Stunned, Jess lowered his fly to his side and replied in disbelief, "Really, that small pause was a strike?"
As the month of October quietly unfolds, angling opportunities in Southeast Alaska become much leaner. However, there are still fish available for the adventurous angler and in some locations, like the Haines area, there are plenty of fish to keep your arm in shape.
One technique that I employ during this lean time of the year that is especially effective is the "right angle" indicator method. This particular technique was developed along the banks of Hat Creek in Northern California, known throughout the U.S. as the Ph.D. fly-fishing waters of the country, by two innovative and personal friends, Dave Hickson and Dean Shubert. Together, they coined the right angle indicator method of nymph fishing as we know it today.
Right angle indicator fishing is more than just fishing with the visual aid of a strike indicator such as a small piece of foam or an added floating corkie. In contrast, the right angle indicator technique employs the use of poly yarn, and in particular, the use of two or more highly contrasting colors.
The use of vivid, highly contrasting colored poly yarn is critical to recognizing the "turn over" point in the drift. The turn over point in the drift is when the presented fly is directly below (and hence at a right angle with respect to) the suspended tuff of poly yarn. It is the significance of this generated right angle "hinge" that separates this type of indicator fishing and its effectiveness from all other forms of strike indicator fishing.
Recognizing the turning point is key to successful right angle indicator fishing. Unfortunately, almost every fly angler who uses a poly yarn indicator overlooks this critical component. To assist you in understanding the significance of the turning point, envision the following drift examples.
Case one: This case begins with the indicator downstream of the fly, and is the most commonly encountered presentation. Because currents are faster on the surface, the indicator drags the
fly. The fly very rarely finds the bottom where fish rest and forage.
Case two: Here the fly lands downstream of the indicator and indicator must catch up with the fly, so a majority of grabs will go undetected. Hickson and Shubert recognized this, and were quick to note that their brightly colored poly yarn indicators would "pivot" and shift colors at the point in the drift when their fly was directly under their indicators. They referred to this pivot as the "turn over" point.
Successful indicator fishing stems from achieving the turning point as fast as possible and maintaining this position during the drift through creative and multiple line mends. The result is unsurpassed strike detection.
Right angle indicator fishing using poly yarn is a highly effective method of fly-fishing. It offers you, the angler, an added visual that assists you when targeting bottom-hugging fish commonly encountered during late season angling here in Southeast Alaska. With a little practice and focus, I'm confident that you'll soon be able to recognize the pivot. And once you do, you'll find it to be your turning point to successful subsurface fishing.