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STILLWATER SERIES - Chironomid Line Setup: Strike Indicator

Our preferred method of Chironomid fishing is with a strike indicator. Although for what it lacks in immediate contact and intimacy, it makes up for by being a powerful visual stimulant, aka, "bobber down!" The trout inhales the fly, the indicator is pulled underneath the water’s surface and the hook is set. There’s something special about watching that indicator drop, it's a good way to get the adrenaline pumping.

So why do we use an indicator? From a tactical sense, it’s deadly accurate. Your presentation will hang at exactly the depth in which it’s set for. And it can be held in a specific zone for long periods of time; well hopefully not too long... We’re here to catch fish after all, right? Subtle takes are easily tracked. It's relatively simple to set up. It’s versatile in the sense that you can fish anywhere between 3 or 30 ft of water using the same method, with only a few minor adjustments.

We’re going to break this method down from the beginning, starting with the rod and the cast. Indicator setups typically contain hardware, so a 9-10 ft rod is ideal to give you extra reach in order to lay out your presentation. The added rod length also allows for space to maneuver your line and guide a fish away from the dreaded anchor rope tangle. Generally speaking, it’s a quick roll cast to get your fly line in position. There’s no need for multiple false casts, often one cast or one roll cast will suffice. Remember to keep your casts fairly short. The further the strike indicator is from you, the more reaction time required to remove the slack in the line and set the hook. This timing delay could result in lost fish. Keep your casts short and close to the boat, 20-50 ft is plenty. Mending your line is important if conditions are windy to avoid a drag in the line.

The fly line. For years we’ve been using the Scientific Angler Mastery Titan Long. It’s been our dedicated Chironomid line. The powerful shooting head provides enough weight to turnover the entire Chironomid system with ease.

So here it is, the line set up for indicator fishing. It's our chosen Chironomid method by a wide margin.

Chironomid line set up using a strike indicator
Slip strike indicator positioned underneath the bobber stopper and the indicator leader.

Line Setup:

We start with the butt section. The butt section is a short 2 ft section of monofilament that aids in the transition from the fly line to the actual leader itself. It sits above the indicator and isn't a part of the leader, but it serves an important role. We use a 10 ft, 5X - 5.0 lb tapered indicator leader. But here’s the trick – we’re only using the first 2 ft of this leader and the remainder is discarded. This butt section serves three purposes; transition the fly line into the leader setup, assist with turning over the entire leader and the bright orange colour acts as a sighter to help detect the subtlest of takes. With either a loop to loop connection or a nail knot, attach the indicator leader to your fly line and snip off the trailing 8 ft, so only the top 2 ft is attached. The working end of this butt section is thin enough, but not weak enough, to nicely transition into the remainder of the setup.

The next section is what we refer to as the "working section." It's broken down into two parts in order to construct the leader. For part 1 – from the tag end of the butt section, we attach 3X or 4X fluorocarbon with either a blood knot or triple surgeon's knot. This section will vary in length but it’s typically a few feet long. Within this section, we first slide on our bobber stopper towards the blood knot, followed by our quick release strike indicator. For part 2 of the "working section," we add additional fluorocarbon, typically 4X or 5X by means of another blood knot or triple surgeon's knot. This secondary knot joining the two working sections is important because 99% of the time, this is the exact part we snip in order to add (or remove) length to keep all of the hardware in part 1 intact. We attach the working end of part 2 to a size #12 or #14 swivel.

The last section, the fly section, always remains unchanged. From the swivel, we attach approximately 1.5 to 2 ft of 4X or 5X fluorocarbon. On the working end of this section, we attach the Chironomid fly pattern by means of either an improved clinch knot or a non-slip loop knot. The swivel serves three purposes; it gives the fly a bit of extra movement, acts as a tiny weight for windy conditions, and it's been known to actually attract fish to your fly because of the metal shine (in more extreme windy conditions, you can add some split shot to this presentation, but keep this above the swivel).

Diagram of Chironomid line setup using a strike indicator
Chironomid Line Setup: Strike Indicator

There we have it, the Chironomid indicator setup. We hope this helps you while you're out on the water. If you have any questions or want to share your setup, please reach out. We look forward to hearing from you.

Tight lines and as always, FISH ON!

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