The Best Fly Fishing Strike Indicator (2024): All Options Reviewed

Your indicator is a vital bit of equipment for nymph fishing – read on to get our tips on the best indicators available for a variety of conditions

For nymphing, it is vital to strike as soon as the trout has taken the fly.

The best way to stay in visual contact with your fly is to fish with a strike indicator.

Choosing the best fly fishing strike indicator can make a big difference to your catch rate.
But which is the best model to use? 

We have chosen our top indicators for three common fishing scenarios, as shown below. Read on for a full review of all the best fly fishing strike indicators on the market.

Best for Strong Currents
The Thingamabobber

On balance, the Thingamabobber is the best option for fishing vigorous runs and rapids where other indicators tend to get swamped.

Best for Clear Waters
The New Zealand Strike Indicator

It is simple but deadly and was designed with the huge super wary brown trout that NZ is famous for in mind.

Best for Strong Winds
Loon Biostrike Putty

It is a bit like super buoyant plasticine and you pinch it on to your leader in the required size.

Best Strike Indicator for Spooky Trout and Clear Waters

The New Zealand Strike Indicator
The New Zealand Strike Indicator
The New Zealand Strike Indicator
Our Score

Big trout, clear waters, and no room for mistakes! Our clear top pick for these conditions is the New Zealand Strike Indicator.

It is simple but deadly and was designed with the huge super wary brown trout that NZ is famous for in mind.

It comes with a needle tool on which you thread little sections of clear tubing.

You loop the line through the tool at the preferred point of attachment of the indicator, grab a pinch of the wool yarn – it comes with multiple colors which can be blended – and squeeze the tube down onto the line and the yarn.

This pinches it into position. You can vary the amount of yarn and the shading of it to suit the fishing situation, as the picture shows below.

There are other yarn indicators some with elastic, that are easy to attach and detach, but you can’t vary the amount of yarn, and they are more prone to slipping.

  • Easy to attach, fully adjustable
  • Can change colors
  • Can vary the size
  • Easy to cast - don’t interfere with casting dynamics
  • Doesn’t slip or kink line
  • Uses natural wool; doesn't contribute to plastic waste
  • Not as buoyant as bubble or foam alternatives

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Best Strike Indicator for Strong Currents

The Thingamabobber
The Thingamabobber
The Thingamabobber
Our Score

While the NZ indicator stands out for finesse fishing, there are a few options for highly buoyant indicators, and several choices are available.

The most buoyant option is the bubble-type indicators, but there are also foam-based options, including pinch-ons.

On balance, the Thingamabobber is the best option for fishing vigorous runs and rapids where other indicators tend to get swamped. These indicators attach securely and come in various sizes: ½”, ¾”, 1”, and 1 ¼”.

You can also cast them relatively well in strong winds.

  • Super buoyant
  • Don’t need to apply floatant
  • Variety of sizes
  • Easy to attach and detach
  • Splash done with considerable impact
  • Not good where stealth is needed

Best Indicator for Strong Winds

Some great nymphing water on a New Zealand trout river.
Loon Biostrike Putty
Loon Biostrike Putty
Loon Biostrike Putty
Our Score

Our top choice for strong winds is the Loon Biostrike Putty. It is a bit like super buoyant plasticine, and you pinch it onto your leader in the required size.

It’s relatively easy to punch through the wind. To be honest, the Thingamabobber is OK in the wind too, and, provided you don’t use too much yarn, the NZ Strike Indicator performs well in the wind too.

Where it struggles, though, is when you need a lot of yarn for buoyancy, which then compromises your ability to cast in strong winds.

  • Flexible - can add as much or as little as needed
  • Environmentally sensitive
  • Also good on spooky trout
  • Can come dislodged during casting
  • Not reusable
A nice brown trout picked up on a nymph using the New Zealand indicator system.

Other Choices as Strike Indicators

A Dry Fly

In many situations, such as smaller streams and rivers where you don’t need to vary the depth of your presentation much, a buoyant dry fly such as a Royal Wulff, Stimulator, or Humpy serves as a perfect strike indicator.

The added bonus is that often enough, the fish will eat the dry (nothing worse than when a fish rises to an indicator).

Just be careful in terms of knots. While using a surgeon’s knot with a long tag and tying the dry to the tag of the surgeon’s knot will cut it for fish up to three pounds, anything larger risks breaking the line. In this situation, you should tie the nymph off the hook bend of the dry for maximum strength.

A word on buoyancy – the required buoyancy is dependent on the weight of the nymph you use. So if you are using a size 12 tungsten bead head nymph with a decent size bead, you aren’t going to be able to suspend it under a size 16 Parachute Adams.

Conversely, if you are using a size 18 unweighted Pheasant Tail Nymph or one with a brass bead as opposed to tungsten, you can get away with a finesse dry and keep it afloat.

No Indicator

Often we get set in our ways as anglers, and using an indicator and nymphing is no exception. There are occasions – usually in clearwater situations fishing with long fluoro leaders – where you don’t need an indicator. You can judge the timing of the strike in two ways:

  • The body language of the fish – fish will drift left or right to intercept the nymph, and when they turn back parallel to the current is time to strike.
  • The flash of white – when you see the white of the insides of the fish’s mouth, it’s time to strike. By the time you’ve lifted your rod, the trout will have closed its mouth around the fly, and you’ve timed the strike perfectly.

Then there is euro nymphing, where you use a special leader with a colored section called a sighter to judge the strike.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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