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Alaska Style Nymphing with Palsa Pinch-On Strike Indicators

Posted on April 29 2016

Palsa strike indicators for Alaskan trout.
Palsa pinch-on strike indicators. Photo: Kyle Shea.

We love fishing dry flies for trout as much as the next guy (ahem, that means rodents in our neck of the woods), but the fact remains that the a vast majority of a trout’s diet actually exists sub-surface. Therefore, if catching a lot of fish is your prerogative, nymphing is hard to beat.

While our ‘nymphs’ in Western Alaska might look a little different than those used on your local trout stream (salmon flesh and egg imitations as opposed to pheasant tails and copper johns), the techniques used remains the same – Dead drifted flies, drifted on or near the bottom of the river.

Nowadays, when nymphing for trout, many anglers have grown accustomed to using buoyant ‘bobber-style’ strike indicators, and for good reason.. They can be extremely effective! However, on our rivers, sometimes we like the versatility of being able to adjust the depth our fly is fishing throughout the drift, rather than stay suspended at the same depth (as is the case with most traditional indicators). That’s why some of our guides actually prefer to nymph without an indicator altogether. The only problem is, without the visual cue of a strike indicator, subtle strikes can be difficult to detect.

But what if there was a strike indicator that could be fished deep or shallow without ever having to adjust for the given depth? Well, Alaska West guide, Eric Robbins, uses a pretty clever rig to do just that when nymphing up big Kanektok rainbow trout. So, today we thought we’d steal a page out of Eric’s playbook and share his little secret with you.. Sorry Eric.

Palsa Pinch-On Indicators for Alaskan Trout

When chucking heavy flesh or bead rigs, Eric’s go-to strike indicators are Palsa Pinch-On Strike Indicators – Yes, the same light weight, foam, adhesive backed, indicators you might have used on your local spring creek. However, how he rigs them might be a bit different.

On a standard 9 foot leader, one Palsa indicator is pinched on approximately 5-6 feet above the fly. Then, a second indicator is pinched on 12 inches above that. This way, when fishing shallow water, both indicators are able to ride on the surface of the water in typical fashion. However, if your flies drift into a deep pocket (you know, where the big boys are often found), the weight of the fly and/or split shot is able to submerge the indicators (or at least the bottom most indicator), allowing the fly to reach the appropriate depth.. But, because there are two indicators, even when submerged at least one indicator is visible at all times, allowing the strike to be seen regardless of how deep the fly is fished. The indicator never has to be adjusted, meaning more time your fly is in the zone, thus more fish you’re going to catch.. Brilliant.

According to Eric, it’s one deadly way to nymph for trout, and whether fishing in Alaska or on your local trout stream, we suggest you give it a try!

More on Nymphing for Trout

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