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Bucksnort 07-05-2018 09:04 PM

Straight Line vs Dropper (Old habits die hard)
When I began fly fishing, around 1977, small adjustable cork strike indicators were becoming popular for moving water. Some die hard purists didnít like nymph fishing with indicators and wouldnít be caught fishing with another angler using them. I had no problem with them because they worked for me in pocket water and I knew of no other way, so for me, it was the way it was done. Over the years, they became standard equipment for anglers.

Now, the current rage is to use indicators in still water. I think itís called the indicator dropper method or just the dropper method. It can be with a strike indicator or a large dry fly on the surface. It has been around for a few years and is gaining in popularity. I guess Iím like the anglers who didnít like indicators in moving water; I am having a hard time adjusting to the idea of indicators in still water.

Again, when I began fly fishing, I was taught to use what is now called the, ďstraight line methodĒ of catching trout in lakes. I knew no other way. It has been a very productive way to catch a lot of trout.

About ten years ago, I spoke to a fly angler, a snob of a fly angler, who uses the dropper method. I told him I use the straight line method to which he replied, ďyouíll never get Ďem with that methodĒ. If only he could know how many trout Iíve caught on the straight line method. I have caught thousands well, maybe hundreds, on the straight line method in lakes.

When I use the straight line method, I am at a lake that has a lot of trout and a lot of surface or surface film activity. Rising trout tell me there are trout there and they are feeding on something. Whether Iím in a water craft or from the shore, I like casting to rising trout with a nymph, streamer or dry fly. If I can determine the direction the trout is moving, I will cast in front of the fish with the hope of drawing a strike but many times, the splat of the fly or fly line hitting the water spooks them. As soon as my nymph or emerger hits the water, I begin stripping immediately with a jerky erratic movement. With a dry fly, I will slightly twitch the fly to draw attention but the key for me is to get the fly as close and as quickly to the rise ring as possible. If I canít determine direction, I place my fly as close to the rise ring as possible. There are many times when rising slows or stops for a while so this is when I cast blindly in hopes of getting a strike. This works too.

My main frustration with lakes in Arizona is, Iím not finding lakes with a lot of surface activity. Iím catching 4Ē sun fish. I will leave the sun fish to the kids. Although Iíve done this, Iím not one to troll large flies deep. Iíve hit a couple of lakes in the White Mountains where Iíve seen a few rises but Iíve had no luck finding lakes with a lot of activity. Perhaps Iím not at the lake at the right time.

I did go to some lakes in the White Mountains last October, but became discouraged when I saw no surface activity and all the antlers were on the shore drowning worms or using power bait. There were no fly anglers anywhere. The Greer lakes are a good example of this. I know the lakes are stocked with trout but Iím not launching my pontoon boat for a day of no activity or catching sun fish.

This year at the White Mountains, I will ďbite the bulletĒ and try the dropper method. I have a good idea of which flies to use. I think what turns me off about this method is itís like sitting on a dock with a red and white plastic bobber, a cane pole and a container of worms waiting for a fish to come along. Yeah, yeah, I know, Carnero and Becker Lakes can produce some nice fish this way.

Please donít misread this posting. I am not a snob angler. I just like catching trout on a fly rod and I donít care if they are stocked fish or small. I can thank all those stocked catchable size rainbows over the years for honing my skills.

Suggestions and comments are greatly appreciated.

DrLogik 07-06-2018 12:07 PM


I haven't done a lot of trout fishing in lakes with a fly rod, but I'll clarify later in my post. I'm mostly a stream fisherman; however, I know exactly where you're coming from...and when. I started in the early 1970's. You're right, back then fly fishermen didn't fish with "bobbers".

Times have changed and although I don't use "indicators', er, bobbers, that often I do use large buggy dry flies (A big red Humpy is my first choice) as bobbers for a nymph tied 12" to 20" off the end of the hook. I also use a true dropper rig now and then also.

As for fishing with an indicator/bobber on a lake, it wouldn't be my cup of tea but if it proved effective at catching fish I would not be averse to using it.

Quite frankly, I use Mepp's or Rooster Tail spinners (usually a black rooster tail) and a spin rod when I fish for trout in lakes.....eesh. I cut the treble hook off and attach a single long-shank wet fly hook instead. Considering all of the funky "fly" creations and materials today an old-school Mepps or Rooster Tail spinner isn't out of line in my opinion. And yes, I still fish with bait now and then too.

I love to fish, what can I say. Chuck live crawfish for 24" browns on the Escanaba River in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan will quickly make one forget about what caught the fish. They are like a runaway bus. Big brute of a fish...meat eaters for sure.

Bucksnort 07-06-2018 12:39 PM


Wow! Your technique of cutting off the treble hook reminds me of the high school pal who taught me to fly fish. Occasionally, we would go to lakes for fly fishing but when things were not good for flies, he would switch to a spinning rod/reel. He would cut off two of the hooks on the treble.

I want to clarify something about dropper rigs. I have used a dry fly with an emerger about ten inches below the dry in moving water where a hatch was on. I would fish chin deep water this way. The dry fly was an imitation of the hatched insect. I have caught a few fish on both of these flies (not at the same time) on a rig like this.

I certainly don't want to offend anyone in Arizona, Colorado or anywhere for using the dropper method.

And speaking of strike indicator/bobber fly fishing, about twenty years ago, Fly Fisherman magazine published an article written by John H. Sullivan. He began by saying, "It's time to face reality, to draw the line: strike indicator fishing is not fly fishing". I was so miffed, I wrote a letter to the editor, which was not published. What surprised me is the magazine called to say Mr. Sullivan has been a long time contributor. I told them I don't mind articles like this but don't put them in a section where anglers want to know where to go, what to do and when; put them in the opinion section. I let my subscription expire and never renewed. If anyone wants a copy of this article, I will be happy to send by way of a PM. I'm not good at reducing sizes of photos and such to attach to a thread.

DrLogik 07-06-2018 01:55 PM


A funny story about my last trip to the Escanaba in Michigan. I was with an old "Yooper" friend fishing the river and he's old school. You bring what you need, period. The operative word is "you". I only brought about 3 big night crawlers (the standard big brown bait - these things run 10" long or so) and ran out of those in 10 minutes. Those Browns are pretty smart at picking the worm off the hook. I was screwed though. I knew he'd give me a night crawler or two but begrudgingly....

I was really frustrated and sat down on the bank watching my friend catch the fish. I looked down the bank and saw these orange-ish crawfish. They were molting and had a ripe smell to them. Their soft shells had not hardened and took on an orange color. I thought, oh, what the heck. I hooked one on and not 2 seconds after it hit the water a big brown came up and smashed that crawfish.

I quickly got to the bank and collected about 6 or 7 more. Six more fish! Not little strikes. I mean big bad smash strikes on those molting crawlers. Anway, he came over to me and asked what the heck I was using. I showed him my last crawfish and gave it to him. He put it on and smash!

He looked at me and said, "I've been fishing this river for 40 years and have never had that happen". He said, "I'm lucky if I come home with two or three big fish and you caught, how many?" "Seven", I said. "But I threw all but two back", since two was the limit back then. He frowned at me for throwing them back. This is how he feeds his family....that and deer he shoots during season.

The drive back to his house was fun for a change. It was the first time I out-fished him. He couldn't get over how the browns smashed the crawfish. He just shook his head and laughed. I knew what he was thinking. He was thinking why didn't he think of that 40 years ago! He did call me a few months later and said he figured out that the mature crawfish didn't get many strikes. It was the soft meaty molting ones they liked.

It just goes to show that expanding ones imagination when it comes to fishing and trying something new can pay off big time. I know this is a dedicated fly fishing site, and I do love to fly fish, but thought I'd share that. Missing Arizona bad but forget about it when I'm fly fishing in my old stomping ground the Great Smoky Mountains.

Bucksnort 07-06-2018 03:28 PM


It took me only a few seconds to get your point and that's why I will try the dropper method. Heck if my way doesn't produce anything, I've driven to the White Mountains for nothing but a nice drive and good scenery but I'm there to catch trout. If I'm doing the dropper method and fish begin to rise, I can change tactics.

By the way, and I'm sure you know but perhaps many of the readers don't, a "yooper" (get it, upper, yooper) is someone who lives in the upper Michigan peninsula; whereas, a troll is someone who lives below the Macinac Bridge in the lower larger Michigan peninsula. For me the Macinac bridge dwarfs the Golden Gate. it's nothing short of awesome. It's so damn awesome, some people are afraid to drive over it and must let a volunteer, provided by the bridge, to drive to the other side.

Seldomseen 07-06-2018 04:13 PM

3 favorite ways to fish, in order:
1. Dry fly
2. Stripping streamers
3. Hanging flies off bobbers

3 most common ways I catch fish, in order:
1. Hanging flies off bobbers
2. Stripping streamers
3 .Dry fly

Just one of the cruel ironies of life. Maybe someday I will just fish dries. Doubt it though. I like to catch fish too much. :)

Seldomseen 07-06-2018 04:50 PM

And thanks for the stories, gentlemen. :)

Mr Blur 07-07-2018 08:55 AM

I'm a dry fly snob. and a bamboo snob. neither of which is exclusive. and, dig this...I have a favorite indicator and it isn't a thingambobber

Seldomseen 07-07-2018 10:30 AM

Not that it matters, but I consider dry/dropper as bobber fishing. Nothing wrong with that, but do consider whether you use yarn, thingamas, or another fly, the indicator will impart a bobbing action to the dropper fly except in glass-like conditions. And that is not a bad thing either.

Bucksnort 07-07-2018 04:02 PM

And speaking of dry fly purists, a long time ago, I was in lower Cheesman Canyon. I was doing quite well with drifting a single fly under a strike indicator. On one occasion, I was standing next to a boulder in the middle of the river playing a nice rainbow. While playing this rainbow, two anglers were working dry flies in the traditional manner of walking upstream and casting in likely places. As they passed me, I heard one angler say to his buddy, "you kill more fish nymphing than on dry flies". I'm sure that was meant for me. After almost 40 years, I'm still mulling that one in my head.

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