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Types Of Strike Indicators – Fly Fishing

Types Of Strike Indicators – Fly Fishing

When we’re nymphing (fishing subsurface flies), strike indicators help out a lot. Basically, strike indicators are just bobbers for fly fishing. When a trout eats our nymph, the strike indicator will move or dart underwater. This lets us know that we either have a fish, or we have hit the bottom. Either way, we set the hook just to make sure.

Thingamabobbers, Airlocks, Yarn, Oros, Palsas and Corqs are some of the best strike indicators currently available.

Learning how to use strike indicators effectively can produce lots of trout. Although nymphing with an indicator isn’t the most exciting method, it consistently puts fish in the net. Becoming a good nympher is super important for trout fisherman.

This article will go over the different types of strike indicators used for fly fishing. As you nymph more and more, you will find which strike indicator works best for you. There are no right or wrong ways of doing it, just preferences based on your fishing style. You may want to have multiple indicator types for different scenarios. Palsas are great for shallow drifts, while Thingamabobbers aren’t. More on this below:

Thingamabobber Indicators

These are the most used indicator, and they’ve been around for a long time. Thingamabobbers are a plastic bubble filled with air. They float all day, and they don’t require maintenance like yarn does. Thingamabobbers come in lots of different colors. Pick which color you can see best and buy several of them.

These indicators come in 3 different sizes.

  • 1/2 inch – small
  • 3/4 inch – medium
  • 1 inch – large

For technical nymphing in low water, the small thingamabobbers work well. They don’t spook fish, and are quite stealthy. They land on the water very softly.

For most trout fishing in standard conditions, the medium ones work great. They can hold up weight and they are easy to see. I use a medium bobber most of the time.

For heavy nymph rigs and steelhead/salmon fly fishing, the large bobbers are a good choice. They can hold up lots of weight, and are easy to see even when the water is turbulent.

Thingamabobbers are very easy to attach to your leader. A simple loop connection is all that is used. They do kink your leader, which can be a downside for sure. In order to move the bobber, you must remove it from your leader and then reattach it.

Although they have their downsides, Thingamabobbers are the #1 choice for most folks.

Airlock Indicators

These indicators are like Thingamabobbers, but they have an added feature. Instead of having to loop your leader through the indicator, you simply screw down the nut on the airlock. Just lay your leader in the slot and then screw it tight. This prevents your leader from getting kinked.

Airlocks are now biodegradable, which is an awesome feature. You don’t have to feel bad if you lose one in the river.

They are a bit more expensive than Thingamabobbers, but it is definitely worth it. The only downside is that the nut and washer are very easy to lose. It is best to have a set of replacements in case this happens. The nuts are 20 cents a piece, so you can stock up for cheap.

Besides the downside of losing parts, Airlocks are a great indicator than can work in many situations. They come in a bunch of different colors, and they’re easy to see.

Yarn Indicators

There are many types of yarn indicators, and lots of fly fisherman prefer yarn over other indicators. Yarn is very sensitive, and can detect strikes that other indicators can’t. It floats really well, and it doesn’t spook the fish as easily.

Yarn also lands really softly on the water, which is a huge plus in technical situations. Thingamabobbers and Airlocks can splash down pretty hard – this can spook trout.

One of the most popular yarn systems is the New Zealand Strike Indicator. This kit allows you to make custom sized yarn indicators that slide on your leader. This system doesn’t kink your leader, and you can control the size of your yarn. The New Zealand system is expensive, but it lasts for a long time.

You can also get regular yarn indicators with a loop on them. You attach these the same way you attach a Thingamabobber (pictured above).

Oros Indicators

The Oros indicators are based on the same system as Airlocks. The main difference is that the hardware is internal. This means that there is no little nut to lose!

These indicators have become very popular in recent months, as fly fishers all over the world are using them. Many folks now prefer Oros indicators over Airlocks, due to their simplicity.

These indicators are more expensive than other models, coming in at $3 a piece. Although they are pricey, I think it is justified due to their awesome design.

They come in white, orange and magenta. You can also mix and match by attaching 2 different colors.

It will be interesting to see how Oros hold up long term, but so far so good.

Corqs Indicators

These cool indicators are like Thingamabobbers, but they’re made entirely of cork. Obviously, they float extremely well – and they’re lightweight.

These were very popular when they were first introduced, but the popularity has simmered down. They’re still a great indicator, and I haven’t had any issues with them.

Corqs are a great alternative to the Thingamabobber, and they cost about the same. Although they are nice to use, I usually go with a Thingamabobber because they’re more durable. The cork can get beat up over time, and it stops working as well.

I do like the half and half color scheme of Corqs, and it makes them easy to see during varying light conditions.


These pinch-on indicators come in very handy during low water scenarios. They land very softly and they don’t spook fish. They are best for fishing low, shallow water with wary trout.

Simply pinch the Palsa onto your leader. It stays together and it’s very easy to see.

If you need to hold up more weight on your nymph rig, you can fish 2 Palsas close together. This is a very popular method for many fly fishers.

Palsas are super sensitive, and will detect even the most subtle strikes. This makes them a popular choice for tailwater anglers that need to be stealthy.

Palsas come on a sheet – so you can peel them off when you’re ready to use them. However, Palsas can’t be reused due to their sticky nature. Once you remove one from your leader, just throw it away.


Hopefully this article guided your decision in choosing a strike indicator. They all work, but finding the best one for your own fishing is important.

Many folks nowadays aren’t using indicators at all. Tight line Euro style nymphing is very popular these days. However, there are times when an indicator is the best choice. Fishing far out holes and runs that are hard to reach can require an indicator.

Although indicator nymphing isn’t the most exciting, it is an essential skill to learn. Even if you gravitate more towards streamers or dry flies, make sure you’re a good nympher first. It will improve your drifts and make you a better fly fisher.