Nuts & Bolts: #1 – Indicators for Deep Nymphing

There are many indicators for nymphing available on the market. I’m going to cut to the chase and give my two cents on the on-going debate of “What is the best indicator to use?” I’ll clue you into the indicators that I and some of my guide friends have used on our local rivers. As for the local rivers, I am talking about the Lower Yuba River, Feather River, Lower Sacramento River, Trinity River and the Klamath River. I’m really talking about an indicator that has to support a lot of shot and 2 or maybe three flies. This discussion is not about the pinch-on or micro indicators.

The indicators that I typically like to use and will discuss are the;
Boles Float Rite,” the “Thingamabobber” and The Frog’s Hair indicators.

The Boles Float Rite

Boles_IndicatorThe “Boles Float Rite” Indicator is a made from polypropylene yarn with a swivel in the middle. A stiff polypro “flag” sticks out of the middle. What I like about this indicator is that the post points to where your shot and flies are. If the indicator post is pointing downstream your flies are fishing behind and are being drug downstream.

If the indicator post is pointing upstream your flies are racing up in the water column and not fishing at all. If the indicator post is pointing straight up you are fishin’. I’ve also noticed that when the Boles is fishing right it sort of sucks down into the water column slightly. This indicator is great when fishing dead drifting from a drift boat. You need to mend to attempt keep the fly line straight above the indicator and dead drifting.

The biggest complaint that I’ve heard about the Boles is that it is harder to adjust depths. The indicators come in a two pack with two rubber bands. You thread your leader through the eye of the swivel, fold the leader back onto itself and then tie a half hitch with the rubber band and then snug up the knot to the swivel. I usually cut the tags of the rubber band short once I snug it up. This is definitely awkward, but you can adjust it, just bring extra rubber bands as they sometimes come loose when you try this adjustment.

The other way to rigg the Boles up, is to tie your butt section straight to the swivel and then tie straight tippet material, 2x or 3x mono, down to your split shot knot. This work great on rivers like the Lower Sacramento where you don’t have to be changing depths allot. To change depths you have to shorten or extend the 2x or 3x tippet from the swivel to the split shot knot.

MucilinAnother point is that you need to treat the Boles with floatant and “Comb” it out before fishing it. A small mustache comb works great, I’ve even used a toothbrush. Apply the floatant and “tease” out the Poly fibers. A good trick is to use Mucilin Floatant. You can apply this the day before and it seems to keep the “Boles” floating all day long.

The Boles comes in small, medium and large sizes. I like the blue and green colors for stealth.

The “Boles Float Rite” is a good one, I like it a lot.


ThingamabobberThe Thingamabobber is a new design in strike indicators from West Water Products. Its design was inspired by western guides who use small balloons as strike indicators for their buoyancy and sensitivity.

Already a favorite among most of my friends that are guides, the Thingamabobber combines all of the best strike indicator elements in one simple design. It is buoyant, easy to cast, ultra sensitive, durable, and affordable. The Thingambobber comes in a variety of colors and 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1” diameters.

  • The Thingamabobber has all of the best strike indicator elements in one simple design.
  • Casts well in any weather condition
  • Easy to attach and adjust yet stays in place on your line
  • Never sinks and requires no floatant
  • Ultra sensitive
  • Comes in a variety of colors and sizes
  • Durable and affordable
  • Highly visible

Frog’s Hair Strike Indicators

Frog's Hair IndicatorThe Frog Hair Strike Indicators incorporate a quick and easy line threading system that allows for easy adjustments of depth on knotless leaders. As you find the need to adjust depth as you move up or down the river, you simply grab the indicator and slide it into the desired position, lets go, and continues fishing.

The Frog’s hair indicators can be purchased for re-use or 1 time usage. I personally think the one-use system is a waste and don’t understand why they even went there. For the multiple use style you insert a rubber retainer on your leader then the indicator and then a second retainer which enables you to then move the retainers up or down to the desired depth.

You can purchase additional retainers as you will have to remove the lower one if you take the indicator off. I really like this one for it’s adjustability although if you are using a tapered leader and need to adjust to real shallow depth the indicator has a hard time staying in place. This can be a problem.


This is a tough one. “Boles,” “Thingamabobber,” or the “Frog’s Hair”? I’ve been enamored for quite a while by the “Boles Float Rite,” but lately I’ve been reaching into my fish pack and picking out the thingamabobber. I was born in Montana and I guess that it just sounds right. “You betcha, I’m gonna throw on-a thing-a-ma-bobber!”

I guess right now I’m a “Thingamabobber” guy unless I’m having trouble figuring where the heck my flies are in the water column, then I’ll switch to a “Boles Float Rite”. The “Boles” also works great when your are trying to help people figure out what nymphing is all about and then you can explain to them to watch the post and determine what the flies are doing. The “Frog’s Hair” has the easiest adjustability.

So, I guess for me it’s a draw. I carry all three. It’s more of what I’m trying to accomplish in diferent situations and water types.

General Rigging for Indicators

Boles_SetupThe rigging diagram above is from the “Boles Float Rite” website. This diagram is the recommended rigging by “Boles Float Rite”.

The rigg that I’ve been schooled on by fish guide, Mike Hibbard, is a little different. Lets talk in general terms and assume that you’re using a Boles, Thingamabobber or Frogs hair adjustable, pegged corkie or whatever indicator you prefer. This would be Mike’s Lower Sacramento Rigg.

  1. Set the indicator about 24″ +/- down from the fly line butt.
  2. Start will a 9 foot or 10 foot, 2x tapered leader.
  3. If you’re starting with a tapered leader that has been shortened, extend this down with 2x mono so that you can tie a double surgeons knot or a blood knot 9 ft. below where the indicator is set. This is a good time to note that if you are going from monofiliment to Flurocarbon tippet you need to up size the mono one size, for example 2x mono to 3x fluro.
  4. This is where you will place your shot. The shot goes above the knot.
  5. The tag end from this knot at 9 ft. should extend at least 24″ so you can tie your 1st fly at 16″ to 18″ below the shot. Use 3x fluorocarbon.
  6. Tie a 22″ piece of 4x fluorocarbon to the hook bend of the 1st fly and tie the 2nd fly 16″ to 18″ behind the 1st fly.
  7. Tie a second 22″ piece of 5x fluorocarbon to the hook bend of the 2nd fly and tie a third fly 16″ to 18″ below the 2nd fly.

This rigging is based upon the 1st fly being the largest the second fly smaller and then the 3rd fly smaller still.

Note: When working with fluorocarbon and tying two pieces together, use a triple surgeon’s knot

You’re now good to go. You can then lower the indicator as required in different sections of the river or move it back up.

Thank Mike Hibbard in person at 530-526-5535. Get out on the Lower Sacramento River or the Trinity River with him. He’ll show you the ropes. He’s taught me!

Make it a tradition! – Clay