Are strike indicators taboo on chalkstreams?

thetrouttickler

Well-known member
Joined
May 15, 2009
Messages
1,786
Location
Sussex
I have spent most of this season fishing chalkstreams, where the rules generally stipulate a single fly [so no Klink and Dink].

The books all refer to this magical thing called sight nymphing. I'm sure it can be learned over time, but to a novice a strike indicator is like a comfort blanket to a child. Plus, there are plenty of places in chalkstreams where you can't see the fish 100% either, and have no clue when to strike.

I get the sense strike indicators are frowned upon when fishing chalkstreams. Are they? If so why?

Do you use strike indicators on chalkstreams?

If not, how do you know when to strike when fishing a nymph on chalkstreams?

How did you manage to do it without an indicator when you were a beginner? Persistence, losing the majority of fish, until you just picked it up?
 

Reg Wyatt

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
850
I have spent most of this season fishing chalkstreams, where the rules generally stipulate a single fly [so no Klink and Dink].

The books all refer to this magical thing called sight nymphing. I'm sure it can be learned over time, but to a novice a strike indicator is like a comfort blanket to a child. Plus, there are plenty of places in chalkstreams where you can't see the fish 100% either, and have no clue when to strike.

I get the sense strike indicators are frowned upon when fishing chalkstreams. Are they? If so why?

Do you use strike indicators on chalkstreams?

If not, how do you know when to strike when fishing a nymph on chalkstreams?

How did you manage to do it without an indicator when you were a beginner? Persistence, losing the majority of fish, until you just picked it up?
I suspect that there are some beats where they are taboo trouttickler but not all and as you say some beats are deeper and you can't always see the fish. I've always used the end of my fly line as an indicator, as in any stop in it and I strike. When fishing for grayling at the top of the Test and you can see them very clearly I don't think there is anything that could possibly detect some of the takes. Just a slight waver in the fish is enough to strike. Quite incredible how often the fish has your nymph yet you don't see it. Must be thousands of missed bites with grayling!
I think a quick question to the river keeper about indicators would be your best bet.

Re Wyatt
 

kevin55

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2010
Messages
106
Location
London NW; originally from South Derbyshire
On some waters if they are not specifically disallowed you can use them. I regard it as float fishing but many people 'fish to the rules'.
I did ask the bailiff on the Avon once, about another angler using a big piece of foam above a nymph and he just said 'it's not disallowed'
I watch the leader and, if I can, the fish
 

thetrouttickler

Well-known member
Joined
May 15, 2009
Messages
1,786
Location
Sussex
Thanks for the replies, Reg and Kevin. I take it from both of your replies, reading between the lines, that it is frowned upon if not strictly against the rules. "It's just not cricket".

My background is blind casting on freestone rivers, so I struggle with the idea of no indicator. I have been fishing some of the lesser known (read cheaper) chalkstreams this season, where there aren't any keepers to ask, and I have used a small amount of white wool as an indicator (NZ indicator). But soon I'm going to fish some of the bigger name rivers - well that's the dream anyway - and I want to get up to speed both in terms of experience without an indicator and what is expected.

(The differences between freestone rivers and chalkstreams would be enough to write a book about, and I have found the going tough, but that's for another thread)

Two weekends ago, I tried it without an indicator to two sighted fish.

The first fish was dead upstream of me. I cast the fly normally, and as it drifted in range the fish seemed to freeze momentarily and then moved to its left to where I thought the fly was. I say thought, because it was a pure guess. I struck and connected. It was only when I landed the fish that I realised it was foul hooked. I might have struck too early or too late or perhaps the fish hadn't even moved to my fly at all. Who knows.

The second fish was under low hanging tree branches on the far bank. I managed to drift a nymph under the branches, and the fish moved to its left. I struck, saw the fish recoil and felt the connection, but the fly dislodged. I don't know if it took the fly, or if it was perhaps foul hooked.

Neither of these two experiences filled me with much confidence. Perhaps its just a timing issue? Should I wait for the fish to turn back to its lie (because I didn't do that)? My instinct tells me the fish will quickly expel the nymph when it realises something is amiss.

What do you do in mill races and hatch pools where you can't see the bottom? I would think the end of the fly line is too far away from the fly to be reliable enough. I wonder if a, say, 6 inch length of coloured nylon between leader and tippet would be any better received?

Good to know, I will obviously have to force myself to keep doing it. And I'll speak to the keepers too.
 

BobP

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 28, 2007
Messages
8,178
Location
Wiltshire
Sight fishing to observed feeding trout is great fun, but does take a bit of time to learn. I did it by first watching fish and seeing how they behave plus reading the works of Kite, Sawyer and particularly Skues.

Basically a nymphing trout looks busy in the water. He flits from side to side, sometimes turns about and goes downstream a foot or two before returning to his position. If you watch carefully you may see that little white flicker as his mouth opens and closes and this is the real giveaway. Half an hour out of your day watching trout feeding will pay for itself many times over.

So, how to catch that fish. The classic way is to use a lightly weighted PTN - I would use a size 16 with no more than a 2mm tungsten bead on it - cast upstream of the fish so that it sinks to his level by the time it gets to him. Ideally cast to one side but no more than a foot out. If the fish moves to that side when you THINK the nymph is there then you strike. The trick is in not striking too soon. I wait until the fish's movement to the side stops because that is the most likely moment that he will have your nymph.

Are strike indicators frowned upon on chalkstreams? Strike indicators are frowned upon full stop, and especially by those who would rather catch nothing than use one. As Reg points out, many stretches of the Test and the other chalk rivers are quite deep and fish are not always visible so under those circumstances I see no reason not to use one. I often do when guiding and especially for those rods who are not very experienced. I don't use foam indicators, but instead use sheep's wool attached to the leader by the New Zealand method. Sheep's wool being white looks much like a feather and is less likely to spook a fish than a brightly coloured Fish Pimp or similar.

I would certain put nymphing under an indicator in a much higher sporting bracket than stripping a daddy long legs which seems to be a Test favourite. If people are going to do that they might as well use a Blob.
 

thetrouttickler

Well-known member
Joined
May 15, 2009
Messages
1,786
Location
Sussex
Are strike indicators frowned upon on chalkstreams? Strike indicators are frowned upon full stop, and especially by those who would rather catch nothing than use one.
Thanks Bob.

I think I will have to take a leap of faith and force myself to do it more. Lose the training wheels. The one thing I have noticed, when doing it with a strike indicator when I can see the fish, is that the indicator dips some way after it looks like the fish has taken the fly. I think then I must have struck too soon in the two examples I gave above. And it also suggests a confidence in waiting a little longer than I have to strike.

I think your statement above about strike indicators being frowned upon full stop, might be a little too controversial. Perhaps only by a tiny minority. I'd like to see them forego one on a coloured freestone river.
 

BobP

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 28, 2007
Messages
8,178
Location
Wiltshire
trouttickler

I was very early into the use of indicators. 1978 on Farmoor Reservoir. No-one batted an eyelid. In 1989 I wrote an article about indicators for Trout & Salmon - the first article as far as I am aware, dedicated solely to the method. No adverse comment whatsoever. I re-hashed the piece for Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine about three years later. Still no adverse comment.

I think I was the first to use an indicator in an International rules competition in 1991 and later that year at the River National Final and again the following year at the International. Still no-one was that concerned.

Slowly the use of indicators increased on stillwaters and rivers alike and oddly enough, now people began to comment and certainly by 2000 there were a number of people ready to hurl abuse at anyone admitting to using indicators and worst of all - catching fish using one!

I, certainly, have been on the receiving end of quite a lot of that abuse on this forum and have been accused of cheating on more than a few occasions. Oddly enough those are often the self-same people who see nothing wrong in stripping a blob through a shoal of stockies and go home thinking they are great anglers.

Then we have the character who swears uphill and down dale that he can see the end of the fly line twitch twenty yards out in a ripple on a reservoir in grey, reflected light. I can't, but being ever willing to learn I have challenged at least half a dozen of these to come to Farmoor on a day of my choosing and show me how they do it. None has ever taken me up on it, even when I've offered to pay for their day ticket if they can definitely demonstrate that they can see the take under the above conditions and catch the fish responsible.

So, yes, I stand by my comment that indicators are frowned upon and by a larger number than you may realise. My tactics, certainly on large waters revolve around the use of buzzers fished at varying depths up to at least 10' in the early season when I will use an indicator because long experience has taught me that at that time of year that is the only way to identify takes. I caught 13 fish at Chew in late March last year and 9 of them were signalled by the indicator going under with no feeling of anything out of the ordinary in the hand. I had four friends from my club out on the same day and I caught as many as the rest of them put together. No point at all in getting the fly into the the right spot if you can't tell when a fish has taken it.

It is extremely odd that only UK anglers it seems are antagonistic towards indicators. Go to New Zealand, British Columbia, the US and anywhere in Europe indicators are in use by thinking anglers who recognise that they are an essential part of their equipment.
 

JohnH

Well-known member
Joined
May 18, 2006
Messages
4,316
Location
Near Southampton
Speaking as someone who aspires to be a pragmatic and versatile angler, I see the indicator as one method among many to have in my locker. Specifically on chalkstreams, Simon Cooper positively commends their use in his useful "Hatch Calendar" and if they are all right for Simon, I use them when appropriate without a backward glance. Note that, even early in the third decade of the 21st century, some beats still mandate dry fly only at certain times, and if that's the case you should comply.

The indicator is not a universal panacea, no method is, but in the right conditions on both chalkstreams and lakes, as described by Bob, it's an excellent aid.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: ACW

pati

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Messages
601
Fish whatever and however you want (within the rules of the fishery of course), it doesn’t matter what people say!

If you want to be a purist then it s upstream dry fly only. But that dates from a time when trouts and insects were plenty...
If you fish the Nymph you are no longer a purist... but the great F Sawyer was fishing the Nymph with a purpose that makes me think that if he had thought about it he might have used indicators in certain circumstances (ie. When you can’t see the fish as an example).
One could also argue that Dry fly fishing is like fishing an indicator: when your dry fly disappears you have to strike...


Anyway: just fish however pleases you! As long as you respect the rules,anyone bothering you with your method is just an *****! Each to its own, and that comes from a guy who would probably be fishing chalkstream 95% upstream dry fly only with a bamboo rod and silk line (but when the situation calls for it I would not hesitate tying a Nymph, indicator or even streamer or streamer under indicator... as long as rules allow).

There is just not enough time for fishing in this world to on top restrict your ways of enjoying your passion
 

pati

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Messages
601
A streamer under an indicator on a chalkstream? Now THAT is a bridge too far.
Well I wouldn’t hesitate a second if authorised by the rules and called for by a specific situation!

I never really understand why people care so much about how others fish... I catch and release on top so it s not as if what I catch is then no longer available for other anglers...
 

thetrouttickler

Well-known member
Joined
May 15, 2009
Messages
1,786
Location
Sussex
For me, it is a respect thing. If there is an established etiquette, I want to know what it is. I don't want to ruffle feathers by being some rebel without a cause. I'm not somebody who goes out of my way to do something because it isn't written down somewhere in the rules. Some rules are unwritten. I'm a proponent of FIFO (not the common accounting meaning).

I have no issue with indicators on rivers. I have fished in some of the places around the world Bob mentions where nobody bats an eyelid and that has influenced me. But more importantly, I can see that nymphing without an indicator takes a great deal more skill than nymphing with an indicator, so I want to challenge myself to develop the skills to do it effectively. If I have the privilege of fishing a river where I can see the fish react to the fly, which is quite a rarity, I'd prefer to catch it without an indicator, because I think the reward is greater.
 
Last edited:

pati

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Messages
601
If I have the privilege of fishing a river where I can see the fish react to the fly, which is quite a rarity, I'd prefer to catch it without an indicator, because I think the reward is greater.
I fully agree with that!

That said my opinion is there should not be an etiquette as this is subject to interpretation, just rules, and as long as you are well within the rules, then do what you want :)
 

JCP

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 14, 2008
Messages
2,658
Location
Dorset Wilts Borders & Baja
Indicators are a godsend when nymphing period.When fishing mixed fishery rivers like our local Dorset Stour/Hampshire Avon and lower Dorset Frome often fishing more than one nymph on the cast.Where permitted it is real fun to fish this way.As mentioned I too have witnessed ''desperation'' tactics on ''holy''waters in the form of skated hogs,daddies and damsel nymphs where upstream dry fly only is expected.I remember like it was yesterday fishing on hallowed banks and meeting other anglers at a quintessential lunch hut where I spied a ''woolly b****r'' attached to the cast of a 9ft 5wt Hardy Angel:eek: and the fishing was not difficult with plenty of fish to be seen.

JP
 

Reg Wyatt

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
850
I remember like it was yesterday fishing on hallowed banks and meeting other anglers at a quintessential lunch hut where I spied a ''woolly b****r'' attached to the cast of a 9ft 5wt Hardy Angel:eek: and the fishing was not difficult with plenty of fish to be seen.

JP
Seen a lot worse than that tied on in huts that we both know Jon!

Reg Wyatt
 

Secret Angler

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 19, 2018
Messages
2,127
Location
London
Some chalk stream fisheries don't even allow nymphs, at least not till July. I don't like indicators myself because it feels too much like float fishing. But there are times when watching the line isn't so good, and the fish are not visible. I've got some of that putty stuff but I use it rarely.
 

sofasurfer

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 22, 2013
Messages
682
Location
Sussex
I have only fished the Itchen a few times. The rules where I fish are upstream dry fly, upstream nymph only with the Keeper's prior permission. I watch the leader which is never far away.
 

jedifly

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 18, 2014
Messages
59
Watching the leader is great if your eyesight is good but I find nothing wrong with using an indicator, as long as the rules permit.
 

icejohn

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 15, 2008
Messages
1,182
Location
bristol
I have a slightly different perspective on things and that's basically time is the major factor. The time when the rules were written was when people who had exclusive access to the river and could come back to river evening after evening. So the happy with one or two fish cause under the "rules" ie single fly etc. But the chap catching the fish is also relying on the intimate knowledge of where the fish lie currants etc all on the single fly.


Today most of the chalk stream rivers in the south are pay on the day and summer season prices over £100. Your average person can't keep coming back day after day so doesn't know all the lies and currants etc So the bung to me is just a meothod, covers alot of water quickly. You could end up with 6-8 fish in the same time frame.

So that's why I think the romantic "rules of sight fishing" come in. It's better to see the fish take the fly. The excitiment factor is higher than seeing a bung go under I agree. But overall personally I would rather get 6-8 fish than two sight caught ones.
 

JohnH

Well-known member
Joined
May 18, 2006
Messages
4,316
Location
Near Southampton
As regards etiquette, as with all fishing; if you strictly follow the fishery rules, do nothing to spoil another angler's sport, and do nothing to bring fishing into disrepute - then you are doing fine. I would not pay a lot of attention to the outdated stuff about chalkstreams you may hear originating with followers of F M Halford over 100 years ago. That was a completely different time.
 
Top