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Best Methods for Indicator Fishing for Trout | How To

In the informative video titled “Best Methods for Indicator Fishing for Trout | How To” by Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing, Tom provides detailed instructions on the most effective strategies for using indicators when fishing for trout. The video covers a range of topics, including the importance of timing in indicator fishing, various fly fishing techniques such as urban fly fishing and tying the glitter bug, and tips for locating brown trout. Tom emphasizes the use of indicators or dry droppers when nymph fishing, and discusses different types of indicators, including soft plastic, foam, cork, and yarn indicators. The video also touches on rigging and fishing techniques, such as mending, casting, and adding weights, and offers insights on using two flies for optimal results. It provides valuable information on detecting strikes, playing the fish, and landing them, and is supported by reputable organizations and brands in the fly fishing industry. Overall, this video serves as a comprehensive guide for anyone interested in mastering indicator fishing for trout.

Choosing the Right Indicators

Indicators are an essential tool for fly fishing for trout, as they allow anglers to detect strikes and effectively present their flies to the fish. However, not all indicators are created equal, and choosing the right one for the specific fishing conditions is crucial for success.

Different types of indicators

There are several types of indicators available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Soft plastic indicators, such as the popular Thingamabobber, are lightweight and highly visible, making them ideal for most fishing situations. Foam indicators, like the Airlock, are durable and float well, but they can sometimes catch on the leader and tangle. Cork and yarn indicators offer sensitivity and versatility, as they can be easily adjusted in size and color. Ultimately, the choice of indicator depends on personal preference and fishing conditions.

Considerations for selecting the right indicator

When selecting an indicator, anglers should consider factors such as water flow, visibility, and sensitivity. In fast-flowing rivers, a larger, more buoyant indicator might be necessary to support the weight of the flies and remain visible on the surface. In calm waters, a smaller, more subtle indicator can be used to prevent spooking the fish. Additionally, using a sensitive indicator, like yarn, can help anglers detect subtle strikes that might otherwise go unnoticed. Ultimately, choosing the right indicator requires careful consideration of the fishing conditions and the angler’s individual preferences.

Matching Depth and Behavior

Matching the depth of the flies to the bottom of the river is essential for successful indicator fishing. Trout often stay close to the river bottom, where the current is slower and it is easier for them to hold their position. By adjusting the depth of the flies, anglers can present their offerings at the trout’s eye level and increase the chances of a strike.

Understanding trout behavior is also crucial when fishing with indicators. Most insects and crustaceans that trout feed on are weak swimmers and drift with the current. Trout are adept at distinguishing between natural drifts and suspicious activity, so it is important to make sure that the flies are drifting naturally with the current. By observing the behavior of the trout and adjusting the depth and drift accordingly, anglers can increase their chances of enticing a strike.

Best Methods for Indicator Fishing for Trout | How To

Rigging and Fishing with Indicators

Once the right indicator has been chosen and the depth and behavior have been matched, it is important to rig and fish with the indicator effectively.

Different ways to rig indicators

There are several ways to rig indicators depending on the fishing conditions and personal preference. The most common method is to attach the indicator to the leader using a slip knot, allowing it to slide up and down the leader and adjust the depth of the flies. Other methods include using a pegged indicator, which provides a fixed depth, or using a dropper rig, where the indicator is fixed at a certain point on the leader and a second fly is attached below it.

Effective casting techniques

Casting with an indicator requires some adjustments compared to casting with dry flies. It is important to use a smooth and controlled casting motion to prevent the flies from tangling or the indicator from being pulled under by the line. Anglers should also pay attention to their backcast and avoid excessive false casting, as this can disturb the water and potentially spook the fish.

Adding weights for optimal presentation

In some cases, adding weights to the rig can help achieve the desired presentation. Split shot weights can be added to the leader above the flies to help them sink to the desired depth. It is important to add the weights carefully and adjust their placement according to the fishing conditions, as too much weight can cause the flies to sink unnaturally and deter strikes.

Mending techniques for better drift

Mending is a crucial technique when fishing with indicators, as it allows anglers to control the speed and drift of the flies. By making upstream or downstream mends in the fly line, anglers can eliminate drag and achieve a more natural drift. It is important to mend the line as soon as it hits the water to ensure a drag-free presentation.

Using Two Flies with Indicators

Using two flies in conjunction with an indicator can increase the chances of enticing a strike and catching more trout. There are two popular methods for using two flies with indicators: the dry dropper method and the two nymph setup.

Dry dropper method

The dry dropper method involves attaching a dry fly as the indicator and a nymph as the dropper fly. This setup allows anglers to imitate surface insects, while also presenting a subsurface offering. The dry fly acts as both an indicator and a potential target for the trout, while the nymph entices strikes below the surface.

Two nymph setup

The two nymph setup involves attaching two nymphs to the leader, with the indicator placed above them. This setup allows anglers to present two different types of nymphs or different sizes to increase their chances of matching the trout’s feeding preferences. Using different color combinations or sizes can also help determine which nymphs the fish are keying in on.

Advantages of using two flies

Using two flies with indicators offers several advantages. Firstly, it allows anglers to cover more water and present different patterns simultaneously, increasing the chances of finding what the trout are feeding on. Secondly, the addition of a second fly can act as an attractor, drawing the fish’s attention to the rig. Lastly, using two flies can help anglers determine what the trout are responding to, as they may prefer one fly over the other.

Best Methods for Indicator Fishing for Trout | How To

Detecting Strikes and Playing the Fish

Detecting strikes is a critical skill when fishing with indicators, as trout strikes can often be subtle and easily missed.

Tips for detecting subtle strikes

When fishing with indicators, it is important to closely watch the indicator for any signs of movement or hesitation. Subtle movements, such as a slight twitch or a dip underwater, can indicate a strike. Additionally, paying attention to line movement or any changes in tension can also help detect strikes. Anglers should be vigilant and ready to set the hook at the slightest indication of a strike.

Proper hook set techniques

When a strike is detected, it is crucial to set the hook correctly to secure the fish. The key to a successful hook set is a smooth and swift motion, without excessive force. It is important not to jerk the rod or yank the line, as this can result in a lost fish. Instead, a quick, firm strip or a gentle lift of the rod tip is usually sufficient to set the hook.

Playing and fighting the trout

Once hooked, it is important to play the fish properly to maximize the chances of landing it successfully. Playing a trout involves letting the fish run when it needs to, while also maintaining steady pressure on the line. Anglers should avoid excessive force or sudden movements that could cause the fish to break off. Instead, they should let the fish tire itself out gradually and bring it closer to the net or landing area.

Landing the fish safely

To land the fish safely, anglers should have a landing net ready and positioned in the water before bringing the fish close. When the fish is within reach, anglers should guide it gently into the net head-first, taking care not to lift it out of the water by the leader. It is important to handle the fish with wet hands or a landing net to avoid removing the protective slime layer on their skin. Once the fish is safely in the net, anglers can carefully unhook it and release it back into the water.

Timing and Indicator Fishing

The timing of indicator fishing can greatly affect its effectiveness, as trout feeding behavior is influenced by various factors.

Understanding the importance of timing

Trout feeding behavior can vary depending on the time of day, weather conditions, and seasonal changes. Being aware of when trout are most active and likely to feed can significantly increase the chances of success. Adjusting fishing times to coincide with periods of heightened activity, such as early morning or late evening, can yield better results.

Best times of day for indicator fishing

The best times of day for indicator fishing are generally early morning and late evening, when trout are more active and actively feeding. During these parts of the day, water temperatures are often cooler, and insect hatches are more likely to occur. While trout can be caught throughout the day, focusing on these peak periods can improve catch rates.

Factors affecting trout feeding behavior

Trout feeding behavior is influenced by various factors, including water temperature, oxygen levels, insect activity, and predator presence. As cold-blooded creatures, trout are more active in cooler water temperatures, which can increase their metabolism and feeding activity. Insect hatches and other food sources can also trigger feeding behavior, as trout actively seek out available prey. Additionally, the presence of predators, such as birds or larger fish, can influence trout behavior and make them more cautious.

Tips and Techniques for Effective Indicator Fishing

To make the most of indicator fishing, anglers can employ a variety of tips and techniques.

Choosing the right flies

Selecting the appropriate flies for indicator fishing is critical for success. Researching the local insect hatches and matching the hatch with realistic fly patterns can greatly improve catch rates. Additionally, having a variety of patterns in different sizes and colors can increase the chances of finding what the trout are actively feeding on.

Presentation techniques

Presenting the flies in a natural and realistic manner is essential for enticing strikes. Anglers should aim for a drag-free drift by adjusting the depth, mending the line, and using proper casting techniques. By imitating the natural movements of the insects or food sources, anglers can increase their chances of fooling the trout.

Adapting to changing conditions

The ability to adapt to changing fishing conditions is crucial for success. Anglers should be prepared to switch fly patterns, adjust the depth of the flies, or change their presentation techniques if the fishing becomes slow or the trout show a preference for different food sources. Flexibility and experimentation are key to consistently catching trout.

Reading the water

Being able to read the water and understand the underwater structure can greatly enhance the effectiveness of indicator fishing. Recognizing where trout are likely to hold, such as in riffles, pools, or behind rocks, can help anglers target their casts and increase their chances of finding fish. Paying attention to current seams, eddies, and other features of the river can also provide clues as to where the trout may be feeding.

Urban Fly Fishing and Indicator Fishing

Urban fly fishing offers a unique and rewarding experience for anglers, and indicators can be particularly effective in these environments.

Introduction to urban fly fishing

Urban fly fishing involves fishing for trout or other species in rivers or streams within or adjacent to urban areas. These urban waters often offer surprising opportunities for anglers, as they are often overlooked and less pressured than more remote locations. Urban fly fishing provides a convenient and accessible way for anglers to pursue their passion without having to travel long distances.

Advantages of using indicators in urban environments

Using indicators can be particularly advantageous in urban environments where fly fishing is often done in tighter quarters and with potentially more obstacles. Indicators allow anglers to precisely control the depth and presentation of their flies, making it easier to navigate around trees, rocks, or other structures. Additionally, indicators make strikes easier to detect in busy or noisy urban environments, where visual cues might be more difficult to spot.

Tips for finding trout in urban settings

Finding trout in urban settings can be a challenge, but with some knowledge and observation, anglers can increase their chances of success. Trout in urban waters often seek out areas with cooler water temperatures and higher oxygen levels, such as deep pools, undercuts, or riffles. These fish may also be attracted to structures like bridges, culverts, or submerged logs, which provide cover and protection from predators. By carefully observing the water and looking for these features, anglers can locate trout in unexpected urban settings.

Tying the Glitter Bug and Indicator Fishing

Tying your own flies is a rewarding aspect of fly fishing, and the Glitter Bug is a versatile pattern that can be used effectively with indicators.

Step-by-step guide to tying the Glitter Bug fly

The Glitter Bug is a simple yet effective nymph pattern that imitates a variety of aquatic insects. To tie the Glitter Bug, start by attaching a curved nymph hook to the vise. Next, tie in a section of lead wire to weight the fly and provide its distinctive shape. Then, select a dubbing material that matches the desired color and dub it onto the thread. Wrap the dubbed thread around the hook to create the body of the fly, leaving some space at the head for the next step.

To create a wing case, tie in a piece of holographic tinsel or flash along the top of the hook. Trim the excess material and secure it with thread wraps. Finally, use a whip finish or half-hitch to secure the thread and complete the fly. The Glitter Bug can be tied in a variety of colors and sizes to match the specific insect or food source the trout are feeding on.

How to fish the Glitter Bug with indicators

Fishing the Glitter Bug with indicators is similar to fishing any other nymph pattern. Rig the Glitter Bug below the indicator, adjusting the depth according to the fishing conditions. Cast the rig upstream and allow it to drift naturally with the current, making occasional mends to eliminate drag. Watch the indicator closely for any signs of movement or hesitation, as this can indicate a strike.

Tips for success with the Glitter Bug

To increase the effectiveness of fishing the Glitter Bug with indicators, anglers can incorporate different presentation techniques and adjust the depth and weight of the rig. Experimenting with different retrieves, such as stripping the fly or adding twitches, can entice more strikes. Additionally, adding weight to the rig can help achieve the desired depth and improve the fly’s drift.


Indicator fishing is a versatile and effective method for pursuing trout with flies. By choosing the right indicators, matching the depth and behavior of the trout, using proper rigging and presentation techniques, employing two flies, detecting strikes and playing the fish effectively, considering timing and various tips and techniques, urban fly fishing with indicators, tying the Glitter Bug, and understanding the importance of timing and indicator fishing, anglers can greatly increase their chances of success on the water. With practice, patience, and a comprehensive understanding of these concepts, anglers can master the art of indicator fishing and enjoy a truly rewarding fly fishing experience.

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