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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.

Bucksnort 07-07-2018 04:10 PM

Mr. Blur,

One of my all time favorite fly rods was an 8.5' graphite Eagle Claw in 5/6 weight. I bought it at the outlet store at Wright McGil (I-70 & Colorado Blvd) in Denver for about $20. It came with an extra tip section. I always had to keep an eye out for the fly fishing fashion police.

lakelady 07-09-2018 09:27 AM

Lakes in the White Mountains are best fished in the spring, and that's really all there is to it. Fishing can be good in the fall, but when water temperatures are still warm and lakes have stratified, stopped being stocked, been drawn down for irrigation, or suffered some summerkill mortality, the bite is just not going to be great. If you want to surface fish for trout in Arizona, try coming up just after ice off.

Unfortunately, despite stocking these lakes with trout, Arizona is not ideal trout habitat and you can't treat it as such. Trout fishing cannot be good 100% of the year no matter where you go. If that's what you want, I would recommend fishing another state. If you're willing to be more discerning, aim for fishing when the water quality is best and trout are willing to be in that shallow surface water.

As a side note, Carnero suffered a summer fish kill this year; I wouldn't be heading over there anytime soon.

Bucksnort 07-09-2018 02:16 PM


Thanks for the information. Arizona, Colorado and probably other states, have the same situation in high mountain lakes. If not for stocking, there would be few fish but the difference I find between high mountain lakes in both states is there is more insect activity in Colorado than here. Please understand, I've been a permanent AZ resident for under two years so my experience on AZ lakes is limited.

Here is a good example of activity in a Colorado high mountain lake that would not have trout without stocking but does have a lot of insect activity. I just returned from meeting some friends at a lake at about 12,200 feet in central Colorado. I will withhold the name of the lake. We have been fishing this lake for about six years with great success using dry flies and small sub-surface nymphs. The lake is loaded with scuds but that's not the prime food source. I am not a fisheries biologist so this is purely opinion. Trout are taking hatching midges and are taking them just below the surface film.

This doesn't mean I've not seen rising fish on the lakes I have visited in AZ. For example, Lee Valley had a fair amount of rises. Aker Lake also had a few rises. I saw no rises on the Greer lakes, Carnero, or Becker. It would have been difficult to see them on Becker because of the wind.

It seems the most popular dropper fly for AZ lakes in the White Mountains is a midge nymph pattern. This tells me there must be insects in these lakes. Are there no midges in these waters and fish see them as a food source? There must be some fairly heavy insect hatches on some of these still waters. Where are they?

I wanted to go to the White Mountains and fish just after ice-out, this year, but my Colorado trip occupied my mind. I probably could have done ice-out but my ice-out internal clock is still on Colorado time. Ice-out in the lakes I fish in CO may not be until June. If it's earlier, access is sometimes a problem.

Sasquatch 07-10-2018 08:54 AM

I agree with lakelady to some extent but there is still good fishing to be had in the summer months.
Night fishing in the wee hours before sunup for large browns can often be productive.
Daytime techniques I will use for all species are rig up three rods. Floating with a high float dry (I dislike bobbers as well) and a 14 or 16 pheasant tail dropper. Sink tip with a purple peacock and pheasant tail dropper or damsel. And a full sink with an ssl or bugger. Cast and strip the full sink while one of the others are in the rod holder just drifting. This technique will cover most of the column and good for searching. Most action will come from the full sink especially if you let out line to the backing then tuck the reel under your armpit and double haul your strip fast. Evening dry fly action usually happens especially around thunder storms.
Lastly, don't forget that browns and Brookies spawn in the fall. Browns will be shallow in the the weeds and readily take any dry. Brookies pod up and demolish egg patterns or egg sucking leaches. Try lakes on the res like reservation and horseshoe for the browns. Big lake or crescent for Brookies.

Seldomseen 07-11-2018 03:41 AM

For the most part, Arizona lakes are very fertile, but do suffer from some water quality issues, particularly during the summer monsoon season.

For starters, the increase in moisture drives up overnight temps by 15 degrees or so. Water temps rise and you will have to go deeper. Typically you can find a layer of cooler oxygenated water around 12 to 15 ft deep where the fish spend most of their time. As mentioned, a sinking line can be effective or long leaders and slip bobbers are deadly. A longer rod is of help with the latter.

Also complicating things this time of year are algae blooms. These seem much worse the last decade or so. Then we get a couple cloudy days, the algae dies and takes the oxygen with it.

The rains can help the streams though unless there is too much. So go deep in the Stillwater or hit the running for the AZ dogs days. Just make sure you are prepared for those storms!

Sasquatch 07-12-2018 01:09 PM

Turning up the sensitivity on my sonar almost always puts the thermocline at 6'. Yet on occasion I do get a second layer at twice that which I always thought to be a reflection.

M Lopez 07-13-2018 12:19 AM

Thermocline depends upon the lake and month. It can be as shallow as 6-7 feet below surface at Luna Lake in mid summer, but is 15-17 feet down in Show Low, Fool Hollow, Woods, and Willow. Lakes like Big, Crescent, Becker, Carnero don't stratify because they are too shallow or get enough mixing from the wind to prevent true stratification. Those that do stratify loose oxygen below the thermocline since there is no oxygen production that deep, so the trout will go down to the thermocline but not deeper. Lakes that don't stratify, the trout will go down to any depth with colder water.

Sasquatch 07-14-2018 08:50 AM

Thank you Mr. Lopez. I wondered why I could never get much of a reading from Big lake.

Bucksnort 07-14-2018 08:53 AM

What about White Mountain lakes in October and November?

Seldomseen 07-14-2018 02:31 PM

Great info Mike. Thanks.

Seems like it is can be late November or even early December these days before the lakes turn over in the fall.

Bucksnort 07-16-2018 08:49 PM


From my experience with turn over in lakes, the yukkie stuff from the bottom comes to the top. I see a lot of floating green stuff at the surface and down a short distance.

Is this the turn over you mention?

Seldomseen 07-17-2018 05:51 AM

Not sure if all of them turn over like that but, it sure seems like some do. Reservation Lake comes to mind.

There is at least a point where some lakes get turbid and it precipitates out then clears. Hopefully someone else has some better insight that that. If you can catch that window before the lid goes on, that is some of the best fall fishing.

Bucksnort 07-17-2018 10:28 AM


Many years ago, I was camping and fishing on the Grand Mesa in western Colorado. Some of the lakes were turning over to the point where they were unfishable and you could see green vegetation making its way down the outlet streams. Not all were that way. We decided to fish one small lake with turnover. We did catch a few but for me, I'll take clear water.

Dub 07-18-2018 10:06 AM

Mike....Brian Chan told me long ago that turnover occurs when the lake water hits 39 degrees. The colder water is denser/heavier and sinks to the bottom, pushing the warmer water to the top. It sometimes brings debris along with it.

Seldomseen 07-18-2018 02:59 PM

Thanks John. I suppose Brian Chan knows a thing or two about fishing the water column. :)

So I guess it comes back to the lakes that stratify.

Sasquatch 07-19-2018 09:17 AM

This would not account for the pea soup conditions we see in the summer. Algae bloom?

Dub 07-19-2018 10:05 AM

Yes....algae needs sun to grown, giving oxygen back into the water. When Monsoons hit and the clouds appear it kills the algae, producing blooms which take oxygen out of the water...bad. It's starting to appear up here now in Big. Bloom isn't bad yet as it is mainly on the surface. When the winds blow it pushes it to the side. A couple years ago the bloom was so bad the lake had clumps of gunk floating on it. There probably are other reasons for algae blooms but this is mainly what happens up here.

lakelady 07-19-2018 03:05 PM

Algae growing in warm water and sunny conditions is the bloom. During the day, algae photosynthesize, taking in carbon dioxide and creating sugars and oxygen, which can improve oxygen conditions in the lake. Simultaneously, but in a totally different process, plants respire, meaning they take in small amounts of oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. This can mean that oxygen conditions improve during the day when plant photosynthesis outproduces respiration, but can diminish dissolved oxygen and increase carbon dixoide at night. Sometimes there can be minor fish kills at night due to the lack of oxygen.

When clouds decrease sunlight and water cools, that algae dies off. As it decomposes, bacteria use large amounts of oxygen. This is why sometimes when algae dies during monsoons, we also see fish kills.

Bucksnort 07-19-2018 05:22 PM

Some of the lakes I've seen with green stuff at or near the surface may be algae and not lake turnover. As I said, I'll take clear water any day.

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