January 22nd, 2001

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Fishing with a Bubble

Joe Zammerelli

I just wanted to drop a line about my experiences with bubble fishing. I've been out three or four times a week this winter, both with and without bubble. The bubble I've been using is marketed as the A-justa bubble. It has a length of surgical tubing through which you run the line. Twisting the bubble twists the tubing which grips the line - in theory. Mine (I've tried six) untwist themselves. I tried cleaning the bubbles, thinking there may be some lubricant left over from the molding process, but they still slip. So I fish them with a swivel on the line to act as a stopper.

For flies, I've been using mostly streamers and nymphs. I've tried some poppers, but I've never had much luck with them anyway, so it wouldn't be a very good test. And that proved true this winter. I was 0 for 4. I also tried dries a few times, but it's just the wrong bait for the fish I was after and, again, but not surprisingly, I got skunked (0 for 3).

You'll recall that I'm a spin fisher. I have a little 5 1/2 foot ultralight rig with 2# line. As a control, I fished the same water, same flies sans bubble. I used a bit of split shot and a strike indicator. Some days I'd start with a bubble then switch off, others I'd start without and switch to later. Not really scientific, but I wanted mix things up in a logical way for comparison purposes. And while I tried to match presentation, I also tried to fish both systems as well as I could.

Lastly, I was restricted to warm water fishing, taking only two trips to the mountains, so all I caught were bass and panfish. I got skunked in the mountains. More likely due to my inexperience with cold water streams than anything else.

Of the 25 outings I caught fish on 14. On only one trip did I catch fish with the bubble and none without. I caught fish 7 times without a bubble and none with. And on the remaining 6 trips I caught with both, though the proportion was clearly in favor of the bubbleless presentation.

The method I used, as I said, was to alternate with and without the bubble during the same outing. I actually fished more often, starting out with a trusted Panther Martin spinner and only tried the bubble if I had a catch on the lure. My thinking being that if I could catch fish a with a lure, I should be able to catch fish with the flies. Once I caught a fish with the spinner, I switched over to flies and I tried to fish them the same way, i.e. similar to the spinner with regards to presentation, depth, and etc.

As for technique, the recommendation is to fish the bubble only a couple of feet from the bait. You can't convince me that the fish will ignore that big blob so close to the fly, so I gave it about a 4 foot lead. This allowed me to cast with my little bitty rod without dragging the fly in the dirt. I added a bit of split shot half way to the fly to bring it down a bit.

Another thing I tried was partially filling the bubble with water. My notes show that most of the catches with the bubble on the line came with a partially submerged bubble.

Bubbleless, I rigged the fly with a bit of shot, again, and a strike indicator (or 2). My plan was to get the weight and flotation I needed without the mass of a bubble on the line. The indicators sometimes submerged under the weight of the shot. But when they stayed on the surface, they left a much smaller wake than the bubble during the retrieve.

And, again, as I said I tried dries, but the fish weren't interested. Too, I couldn't rig them without a bubble and still get a decent cast. At least with the wets I could add shot. I wanted them to sink.

Which brings me to, as I see it, the bubble's main advantage: long casts. Which, as I understand it, is it's sole raison d'etre. I was able to cast flies further with the bubble. Add a bit of water to the beast and I could run the spool. (just kidding) Adding water also seemed to make it less obvious to the fish - after the initial splash.

My conclusion is that a spin fisher doesn't need a bubble to fish streamers and/or nymphs. Yet, it IS easier to rig a bubble than a combination of weights and floats. I haven't tried dries in the appropriate setting, so the jury is still out on that. In moving water, I think the bubble would be less obtrusive. It certainly seemed to be the couple of times I tried it. The down side is, the bubble, as the strike indicator, should let the fisher know when there's a strike. With the bubble filled with water, I couldn't sense the hits nearly as well.

The bottom line is I caught more fish without the bubble than with. I'll acknowledge that my ignorance with the equipment may have caused some of the disproportion. I deferred to books for instruction. I found Fly and Bubble by Allen Druke unhelpful. It's certainly not what I'd call a "serious" fishing book, more like a children's book. I found Prospecting For Trout by Tom Rossenbauer more useful.

Again, I didn't get much cold water stream time. Our local TU chapter took a break last month, but should start monthly trips again soon, so I'll have more chances to get my tail into cold water.

And summer's coming, so I'll keep the plastic beasties with me and give 'em a toss occasionally. I'm anxious to fish dries in moving water with and without bubble. I think this may be the area where the bubble shines - at least I hope.

Anywho, it's been a couple of months of good fishing regardless. ~ Joe Zammarelli

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