Al Campbell, Field Editor

March 4th, 2002

Strike Indicators
By Al Campbell

People have argued about the ethics of strike indicators since the first strike indicator was used. Considering the way that first strike indicator was used, I think I understand why people might object. First, we need a brief history.

You've all heard the crude jokes about the traveling salesman and the farmer's daughter. The first strike indicator was the result of such an encounter. It seems the farmer caught the salesman entertaining his daughter in an indiscrete fashion. Being a Cajun farmer from Louisiana, it was time to take matters into his own hands; so the farmer painted the salesman's head with red barn paint and took him to the swamp.

A passing fisherman asked the Cajun farmer what that red thing was bobbing in the waves. His reply was, "Dat eez a strike eendicator. Eef a 'gator takes dee bait, eet lets me know I hab a bite. Den I strike back when dee eendicator goes down an' dee hoe fameelee hab 'gator for deener."

As you might guess, the animal rights folks had a fit. They said it was cruel to subject alligators to that kind of treatment. In fact, they said the only thing with less nutritional value than a traveling salesman was a politician since politicians are mostly hot air and lack any real substance. I think they were wrong, but we don't discuss the substance I think politicians are full of here on FAOL. This is a family magazine, for heaven's sake!

I suppose the ethical confusion over using those little bobbers fly fishermen call "strike indicators" dates back to the traveling salesman. Since animal rights folks know nothing about fishing and even less about fisheries management, I can understand how they would raise a fuss about ethics when they heard fly-fishermen were using strike indicators on fish. As usual, they don't have a clue.

Now, as far as those little bobbers are concerned, I think they are valuable tools for anyone trying to get a good drift with a nymph on the end of his/her tippet. They give fly-fishers the ability to set the depth they want the nymph to drift, provide a visual indicator of any bites that might otherwise go undetected, and reduce the amount of slack between the rod tip and the fly if used properly. What's wrong with that?

I'm sure there are a few folks in this world who object to little bobbers on a fly leader. Heck, there are folks in this world who object to fishing in any form. Others object to bait fishing, spin fishing, (insert your favorite objection here), etc. Some folks object to fly-fishing with nymphs, streamers, and even wet flies. Some people actually suggest that it isn't flyfishing unless a dry fly is on the end of the tippet. As a matter of fact, some folks are just objectionable.

In my case, I object to people who have their nose so far in the air that they would be in trouble if it rained hard. Getting back to the animal rights crowd, there are some people in this world who will do anything to think they are better than someone else. If that means they try to belittle others for not fishing the way they do, or for fishing at all, then that is what they'll do. I have about as much time for them as I do for politicians during an election year.

I'm not sure why some fly-fisherman decided to call little fly fishing bobbers 'strike indicators.' Maybe it sounded like a higher form of fishing than the regular bobber crowd to him; or maybe he thought it was a more accurate description of the bobber. I hope the answer is the latter and not the former, but considering the attitudes of some people in this sport, I won't venture a guess.

I hope this little history lesson has been helpful and maybe entertaining. Flyfishing is supposed to be fun. Isn't that why we all started in the first place? I'm sure it won't prevent some politically minded bigot from looking down his/her nose at you for doing something they believe they have risen above, but that's life. The next time a so-called fly-fisher does that to you, pray for rain. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns
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