Indicators for Steelhead on sink tip Spey lines

Matt Burke

Active Member
I really don’t care if you consider this bobber fishing, but I’ve suddenly realized that I’m missing a lot of hits because of the 80 to 120 feet of line I have out. Even with casting 45 degrees and mending to keep the line straight, I’ve missed a lot of takes. Winter run don’t hit like Summer run. Also noticed that I have to keep a sharp hook as I’m hitting rocks and wearing down the points. That has accounted for some of the misses too. I’m trimming up excessive tails to prevent short strikes. Anyway, I am trying to figure out how to connect an indicator where the sink tip meets the floating section. And what kind of indicator will survive the rigors of Spey casting.

The use of indicators are on the rise in Oregon and in the Great Lakes area with good results.

Thanks for any wisdom, negative or positive.


"Everyday that you wake up and decide not to go one less day you'll go fishing." Forrest Maxwell

Steve Buckner

Mother Nature's Son
I don't think he's kidding and have observed people using indicators with spey rods. I find nothing objectionable by using indicators while fishing for trout and have used them to catch winter steelhead with a single handed rod. As mentioned, winter fish can take very subtly and the use of an indicator has proven very effective, especially in colder water.

What I'm not sure of is if the approach with spey rods is used when sinking egg patterns or nymphs and using a dead drift or if it is still used when swinging flies?

I'd like to hear more about this.

Kidding? Why would he be kidding?

There is no law that says, "When using a spey rod, one shall not use an indicator."

At the risk of being shot, I'll admit that I indicator fish with a spey rod using nymphs all the time, do you have any idea what sort of drifts you can get using a 13 foot rod? You can hold an easy 20 feet of line off the water and work slots that you could never do with a single handed rod.


Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job.
-Paul Schullery
Why not an indicator, indeed? It's easy to add an indicator to the belly loop or sinktip top loop. A large hank of bright snythetic yarn, of course; or be creative: I recently tried one of those styrofoam packing material "peanuts," tied on with a bit of tippet material.

Steve Buckner

Mother Nature's Son
Have you used indicators while swinging flies or just to dead drift flies through a run? Large yarn indicators don't typically "fly" very well, but with a spey rod they would undoubtedly fly further. I would imagine that one could "high stick" with a spey pretty well and keep all of the line off of the water.

How has your success been? I'm glad to hear of people using tried and true techinques applied to other forms of fishing.

Thanks again for any info,
isn't that what the level section of your set up is for if your using a manufactured line system and the color of the belly and running line are the same I can see your canumtrum figuire out a way to color the front six feet of the belly after the loop to the sink tip. as to swinging or nymphing they're different and don't you use different line set ups. swinging spey flies have to be fished under tension next to casting it was the hardest thing to get used to when I started spey fishn


Active Member
Interesting question. I've always considered indicator fishing/high sticking a relativly "short line" technique. A long rod would be great for keeping the line off water and a long drift. Any of the larger foam bobbers should support a sink tip/ weighted fly. Some of the multi-tips have a really beefy floating tip/line, when matched with a sinking leader could be visible to the take as well...


Piscatorial predilection
Matt, I don't know about a spey set-up, but I did put an indicator on my 9wt sink tip line sunk!.

It would have to be a pretty good sized indicator/ can you say D-I-N-K?/ to float on a sink on a floating line with a sinking leader....that would work.

Geez, I didn't think anybody was going to respond. I thought I had committed some kind of sacrilege like eating pork during Ramadan.

Yes I am serious. If I’ve got enough guts to ask people for help, take Spey lessons and be the first to rise when Andy Murry asks, does anyone want try my rod, then you know I have no shame about using an indicator. I can no longer count missed strikes/hits/nudges on all my digits and until I learn the subtle nuances of a winter run bite, I will use any aid I can get. I’m willing to do anything it takes to be the best damn steelheader in Washington state. Or at least have a lot of fun trying.

So I spent several hours doing Google on the net and as usual, it was already thunk up by other people. Particularly around the Great Lakes. It seems the Steelheaders out there will Nymph with Spey rods and use indicators. White yarn is preferred as it looks like foam. When tied into the loops between the floating and sinking sections, it will sink a bit, but the trick is to watch it as it sits subsurface. From that point back up the floating section, one can see how far it is to where the floating section actually stays afloat, say 10 feet. At that point in the line you can attach a piece of orange fly line that has been split open and the core removed. It will slip over your line like a sleeve and not offer any extra resistance.

Anyway, I’m going to at least try some yarn. It’s not permanent and I can always lie about using one until I develop the feel. Not that I would ever lie to you guys.

I have also been doing a heck of a lot of research on two handing the saltwater. Seems those Striper fisherman on the east coast had that idea before me too, but that’s another thread.


"Everyday that you wake up and decide not to go one less day you'll go fishing." Forrest Maxwell


Active Member
Spey the salt?! Those conditions will surly rust the buttons on my tweed cap. Damn you Americans!

Those great lakes nymphers will raise a bite out of the Safeway frozen fish dept. :)
Striper fisherman on the east coast don't say Spey. They use a cross over, two handed rod. They are are shorter and built more for the overhead cast. Seems there are a lot of custom rods although a few companies are making every attempt to fill the gap. It's the classic American way of taking what you need and flushing the rest. Kind of like Spey casting here has been mutated over the years into "Skagit Style" or the "Skagit Cast".


"Everyday that you wake up and decide not to go one less day you'll go fishing." Forrest Maxwell