Imagine this if you can, a large green or orange ball suddenly drops in front of you, hovers just over your head for about ten seconds then disappears. Would that freak you out? Personally I’d be expecting a couple guys in black suites to show up shortly after. But that’s what a strike indicator in shallow water looks like to fish, it certainly freaks them out.
To catch shallow water fish that aren’t looking to rise or chase a streamer I’ve started to use a different technique that has become something of a “go-to” method for me. It isn’t necessarily glamorous nor does it require much finesse. It’s more of a blunt attack on the fish, forcing something odd into their world that they have no choice but to investigate. And at first glance it seems to big and crazy to fool such an intelligent fish, but the big and crazy seems to be exactly why it works.
The setup begins with a Big White Worm (BWW), which is essentially a massive san juan worm tied about two inches long using white baby yarn (Bernat yarn) on a size eight heavy scud hook. I love this fly because it is so easy to tie, acts extremely realistic in the water, and flat draws attention. The second piece of the Underwater Indicator rig is just about any midge, nymph, or fly you think fish near the bottom would like. Personally I like to fish a prince nymph or bead-head scud with it. This fly should be tied about eighteen inches behind the Big White Worm on a separate piece of tippet attached to the bend in the hook.
The BWW is the “indicator” portion of the Underwater Indicator setup because of how visible and easy it is to see. When it becomes waterlogged it sinks very quickly and rolls easily across the stream bed with the small midge or nymph in tow. Often times a trout will swim right up and take the BWW but just as often they want something a little more subtle, that is where the
nymph comes in. As an angler watches the BWW it may jerk or move from side to side as a fish strikes the smaller fly paired with it, essentially allowing someone to sight fish a tiny fly that wouldn’t be visible otherwise.
On top of the stealth that this special set up provides it also offers an extremely realistic drift near the bottom that nymphing with an indicator simply can’t. With a float the current on the surface affects the flies deeper down, but when fishing the BWW the drift is as real as possible short of cutting the line. The realistic drift, missing indicator, and curiosity fish feel towards the Big White Worm all make this a technique perfect for picky and/or spooky trout in skinny water.