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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
T R O U T B I T T E N