If you’re a regular reader of this little blog then you’ll be aware that I spend a lot of time fly fishing the French Leader technique. It’s a reasonably controversial style of fly fishing due to the fact that it doesn’t actually use any fly line, or a normal fly cast. Instead the angler uses a very long tapered leader of up to 50′ to present one, two or three flies – usually nymphs – with minimal drag. It is a fantastically effective way of fishing nymphs and is undoubtedly putting anglers in contact with more fish than previously possible.
Generally the angler relies on an indicator to spot when a fish has taken their fly. There are a few different types of indicator to use but I’ve settled on the Spiral style indicator as I believe it’s the most sensitive. I’ve spoken to competition anglers who say they don’t like this style because it can be more prone to time consuming tangles but as I’m not fishing against the clock like those guys this is no issue to myself or 99% of pleasure anglers. The spiral indicator is a coil of bright nylon which acts as the link between the tapered french leader and the business end where the flies are tied. Held above the water, this coil stretches and contracts as the nymphs bounce along the riverbed, a take from a fish is generally seen as a prolonged stretch of the coil or a complete halt of the whole rig.
It’s possible to buy ready made spiral indicators online, and they work excellently. It is however far more cost effective to make your own, and that’s exactly what I would like to show you here. I’m certainly not claiming that my indicators are the best, you might figure out your own method but this is how I make mine. To make your own spiral indicators you will need:
Hanak Bi-Colour Indicator Line – I like the twin colour 9 lb and 13lb stuff.
Good quality micro tippet rings
Some round profile wooden kebab skewers
Some thin sticky tape
A small pan/kettle of boiling water
First off, fill your kettle and turn it on, you’ll need the hot water soon enough.
You’ll notice that the Hanak Bi-Colour Indicator line is indeed two colours, maybe even three depending on which you buy. Cut a 50 cm length from the spool trying to ensure that the colour change or changes are in the middle of the length of line you have cut away. The centre of this section will be the centre of the coil of the finished indicator and having two colours gives the angler greater visibility of the indicator on the water.
Tape one end of the indicator line to the blunt end of the skewer, leaving a tag of around 10cm. Don’t go too low on the skewer as you really don’t want the indicator line to touch the bottom or sides of the pan when you boil it later. Speaking of pan, pour the boiling water in there and start to boil it now.
Taking great care wrap the indicator line tightly around the skewer. Try to make very tight touching turns as any tiny gaps now will appear far larger once the finished indicator is removed from the skewer. I find that between 35 and 40 turns is plenty, don’t be tempted to make the Spiral too long here as even though it looks insignificant now once it is stretched a little this will be highly visible.
Tape the tag end you have been winding down on to the skewer. This can be a little fiddly as you need to avoid the coils on the skewer opening up. It pays to have your piece of tape ready at this point to avoid unnecessary movement. You should be left with a tag of a similar length to the one at the bottom end. At this point I tape the tags loosely towards the thinner end of the skewer to avoid the chances of them touching the hot surfaces of the pan.
With the water now at a rollicking boil place the skewers in to the pan so that the coils are totally covered. Again, take care to ensure the tag ends don’t touch the side of the pan. The boiling water softens the monofilament indicator, helping it form its coiled shape around the skewer. Leave your skewer in the water for no more than 60 seconds.
Take the skewers straight from the pan and in to a freezer, ensuring that the coils arent in contact with anything in there and that the tags are making minimal contact. The cold of the freezer will solidify the coiled form of the hot, soft monofilament. I tend to leave mine in there overnight but this may be overkill. A few hours at the very least is required for the coils to fully take their new shape.
Take the coils from the freezer and remove the tape from either end. It should be a fairly simple job to remove the indicators from the skewers here. Tie on a Micro tippet ring to each tag end and you’re all done, a spiral indicator. If you find irregularities to the shape of the coils then this is down to not wrapping the indicator line around the skewer correctly – don’t worry, it takes a little practice!