Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Michigan Fly Fishing Techniques - Indicator Technique

By Sherri Russell of She’s So Fly

Even among the fly fishing community, the technique is defined variously. Some anglers choose to fish nothing but dry flies, others refuse to fish a sinking line, and still others fish weighted flies but turn their noses up at split shot on a leader. What I have recognized is that these definitions carve up the sport along arbitrary lines, and that one angler's vision of fly fishing is not morally superior to another.

As a young girl, I only had the opportunity to fish with traditional bobbers and night crawlers.   As an adult female angler, I progressed to Michigan Indicator fly fishing, which is a great technique to use for an introduction to fly fishing.

I was initially surprised how the indicator played such an enormous role in successfully landing a fish.  From tiny colored corks for nymphing to larger thills for salmon; you constantly have to pay attention to the position of your indicator and keep it in an upright position by mending the line up stream to create a true drag free drift of your fly.  If you drag the indicator, you will surely disturb the natural flow of your presentation.  Your indicator will sit up strait if you are mending correctly, and you must have a natural drift or this technique will not work.

Do indicators spook fish? Absolutely. But for most anglers, the tradeoff in using an indicator is a positive one—for every fish scared away by the splash or shadow of an indicator, several are hooked by detecting strikes more quickly than could be done without the indicator.

Michigan Indicator fishing can be a very precise method of fishing for an exact depth in the water column. It is used for Salmon, Steelhead and Trout fishing.

The rig consists of a fly rod at least 10 feet in length and up to the longest Spey rods at 15 feet, action of your choice, with faster actions more suited to experienced casters and moderate actions more suited to the novice just trying to learn this method.  A traditional weight forward fly line with a long belly (a long head length, the thickest part of the fly line), a stiff butt section of 30 to 40 lb test saltwater line approximately 12 to 16 inches in length nail knotted to the fly line with a perfection loop or double surgeons loop on the end.  The indicator line is joined to the butt section with a handshake loop to loop join that has an indicator of your choice (personally I use Thill or Blackbird indicators for 99% of my fishing) slid on the indicator line and held in place with a small peg (or tooth pick), rubber band (my favorite) or many different methods.  The indicator can be adjusted easily up and down the line for proper depth, it consists of mono of approximately 12 to 16 lb test, joined to the tippet material with another handshake loop to loop join or a small black swivel with the heavier tag end left long, approximately 2 inches, for a single split shot, and your tippet material, usually fluorocarbon of approximately 4 to 5 feet with two flies spaced apart on the tippet.

Some of the better lines for this technique are: Scientific Anglers Steelhead taper, Orvis Wonderline Gen 3 Salmon-Steelhead taper and Rio Atlantic Salmon taper, any weight forward, long belly line will do, but these are specialty lines designed for this technique.

I also "hot rod" my rigs to make it easier to learn by cutting most of the tip off the fly line and upsizing the line at least 2 line sizes, like a 9wt line on a 7wt rod, it makes it much easier for the novice angler to get the proper roll cast. This is a technique that can't be learned by simply reading, hands on with an experienced guide showing and evaluating your casts can up your game immensely, and cut the learning curve in half or more.

Between traditional roll casting, different spey casts, and the associated mends needed for a true drag free drift, you can read about it, but you can’t truly visualize how the dynamics of the cast works without actually seeing it in action and practicing it yourself.



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