13 top tips for fishing for trout with a strike indicator

If you're fishing for pressured trout on small stillwaters few methods can beat the bung. Here are our top tips for fishing for trout with a strike indicator or sight bob to help you catch those extra fish.

13 top tips for fishing for trout with a strike indicator
© Fly and Lure
13 top tips for fishing for trout with a strike indicator
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
13 top tips for fishing for trout with a strike indicator
Fly fishing tips Estimated reading time 10 - 16 minutes

1. Try fishing completely static

Trout on pressured small stillwaters often get wise to moving flies, especially later in the day, so fishing a fly completely static can really increase your chances of catching. The bung is the perfect way to achieve this. It lets you suspend your fly, or flies, at a specific depth and allows you fish the pattern on-the-drop, rather than with a retrieve, which can give you the edge when conditions are hard.

A static fly often outfishes a pulled one on pressured stillwaters.

2. Put your indicator in the right place

Some novice fly fishers often attach the strike indicator or bung to their fly line. However, the indicator is actually supposed to attach to your leader and is used to both suspend your fly (or flies) at your desired depth and allow you to detect subtle bites you'd normally miss if straight-lining. Depending on the depth of the water on the venue you're fishing, you'd simply attach the indicator to your leader a bit above the depth you want to fish. If the water is about six feet deep and you want to fish about halfway up the water column, set the depth to 3-4'.

The indicator attaches to the leader, not the fly line...

3. Use the right size indicator

Strike indicators come in various shapes and sizes. Smaller ones are easier to cast (especially on smaller rods) and can hold up small patterns to control the depth you're fishing your flies at, but larger patterns will sink small indicators and it will be harder to spot bites, especially if it's sunny or if the water is choppy. Smaller, lighter styles, like the New Zealand Strike Indicator can be really handy when fishing small lightweight flies to spooky fish.

Bigger indicators can be harder to cast and you'll benefit from a heavier line with a more aggressive turnover, but they're often easier to see and are better for holding up larger flies. I personally favour the large polystyrene rugby ball style indicators over other styles. They're light, easy to see and easy to cast, even on a five weight rod. You can buy a couple of six-packs from Ebay for about £4 delivered. I personally avoid the commonly-sold Fish Pimp ones, as the rubber is too firm and the slot too fiddly to allow the sleeve to be easily inserted. 

The New Zealand Strike Indicator is great for stealth.

4. Adjust the depth until you find the fish

The trick to fishing the bung method is to find the depth at which the fish are feeding. After you've cast, your fly will slowly drop through the water column until it's hanging nearly vertically beneath your indicator. If you retrieve, or if the wind puts a bow in your line, the fly will rise up in the water column and won't be fishing at the maximum depth. If you start off fishing your flies a few feet below the indicator, slide it up a foot every few casts until you get a bite. Eventually, you'll find the feeding depth and can leave it there as long as the bites keep coming.

Keep adjusting your depth until you find the fish.

5. Attach your indicator so it doesn't fall off

If you're using a rugby ball style indicator you may find that it flies off the leader with vigorous casting. There are a couple of ways to avoid this. The easiest way is to thread the line inside the silicone or rubber sleeve and then attach the indicator. The indicator will usually stay in place, but the downside is that you'll need to snip off the fly if you want to remove the indicator sleeve.

The alternative approach, and the one I favour, is to stretch the sleeve and wrap it around the line, then slide it into the slot on the indicator. It's fiddly and does take a bit of practice, but it's generally quite effective and means you can reposition it and change methods without the need to remove the fly.

Large rubgy ball strike indicators are great for stillwater trout.

6. Change your indicator colour as light changes

As light levels change it can be difficult to see certain colours of indicator. Carry a few different colours, such as orange, yellow and white, and change to the one you can see most clearly. In fading light white can work well, but in bright conditions orange or black can be particularly good.

Change your indicator colour to suit the light levels.

7. Don't strike instantly

As you'll see far more bites than you would when fishing without an indicator, it can be tempting to strike at every tiny movement of the bung. However, if you do this you'll often pull the fly out of the fish's mouth and spook it, ruining your chances of catching. Instead, try to be a little more patient and wait until the indicator goes under completely or moves sideways. That's a clearer indication that it's currently in a fish's mouth and striking at this point typically results in more hooked fish.

Wait until your indicator sinks completely.

8. Scale down your tippet

When you're retrieving, fish get far less time to inspect your fly. If it's being stripped back at speed, they're far less likely to see the leader than they are when you're fishing a fly static beneath an indicator. The static approach gives them far greater opportunity to inspect the line and fly and they'll reject it if they think it's not quite right.

As fish feed by sucking in their prey through cavitation, you'll find that flies on lighter tippet get sucked into the mouth far more naturally than those fished on thicker tippet. You'll often see the indicator move a fraction, which is a sign that a fish has sucked it in and then immediately spat it out. Try using fluorocarbon and use a lower breaking strain than normal and you should get more fish, as the softer tippet will suck into the fish's mouth far easier and be harder for them to see.

Fish get longer to inspect your fly so scale down your tippet.

9. Allow extra depth if retrieving

If you're fishing your fly with a constant and slow retrieve while using the indicator to help you spot bites, the fly will rise in the water column when you retrieve and you'll benefit from adding a bit of additional distance between the fly and the indicator to keep your fly at the right feeding depth.

If you're using a slow retrieve, allow a bit of extra depth.

10. Adjust your strike if fishing at long range

If the fish are a long way out from the bank you can't avoid fishing for them at distance. However, if you can, try fishing at short to medium range. You'll be able to see the indicator better and you'll be far more likely to hook the fish. Striking at long range when fishing an indicator can be tough as you may need to take up any slack in your line, so a more pronounced strike than normal combined with a strip strike can help. In general, you're much better off fishing closer in if you can.

  Fishing at long range with an indicator tends to be tricky.

11. Fish a single fly if you're not using naturals

As trout get so long to inspect your flies when you're fishing with an indicator, as opposed to a moving fly, it pays not to fish more than one "scary" pattern like a colourful blob or worm on the same leader. In general, unless I'm fishing natural patterns like nymphs or buzzers (when 2-3 are fine), I'd favour a single fly beneath the bung - usually a blob or a worm pattern. If you're fishing deeper water and want to fish more than one brightly coloured fly, make sure you leave a big gap between them, ideally at least 5-6 feet.

Don't fish too many bright flies in close proximity.

12. Give your fly a twitch

Sometimes, a bit of movement can help get you more bites. A short twitch to move the fly or a long slow pull to move the fly up in the water column can really help. Not only does the movement attract fish, but it can also make the fly drop back down through the water column again, letting you fish the on-the-drop a second time.

Giving the line a twitch or a slow pull can sometimes get you extra bites.

13. Try the classic patterns for beneath the bung

You can use a wide range of fly patterns under the bung, but some of them are known to work better than others. Blobs, egg flies, chewing gum worms, squirmy wormies, chamois worms and Eggstasy worms are all amazing, but you can fish loads of other patterns beneath an indicator, besides the natural nymphs and buzzers that were first associated with the method. Check out our guide to some of the best fly patterns to fish under the bung for some inspiration.

The squirmy wormy is a classic bung pattern.

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