Indicator vs. the Hopper
I have always been told to never say never, so I will say instead that I rarely use an indicator when fly fishing small streams. Two main reasons keep me from threading my line through a bobber or a polypropylene indicator and neither of them are because I am an elitist. I generally reach for a hopper or buoyant dry fly instead for a couple of key reasons.
1. The “indicator” has a hook – After the first time I saw a 16 inch brown trout take a nip at my yarn indicator, all bets were off. Why waste an opportunity on an indicator when you can use an “indicator” with a hook. A big foam hopper is a great choice and has enough buoyancy to drift some of the large nymphs or streamer
2. Locating fish –Tandem fishing a hopper (or buoyant dry fly) and a nymph together can greatly increase your chances of finding where those fish are located in the water column. You can get extra fancy and throw a 2nd dropper on your line in especially deep water.
3. Finding out what fish are eating - When fishing a new stretch of water, it can be tricky to figure out what fish are keyed in on. By increasing the number of flies you have on the water, you are exponentially increasing your chances of figuring out exactly what those trout are interested in. Often times a stimulator or a heavily hackled parachute can do the trick especially in an area not known for its terrestrial fishing.
At the end of the day, a Dry/Dropper setup is an extremely nice way to fish and something every fly fisherman should have in his bag of tricks. Although traditionally seen as a western style of fishing, this tactic can be productive in any moving water.
Some things to remember when getting ready to rig up your Dry/Dropper setup:
** Foam flies – Big bright foam hoppers are a great choice when looking for a buoyant indicator fly. Foam floats all day and you can use neon colors to keep track of your fly in fast water.
** Extra hackle or hair – Don’t be afraid to add a few more wraps of hack to your Parachute Adams or a few more strands of hair to your Elk Hair Caddis. In some instances, less is not always more. I like to tie a few with a normal amount of material to be fished alone and a few with a little bit more for those days when I use a dry/dropper setup.
** “Hi-Vis” Posts – Sometimes tying in a “Hi-Vis” (High Visibility) post on a hopper or dry fly can make all the difference when trying to follow your fly on the drift.
** Fly Floatant – Don’t forget the fly floatant. Whether you use a goo or a dust, it is imperative that your hopper or dry fly be properly dressed so that it rides high on the water. An indicator fly does not do much good when you cannot see it.