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Monday, November 28, 2011

Indicator Fishing for Carp: Part I

Having done a good deal of indicator fishing for Trout since the mid 80's I feel comfortable and proficient with the technique.

At Chopaka Lake, some 25 years ago, I observed another fly fisherman staring at a little pink ball sitting on the water. He was hoping for it to disappear under the surface of the water. Lo and behold it did. Several times.

Rowing nearer the pink ball I asked the owner what he was doing. He explained that the pink ball was a "strike indicator." He offered to give me one and a toothpick to boot. The toothpick was pushed in the pink ball and held it in place. I had never seen a "strike indicator" before but I could sure see that it was working. As I looked at the indicator it looked familiar to me. I asked, "Is this a pink pearl Corkie for Steelhead fishing?" He answered that it was. Who knew? I still had some in a drawer at home from when I used corkies and yarn for winter Steelhead in the 70's. Well, well, I had strike indicators and I didn't even know it.

Even back in the 70's I had already fished Chironomids for Trout for several years. At that time there were floating lines, wet tip lines, and full sinking lines. There were no density compensated lines or clear intermediate lines yet. If there were, they were certainly outside of my experience and not widely in use in the Pacific Northwest.

For Chironomid fishing a floating line wasn't quite right and a sinking line wasn't quite right either. Neither was a wet tip line. I finally created my own Chironomid lines. I took a floating line and cut off the last 5 feet. I spliced a short piece of dacron backing on the fly line. I made three different heads to experiment with. I spliced a piece of dacron on each of the heads. I had a 3.5 foot head, a 5 foot head and a 7.5 foot head. There were wet tip lines at the time with 10 foot sinking tips. I called my creations "wet nose" lines. They got the Chironomid to sink more than a floating line but not as much as a wet tip line. I used a bobbin threader to splice the two pieces of dacron together with each one inside the other. I know that sounds like it isn't possible but it is. They pulled on each other and worked like a Chinese finger trap.

I caught a lot of Trout with my wet nose lines. Over time I was almost exclusively fishing the two shorter tips.

That evening I first saw that guy staring at a Corkie, was a true "door opening experience" for me. I was already tying lots of Chironomids. In fact, I had a good deal more variations than the guy with the indicator. I gave him some flies that evening. He was fishing a TDC, one of the primary Chironomid imitations at the time. He told me it was his Chironomid. It was the only one he had and really the only one he knew of. It was black with a silver rib. Because I gave him some other colors he felt like he got the good end of the informal deal. I knew better; I was the one who got the good end of the deal because I had never seen someone indicator fish until that evening.

The more anglers asked of Corkies as strike indicators the more we all realized their limitations particularly as we tried to fish deeper water. Instead of pushing a toothpick in the Corkie we started pulling pieces of rubber bands through with a bobbin threader. The rubber band held the Corkie in place on the leader but made it much easier to slip down the leader to adjust for different depths.

Through the years I would try many different kinds of strike indicators for Trout and one kind for Steelhead. I moved off the Corkies as soon as I found other viable commercial alternatives.

Many of us tried tying antron yarn to the leader. We experimented with various twist and turn indicators, pinch on sticky foam indicators, and Bio-Strike. I have some funny and frustrating memories of fish taking the Bio-Strike indicator and just not wanting to let go. How could they take that stupid blob of orange goo and ignore my wonderful fly? How could they?!

Eventually, probably about 12 or 13 years ago, I came on the Quick Release Indicator from Waters West fly shop in Port Angeles, WA. While using indicators in deeper and deeper water a decided problem presented itself. If I was fishing a foot off the bottom in 17 feet of water I had 16 feet of leader below the indicator. It was darn difficult to reel in the fish and get it near the net. The Quick Release Indicator opened up yet another door in the "house of indicator fishing". I was now able to fish the deepest parts of Dry Falls Lake with a Chironomid. There were days when we were fishing with 27 foot leaders. The keys to making this work were to keep the indicator very near the fly line, not use a tapered leader, and NEVER put the fly in the boat. If the indicator is near the fly line (this is critical) it is actually surprisingly easy to cast the long leader.

Here's my biggest concern with indicator fishing. I really like indicator fishing when the indicator indicates. When the indicator doesn't indicate and just sits there and sits there, it is boring as hell. When a fish buries the indicator below the surface of the water that is of course very cool. When a fish just barely makes the indicator move sideways or even towards me it is so subtle. The very subtle takes are exciting in their own way and it is a great feeling to have the fish answer on the hookset. Ahh yes, indeed the take is The Premier Moment.

Since first trying the Quick Release Indicator I have also tried the Thingamabobbers, Frog Hair indicators, and O Ring indicators along with some of the newer foam indicators. I still haven't found anything that rivals the Quick Release Indicator.

Before I was writing this blog I was writing a column for North American Carp Angler magazine. As a result of that I would get email with comments and questions. I got a couple emails asking me if I ever indicator fished for Carp. I replied that I just didn't see the need.

McTage made a post in his blog where he talked about catching a Carp using an indicator. Gregg Martin, from Boise, Idaho, made a comment to that post and Gregg also made a comment on my blog. Before the indicator discussion Gregg sent me an email about San Juan Worm imitations and about alternatives. That started a lengthy exchange between Gregg and I. It has been a real eye-opener for me to learn how he is using indicators to catch Carp. I think another door may be opening for me in the "house of indicator fishing."

I asked Gregg a series of questions and his answers were fascinating. What an interesting man!

I will post my questions and his answers very soon.

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