Kevin’s indicator rig

A customer emailed Kevin recently asking how he would recommend them rigging their new two handed rod for their upcoming steelhead trip in March. Here is his advice.

To the frustration of many, I’m a very basic fly fisherman and tier. Over time, I find myself winnowing everything down to the most basic and simple level possible. The indicator rig I use for salmon and steelhead is very basic. In my opinion, the rig is perfect.

The number one question I get is: why do I put the weight on a sliding swivel? The bottom line is that I lose less weights this way. There is a lot of energy violently introduced to the leader when casting, but particularly when breaking off snagged flies. I think that the sliding rig eliminates much of the shock associated with casting and breaking off flies and thus greatly reduces the amount of re-rigging I have to do on the river. I often fish the same weight for several days using this method.

Why is the indicator optional? The same rig without an indicator casts better and stays deeper longer during the swing-out than with an indicator, but I almost always fish an indicator because most anglers are better at making good drifts and detecting strikes if they have the visual cue of the indicator. (Though guide Walt Grau almost never uses an indicator on his trips and there is no question that his clients catch plenty of fish.)

With a two handed rod I most often use the type of indicators that have a hole from end to end and that allows them to slide freely on the short piece of 30 pound. I do not use the indicator to adjust depth, I simply use it as a visual aid. I adjust depth with line control, adding or subtracting weight, and lengthening or shortening the leader. I want my flies as close to the bottom as possible and “floating” your flies with an indicator works against this in nearly every situation.

Why do I use a two handed rod? With a single handed rod it is much more difficult to throw the weight necessary to get your flies to the bottom quickly. I have a saying that I often use when someone demonstrates poor casting skills or a poorly balanced outfit, usually a single handed rod: “your trying to pound fence posts with a carpenter’s hammer, how about trying this sledge hammer instead?” This is my joking attempt to get them to switch to a two handed rod so we can focus on putting the flies on the bottom and the fish in the net. I should note that I love fishing with a single handed indicator rig, but I know that I’m not getting or staying down as well as I would be with a two hander.

great lakes indicator rig

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