? It is *fairly* light, doesn’t kink your leader, and doesn’t require floatant… plus you can form as big or small a piece as you need. Personally, I like that it’s biodegradable, rather than a piece of plastic.

  2. Darren August 13, 2018 / 10:03 pm

    I like to use a European type leader with a bicolor monofilament to act as a strike indicator. There’s no splash or heavy hitting on the water. It keeps the line fairly tight so you can sense a strike quickly and accurately. The one drawback is it can be difficult to nymph at longer distances.

  3. James D. Michel August 14, 2018 / 6:08 am

    Wow! Such an awesome blog post you put here. Would you put the Methods of Taking Bait?

    Keep up the good postin..

  4. podepi inin December 10, 2018 / 11:37 am

    Wow! Such an awesome blog post you put here. Would you put the Methods of Taking Bait?

    Keep up the good postin..

  5. podepi inin December 10, 2018 / 11:40 am

    Wow! An awesome blog post it is! I found your post most resourceful. Now I am clear which indicator to use.

    Keep up the good posting please.

  6. Robert M. Boos January 7, 2019 / 7:32 am

    Thanks for your valuable share! Hope we will get good share always.

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