It’s a Suspender — Not Just an Indicator

by | Feb 1, 2018 | 5 comments

This August, 2016 Troutbitten article is retooled and revisited here.

Bobber, cork, foam, yarn, dry fly. Those are my categories, but who cares? If you’ve been fly fishing and nymphing for a while, you’ve probably tried all of the above. You have your own categories and your own preferences, and that’s great.

I don’t want to argue about which of these tools is better. Instead, let’s talk about what all of these things we attach to a leader really are. They’re suspenders. Does it matter what we call them? Maybe. I’m not trying to change the world here — use whatever words you like — but I do think that defining a simple difference can be helpful.

Dynamic Nymphing by George Daniel is at TCO Fly Shop

“Strike Indicator” is the common term. We buy them in small packages of two or three. We buy them in various sizes and colors. Maybe you even make your own, with water balloons you steal from your favorite toddler, or with macrame yarn and tiny orthodontic rubber bands leftover from  when your daughter wore braces. Everyone calls them indicators. But in his book, Dynamic Nymphing, George Daniel introduces the term “suspender.” It’s a brilliant distinction that eliminates confusion and defines the real purpose of these small things attached to our leader.

Indicator or suspender? They’re really two different things, and using the terms interchangeably creates some confusion. Wait . . . something is confusing in fly fishing? Yeah, all too common, right?

How about this: As the indy rig floated downstream, the bobber slowed, indicating that the nymphs were now suspended.

See what I mean? It’s a complicated world out there.

So let’s break it down

An indicator is anything that signals the strike from a fish. Good indicators also help identify leader angle, leader depth and where your flies are under the water.

A suspender is  anything on the surface used to support/suspend flies and weight underneath the water surface.

So all suspenders are indicators. But not all indicators are suspenders. Digest that for a few seconds, because it’s the crux of my message.

Here’s an example: a sighter is not a good suspender. It’s an indicator though. It shows where the flies are under the water, and it helps signal a strike. It indicates. Pure indicators are things like a backing barrel, a sighter, small visible sleeves pushed over leader knots, and even the visible tip of the fly line. None of them suspend much, if any, weight.

Suspenders do more than indicate

Like an indicator, a suspender can signal a strike, and it can act as a reference for where your flies might be. But a suspender does two more important jobs.

First, the suspender supports flies and weight (it holds them up) at a maximum distance from the surface — if your suspender is 3 feet from the nymph, then your nymph cannot reach more than 3 feet deep.

READ: Depth — Angle — Drop: Three Elements of a Nymphing Rig | Troutbitten

Second, a suspender leads the nymphs downstream with the current. That’s an important point, and I wrote about it in the post, One Great Nymphing Trick. Pure indicators, without the ability to suspend (like the Backing Barrel or a monofilament sighter) cannot do this.

#WordsMatter

Plastic, foam, cork, yarn and hackle: all are used to trap air and add buoyancy to a suspender. That buoyancy is what makes something a suspender.

Again, does defining the terms matter? I think it can help. I’m not naive enough to think that the fly fishing industry will start printing “Suspender” on those little packages. These tools will always be listed as indicators. But George will keep calling them suspenders, and so will I, if for no other reason than it helps us remember what the tool is capable of.

Fish hard, friends.

img_1659-1

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Dry Fly Fishing — The Forehand and Backhand Curve

Dry Fly Fishing — The Forehand and Backhand Curve

Learning to use the natural curve that’s present in every cast produces better drag free drifts than does a straight line.

It takes proficiency on both the forehand and backhand.

I’ve seen some anglers resist casting backhand, just because it’s uncomfortable at first. But, by avoiding the backhand, half of the delivery options are gone. So, open up the angles, understand the natural curve and get better drag free drifts on the dry fly . . .

Stabilize the Fly Rod with the Forearm

Stabilize the Fly Rod with the Forearm

A steady and balanced sighter is important from the beginning, because effective tight line drifts are short. But there’s one overlooked way to stabilize the sighter immediately — tuck the rod butt into the forearm.

Here’s how and why . . .

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: Tracking the Flies

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: Tracking the Flies

Regardless of the leader choice, angle of delivery, or distance in the cast, every tight liner must choose whether to lead, track or guide the flies downstream. So the question here is how do you fish these rigs, not how they are put together.

Good tracking is about letting the flies be more affected by the current than our tippet. Instead of bossing the flies around and leading them downstream, we simply track their progress in the water.

Tracking is the counterpoint to leading. Instead of controlling the speed and position of the nymphs through the drift, we let the flies find their own way . . .

Thoughts on Rod Tip Recovery

Thoughts on Rod Tip Recovery

Rod tip recovery is the defining characteristic of a quality fly rod versus a mediocre one.

Cast the rod and watch it flex. Now see how long it takes for the rod tip to stop shaking. Watch for a complete stop, all the way to a standstill — not just the big motions, but the minor shuddering at the end too.

Good rods recover quickly. They may be fast or slow. They may be built for power or subtly, but they recover quickly. They return to their original form in short order.

Here’s why . . .

A Simple Slidable Foam Pinch-On Indy

A Simple Slidable Foam Pinch-On Indy

One of the joys of fly fishing is problem solving. There are so many tools available, with seemingly infinite tactics to discover, it seems like any difficult situation on the water can be solved. Perhaps it can. For those anglers who search for answers in tough moments, the prospect of solving a puzzle builds lasting hope into every cast. And after seasons on the water, the game becomes not how many trout we can catch, but how many ways those trout can be caught. Then, when presented with conditions that chase fair-weather fishers off the water, we rise to the moment with a tested solution, perfectly adapted and suited for the variables at hand.

There is not one way. There are a hundred ways. And the best anglers are prepared with all of them.

One of them is the slidable foam pinch on indy . . .

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: How to Lead the Flies

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: How to Lead the Flies

Leading does not mean we are dragging the flies downstream. In fact, no matter what method we choose (leading, tracking or guiding), our job is to simply recover the slack that is given to us. We tuck the flies upstream and the river sends them back. It may seem like there is just one way to recover that slack. But there are at least two distinct methods — leading and tracking.

Let’s talk more about leading . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

5 Comments

  1. Good stuff Domenick. So many people poo-poo suspenders these days, chalking them up as “not real” fly fishing, somehow forgetting what a powerful tool they are in the presentation lineup. (But hopper-droppers are ‘legit!’) Fly fisherman can be some of the most self-incriminating fractionated folks I know, drawing divisions and lines all over the place. Pitching tents in this camp or that camp. Willfully hamstringing themselves. I don’t use suspenders all that often, but when I do, it’s because the tactic is needed, necessary, appropriate, and legitimate. I’m looking forward to learning some stuff on nymphing tactics as your posts roll out!

    Reply
    • Right on, my friend.

      Suspenders are way too useful to write off.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  2. i haven’t been in flyfishing for that long (slow bloomer), but i look fwd to your email every week and fully
    intent to try some of them as soon as it gets a little warmer. very good articles, keep up the good work.

    Reply
  3. Another great article. Thank you, Dom.

    I think a lot about indicators. When I use sighers, I prefer the coiled type, but there is one problem I’ve always had with sighters, no matter what the type. I think that an indicator should give you as much information as possible about what is happening with your flies. Here on the Guadalupe in Texas, most of the fish we catch are right on the bottom. So, it’s imperative to get your flies down. Sighters are great to get relatively drag free drifts, but, at least for me, they do a poor job of indicating when you’re on the bottom of the stream.

    A suspender, on the other hand, conveys that information quite well. Especially when cast upstream, the suspender’s slight tick tick tick indicates that you’re on the bottom. Plus, as you say in your article, a suspender allows one to cast up and across and yet still fish upstream.

    The result, for me, is that I now use sighter in fast water and when I have to fish a long ways off across stream. For most other situations, I use a bobber. But, I think that an aspect of suspender fishing that is ignored is that a suspender should be very adjustable: up and down the leader certainly, but also in terms of size. I move my suspenders a lot and replace them constantly. I basically feel that the smallest bobber that gives you that slight tick tick tick without constantly being pulled under the water is the way to go.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest