A Simple Slidable Foam Pinch-On Indy

by | Jul 5, 2020 | 24 comments

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.

Recently, I found a dead simple method for making the foam pinch on indicator slidable. Now, what was once a seldom used device in my vest has become a new staple for the advantages it provides.

Here’s how and why . . .

More Nymphs

The best trout fishers are good with nymphs. Because if you slice open a trout’s stomach, you find more small and slender brown and olive things than anything else. Nymphs are the bulk of a trout’s diet, almost everywhere trout exist. So it makes sense for every dedicated angler to perfect the art of presenting flies that look like the small things trout eat.

READ: Troutbitten | Learn the Nymph

I spend most of my nymphing hours on a tight line. But not all of them. In fact, I estimate that forty percent of the time, I choose to use a suspender attached to the line. Usually I connect the indy directly to my Mono Rig, below the sighter and on the tippet section. These indicators (yarn, bobbers, foam, dry flies, etc.) are tools of the trade. And a nymphing system without a few suspender solutions is incomplete. A pure tight line rig suffers in the wind or where an angler cannot move into position to drift in the same seam as the reach of the rod tip. That’s a fact.

Photo by Bill Dell

For years. I’ve alternated between a Troutbitten style yarn indy (the Dorsey) and a small Thingamambobber for the bulk of my suspender work. I also fish a fair amount of tight line dry dropper. But for drifts that target the strike zone, I prefer a suspender that is more directly slidable.

Years ago, I settled on these few suspender solutions after testing literally everything available, along with a few homemade creations. But I’ve never stopped thinking about the next thing, either. And one day, back in early March, an old seldom used tool suddenly became a problem solver that opened new doors.

The Slidable Pinch-On

Foam sticky indys that pinch onto the leader are kind of wonderful for their simplicity. Stick them in place, and they suspend about fifty centigrams of weight — enough for a #12 stonefly with a tungsten bead and some lead wraps. They cast well and don’t twist the leader. They are cheap, quick to attach and remove, they easily defeat the wind, yet don’t require any change in the casting stroke because they don’t weigh much.

So what’s the problem? Pinch-ons don’t slide. Or, more accurately, they stay put until you slide them into a new position, and then they start sliding when you wish they didn’t. For me, a suspender that doesn’t slide and adjust quickly is useless.

But here’s the solution: Use a Backing Barrel.

READ: Troutbitten | The Backing Barrel

20# Dacron backing tied in a uni knot around the tippet section makes a slidable and visible knot. Trim the tags and use it as a stopper.

For years, I’ve shared the simple Backing Barrel with friends, and we’ve found many uses for it as a stopper knot, an addition to a sighter or as a standalone sighter itself. Then, last March, during an olive hatch, it suddenly dawned on me to pair the Backing Barrel with a foam pinch on.

With a strong headwind picking up toward late morning, the olive duns were mostly blown off the surface, and trout stopped rising. But those same fish were still eagerly eating nymphs underneath. These were small nymphs of size #18, light enough to make the yarn indy prohibitive on a tight line. The problem was the same with a dry dropper. Even if I could cast a #18 olive nymph paired with an equally sized dry on my tight line, the headwind would blow me off the target before the rig landed.

Sure, I could have used a small Thingamabobber, but then the finesse would be gone, and the extra splash was bound to spook a few trout feeding at the top of the water column.

So I reached for the seldom-used Palsa Pinch-Ons at the bottom of my vest pocket. And as I attached it, I glanced at the Backing Barrel that was already tied to my tippet section as a depth gauge. I actually chuckled out loud at the simplicity. Because for so many years, I’d missed this easy combination of tools.

Pinch the foam to the line, above the Backing Barrel. And when it’s time to reposition the indy to get deeper or shallower, slide the foam and the barrel. The Backing Barrel holds the line and the foam butts up against it. They’re a perfect and natural match.

When to Use the Pinch-On

The pinch-on foam indy fills a specific role for me. It’s never as sensitive as the Troutbitten yarn — nothing ever is. And it does not support as much weight as most other indys.

A hard indicator, like a Thingamabobber, Corkie, Air-Lock, etc., weighs enough that it changes the cast. Suddenly, the angler must cast both the weight of the indy and the weight of the nymph. The indy then acts as a hinge point in the leader. Sometimes, all of that is a good thing, and the hard bobber-type indy is the best tool. Other times, not so much.

Most often, I prefer the Troutbitten yarn and rubber band style (the Dorsey) because nothing is more adjustable, light or sensitive. The angler casts right through the yarn because it is weightless. There is no hinge effect, and that’s excellent. But sometimes the air resistance of the yarn holds back the cast too much, especially when paired with a single, small nymph on a tight line rig or when casting into a headwind. This is when the pinch-on shines.

Foam pinch-ons cut through the wind. And they cast further than yarn or a dry fly suspender on a tight line rig. At the same time, they do not weigh enough to change the cast like a Thingamabobber. Essentially, the pinch-ons are a great middle ground between yarn and bobber.

Lastly, the pinch-on and Backing Barrel combination is a great solution on 5X or smaller diameter tippet. I prefer to use 4X for the first section beyond my sighter, and that’s where I attach my usual indy, like the Dorsey or a Thingamabobber. But when I feel the need to go small after the sighter, when I go to 5X or even 6X for the first piece of tippet, attaching any other indy is problematic. In that cast, the pinch-ons are a wonderful solution.

** Buy Palsa Pinch-Ons HERE and Support Troutbitten **

Do It

This season, as the water levels drop and the nymph selection becomes smaller in size, I find myself pulling out the Palsas more often. It’s a quick change — an efficient adjustment. It’s more effective than floating the sighter, because I have just one point of contact on the water (the pinch-on) rather than a foot or two of sighter material. That equals less drag and more precision.

By making the Palsa foam pinch-on quickly adjustable for depth, it’s a whole new tool, ready to be a piece in the next puzzle.

Fish hard, friends.

 

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

 

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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.

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24 Comments

  1. I never would’ve thought of that. It would have worked well for me yesterday when I couldn’t cast the Dorsey with a small unweighted nymph. I had to go to the “duo”.

    Thanks Dom.

    Reply
    • As always, love the problem solving and thought processs Dom! I can certainly see the benefit in windy conditions in slower water. However, with faster water, I often revert to my fly line and Dorsey which helps overcome wind but still gives me stealth and precise strike detection.

      Reply
      • Cool. In faster water, I usually prefer to tight line. Even if it’s windy, I can usually stay close and tight line.

        Cheers.
        Dom

        Reply
      • How about a little more detail on the backing barrel. Not sure what it is where you get them and what was its purpose before you used it with your stick on indicator.
        TIA

        Reply
        • Hi there.

          Links to the dedicated Backing Barrel article are above, in this article. I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that. 🙂

          Cheers
          Dom

          Reply
    • How do you make it adjustable since it sticks to the leader? A guide I follow in Wisconsin, Rich Ostoff burns a hole in the Palsa with a hot needle then keeps it in place with a small tooth pick.

      Reply
      • Hi there.

        The stickiness holds until the first movement. Then it just kind of holds, but not reliably. Luck a lot of the stuff I write about, it’ll make sense once you go out and fish it. Promise.

        Cheers.
        Dom

        Reply
  2. I like it. Will have to give it a try. I tend to use the oblong pinch-ons rather than the round Palsa ones, so will have to see how this translates. I too feel that the pinch on indicator fills a valuable niche where a bobber type indicator is too much splash, but the yarn indicators are too air resistant. Pinch ons float well, land very lightly, and cut through the air way better than a Dorsey or NZ wool indicator, especially, as you say, when you are fishing lightly weighed flies, which is very often in my world.

    Reply
  3. That’s a great idea Dom. I never liked the sticky residue left on the leader by the palsa indicator. Can a barrel knot be tied so it’s long enough for the palsa to be pinched onto only the barrel knot? And still be easily moved?You really started the wheels in my head spinning. :-). Tight Lines.
    John

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Some years ago, it seems they changed the adhesive. It doesn’t leave a sticky residue for me anymore.

      Dom

      Reply
      • Thanks Dom. Guess I haven’t used them in a while.

        Reply
  4. Should of said something,might of been able to give back. In Northwest where we do tons of bobber fishing(wait till you hook 35lb salmon on bobber rig) there is a system we use utilizing pre tied barrel knots on thin straw,for us in hurry,then a tiny bead to prevent bobber sliding. Voila!!!! Love to hear more floater stories,literally ALL my 20″+ trout off bobbers!!! Tight lines!

    Reply
  5. Dom,
    Interesting article and I can see the practicality in it. I have a conundrum in my head though. My gut tells me that the barrel knot stopper should go above the pinch-on to prevent it from working it’s way up the 5X tippet, and not below it where it can’t hold the pinch-on in place. Am I missing something? If the pinch-on is easily slidable after being moved up and down the tippet several times maybe a barrel stopper above and below it would be the way to go?
    Alton

    Reply
    • Hi Alton.

      I get your line of thinking, but I don’t have that problem of them sliding up. I should say, though, I don’t fish them all day, either. I suppose it could get loose enough to slide up eventually. For me, it’s the wind during the cast that slides them down, I believe.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
      • Hi Dom,

        Thanks. Now I follow why you placed the barrel knot below the indy. Thanks for clearing the waters.

        Alton

        Reply
  6. Have you tried rubber bobber stops used for slip floats? Less than $0.10 a piece and much easier and quicker than tying a barrel knot.

    Reply
    • An old piece of fly line works well too!

      Reply
      • Hi Stefan,

        For me, and old piece of fly line mounted on 5x is overkill. Fly line is too thick for my purposes here. It makes a poor stopper, in comparison to the Backing Barrel. The full article linked above explains a little more about why I like the Backing Barrel so much.

        That said, if the fly line works for you, don’t change!

        Cheers.
        Dom

        Reply
    • Hi Rick,

      Yes, I’ve tried them, but they are too clunky and a bit heavy for me. Nothing is more slim and visible than that backing barrel.

      Reply
    • I have small float stops on a baiting needle on a zinger.My yarn & foam indicators have spiderwire braid in there construction.I add them to my tippet with the small float stops.The backing barrel is great though.I still use it lots.For tightline nymphing i use neon wax for my sighter now.

      Reply
  7. I have moved on from the pinch on indicators. The main problem that I see in the streams that I fish in Wisconsin and out West is…..discarded pinch on indicators floating in the waters or collecting in the side eddies of riffles. When they ware out, sadly the “American Sportsman” just throws them in the stream.

    Give me the new screw on bubble indicators any day or the Pat Dorsey’s.

    My two cents worth.

    Reply
    • Hi Barry,

      I guess we don’t see that here. I wouldn’t call litter an American sportsman problem as much as it sounds like you have a regional problem. I honestly can’t remember the last time I found a pinch-on on the river. But I do find Thingamabobbers, Air Locks, Corkies and other things too. Mostly I see them in the trees once in a while. I’ve certainly lost a few rigs myself.

      My favored indy selection is similar to yours. My first choice is the Dorsey style yarn. And my second choice is a Thingamabobber rigged for easy sliding with the same rubber band as the yarn. As mentioned in the article, though, there’s a time when neither of those indicators is ideal — so I employ the pinch-on.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply

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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.

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