I live and fish on the San Juan River in New Mexico. I get to watch other anglers, sometimes too many other anglers, and examine what they are doing. Perhaps one of the most remarkable things I witness is how casting has changed. There are more novice or inexperienced anglers on the river now and they are trying to make the best of the new breed of rods. For the most part, casting is becoming more of a “lobbing”, open-loop activity with little finesse or accuracy in the presentation. I understand that and it is possible for these anglers to catch fish if they are dragging nymphs as most do on the river here. No particular skill or accuracy is required. While we have some excellent dry fly fishing in the baetis “seasons”, as well as the indomitable midge that hatches every day of the year, we also have some dynamite streamer and micro-jig fishing just about any time you wish to fish them. And wet flies, a little understood fly of past times, can produce some great catches for those who venture to cast them. However, for most anglers these techniques are seemingly beyond them so they tend to take the easiest road to a catch which is to lob nymphs onto the water cast after cast. Unfortunately they are missing out on some great action!
To facilitate this style of fishing, a whole new breed of strike indicator come on the scene. I am speaking here of the Thingamabobber and its many relatives. They are just bobbers in the truest sense, made in China, and simply a marketing tool with little thought to their utility. They are highly visible (unfortunately, to the fish as well), they float high, they are brightly colored, and can be fished pretty much like you might do with a cane pole, and a can of worms. Lob ‘em out there and watch ‘em float. If the bobber goes under you set the hook. That’s how my dad taught me to catch bream. I can’t fault bobbers if that is your idea of fly fishing, but their utility stops there and you automatically eliminate about 90% of the techniques available with other styles of strike indicators. Bobbers tend to kink your leader and do not move easily up on down the leader to accommodate different depths of water, and as I said above, the fish easily recognize them and will actually move away from your drift as I have seen them do many times here on heavily fished water. You have to remove your fly to install them as well.
If you want to learn some advanced techniques that will put catchin’ in your favor about any day of the year, keep readin’. I want to help you become a better angler with a bunch of different strategies in your kit. Dump the Thingamabobbers in the trash and pick up a pack of TOSI or Jerk! Alert strike indicators and try some new (actually “old”) techniques with different types of flies. I pioneered many of these techniques with old style strike indicators that pre-dated the bobber craze of today. These are perfected strategies that will greatly expand your fishing experience.
|Jerk! Alert Strike Indicators|
TOSI and Jerk! Alert Strike Indicators have it all over bobbers! They are a no-brainer to cast, float high, and are adjustable up and down the leader in an instant without damaging the leader in any way. They can be re-used over and over and do not require the fly to be removed to install or un-install them. And most importantly, they ” lock” to the leader so they stay on, and stay where you put them. There’s not much more you could ask from a strike indicator. Well, I guess you could ask them to have a fish locating chip in them. While we haven’t perfected that quite yet we may eventually get there.
What has been done however is to create colors and shapes that don’t cause the fish to spook. The new TOSI and Jerk! Alerts come in an assortment of colors that are fluorescent and therefore still very visible to the angler, even in low light, but they are subdued in color so that they don’t frighten fish. Fluorescence means that they capture the ambient light, even low light, and magnify it to be easily seen by the angler. One of the special colors is Low Light White which will jump off the water at you under any condition, but because it is silhouetted against the bright sky for a fish, it is nearly invisible when seen from beneath the surface of the water. They are even available in fluorescent, subdued river rock camo colors!
FISHING TOSI AND JERK! ALERTS WITH STREAMERS
Joe Brooks, the father of modern fly fishing, unfortunately never had the opportunity to use one of the new TOSI or Jerk! Alert Strike Indicators with a streamer. When he wrote his landmark book, Trout Fishing, 44 years ago, strike indicators were, at best, in their infancy and he never mentioned them. I personally think if Joe were alive today and fishing next to me on the stream, he would likely use strike indicators for some types of fishing. The question then is, “What kind of strike indicator would Joe Brooks have used, and for what kind of fishing?” He was a very innovative angler and I think he would have liked the new TOSI and Jerk! Alert Strike Indicators which allow casting with the same ease and precision to which he was accustomed with a streamer. Several very magical things will happen when you are fishing them with a streamer.
They allow you to more accurately and easily control the drift of your fly. On across-the-stream casts, the line can be easily mended to permit maximum depth penetration of the streamer before it reaches the end of the drift and starts the swing. It allows a more immediate detection of a strike because you have a point of focus instead of trying to detect line movement. By varying the position of the TOSI or Jerk! Alert Strike Indicator you can regulate how deeply the fly will sink on the drift and how deeply it will retrieve on the swing. If you are imparting movement, perhaps stripping the fly, then you can make the fly movements jig up and down instead of pulsing in a straight line with the fly line. If you are fishing windy conditions with a little chop on the water, it is possible to make a cast and then let the wave action do the movement for you as the indicator bounces with the waves and so moves the suspended fly.
Because of their awkward position, hanging onto the side of the leader, Thingamabobbers and other bobbers like them, resist being fished in this fashion. Not only are they more the difficult to cast and retrieve, but they are about as hydrodynamic on the surface of the water as, well . . . a basketball. They create a great deal of splashing as they move along on the surface of the water. Fly fishing with bobbers will seriously limit your fish catching opportunities.
ENHANCED WET FLY STRATEGIES
I think that the reason traditional wet fly fishing seems to have fallen out of favor is because most of the knowledge of the techniques and strategies has been lost or become obscure. Most anglers just aren’t exposed to this style of fly fishing anymore. It takes skill, technique, understanding the fish, and the “hows and whys” they hit this kind of fly. It can be one of the most exciting and productive strategies on the water to the serious and accomplished angler. Small versions of TOSI and Jerk! Alert indicators can greatly increase the productivity of these tiny flies. Wet flies work in much the same way as streamers, but on longer leaders. Wet flies generally imitate very small baitfish as well as aquatic insects. The small versions of TOSI’s and Jerk! Alerts provide a point of focus to enhance accuracy of drift and detection of subtle strikes. One of the difficulties of fishing wet flies can be the hook-up after a strike. The take will typically be on a line that is making a swing in the water and if the strike is subtle it will sometimes pass un-noticed because you won’t feel or see the take until it is too late. TOSI and Jerk! alert Strike Indicators become a natural part of the process without taking any of the skill and finesse away from the presentation. This is just not a possible technique for a “bobber lobber” to consider.
THE INDOMITABLE MICRO-JIG
Micro-jigs with a TOSI or Jerk! Alert Strike Indicator can be one of the most productive and exciting fishing techniques you will ever experience. I like to believe that I personally helped develop many of these techniques in my youth on rivers throughout the Ozarks like the White, Little Red, Norfork, Roaring River, and Bennett Springs, and on major rivers in the west like the San Juan, the Madison, the Yellowstone, and the Henry’s Fork at Railroad Ranch, just to name a few. We caught some really big fish back in the 60’s on fly cast micro-jigs when most anglers were not.
Micro-jigs are tied on small jig hooks which means that the hook point retrieves in an upright position. Unlike a streamer, with the hook point turned downward, jigs tend to hook fish successfully on about 90+ percent of strikes. I rarely miss when a fish strikes a micro-jig. Streamers on the other hand will only average about one hook-up for every 3 strikes. There are some situations where you might improve that, but that is my average.
Because the hook point is pointing up, I use as small a hook as possible, no larger than a size 8, so that the fish is not injured by hooking deeply into the upper jaw. I have micro-jigs in sizes 1/64, 1/100, 1/180, and 1/300 oz. These are all on size 10 and 12 hooks. The range of tying strategies for micro-jigs seems endless, but marabou in a range of colors is one of my best pattern choices. I fish leaders in the range of 8 to 10 feet and use a TOSI or Jerk! Alert Strike Indicator of a size that will stay afloat with the weight of the jig. Fished like a streamer, I occasionally twitch the indicator on the retrieve, which makes the jig come to life. This is a deadly technique and will catch the largest fish in the river, as it has done that for me a number of times. With eyes always focused on the indicator, a strike is easily detected and a hook-up is generally automatic. Like I mentioned above for streamers, wave action in the wind can make a lazy fisherman out of you because the tantalizing up and down motion the waves impart to the rig means that you just let it float and wait for the strike. These are all very exciting “action” techniques that await the savvy fly fisherman.
TOSI AND JERK! ALERT STRIKE INDICATORS FOR NYMPH FISHING
Of course, TOSI and Jerk Alerts are a natural for the nymph fisherman. While I see nymph fishing practiced here on the San Juan as mostly a “one rig bobber suits all” technique, true nymph fishing is actually a very dynamic approach to fly fishing and it can’t be mastered with a Thingamabobber. It requires continual stream and fish monitoring to present the fly directly to the fishes’ feeding lie.
The depth the fish may hold can change dramatically as a hatch goes from non-existent to exploding in just moments. Stream conditions may be shallow and swift in a riffle, to deep and slow in a hole and you need to be able to accommodate the conditions at any location by easily moving the indicator up or down the leader, or changing the size of the indicator if needed. It’s important to have the option to change from a large shot and larger indicator in deep water to a small shot and smaller indicator in shallow water without having to re-tie the fly to the tippet. (And if you want to know how to change your weight as easily as your strike indicator, just check out Toobies Shot online!) Fish in heavily fished water become very sensitive to the bright colors and shapes of most strike indicators. I see them frequently move from the line of a drift as a Thingamabobber drifts into their sightline. The smaller, more obscure, but fluorescent qualities of the new TOSI and Jerk! Alert Strike Indicators make them less noticed as they approach the fish, but thanks to their special fluorescent qualities they are still highly visible to the fisherman.
Casting a fly with a TOSI or Jerk! Alert Strike Indicator attached is much easier than casting a Thingamabobber. Bobbers sit off the side of the leader and form a “hinge” in the leader that will frequently cause tangles when cast. TOSI and Jerk! Alerts are attached as an integral part of the leader and are essentially undetectable when casting.
I hope this has helped you see the importance of fishing the right kind of strike indicator for true fly fishing techniques. If you aren’t interested in that, or you just want to be a “bobber lobber”, so be it. If on the other hand you want to learn to be an accomplished fly fisherman who understands and adapt his techniques to what he finds happening at the stream on each outing, then be sure you have a pack or two of TOSI or Jerk! Alert strike indicators in your vest. Literally millions of our Skip’s Original Turn-On style strike indicators have been sold in the past 25 years. I personally believe that sends a strong message about what really works in fly fishing still today.
Go to www.skipsoriginals.com now for details on how to order.