Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review: Air-Lock Strike Indicators

At last check there are about 763 different kinds of strike indicators (read "bobbers") on the market for fly fishermen to choose from. I've tried nearly all of them. Most work, but they all have drawbacks. And most of the drawbacks have to do with the effect they have on the leader.

Some either put a kink or knot in the leader; others fall off the leader too easily. And some leave a coating on the leader.

A new player on the indicator scene, Air-Lock, distinguishes itself by protecting the leader with an ingenious screw-top feature that sits atop a plastic ball.

Casting with a plastic ball on the leader is far from elegant. A guide with Trout Bum 2 introduced me to the concept more than 10 years ago, the ball he used was actually a small balloon. The technique is highly effective. While I still prefer fishing without an indicator, I've learned that they can make a huge difference when fishing in specific conditions. The Thingamabobber made blowing up balloons streamside unnecessary. But I've grown to hate the Thingamabobber for a few reasons. Looping the leader through the small hole at the top puts a kink in the leader that cannot be straightened out. Worse, I've had the leader break where it rubs against the edges of the hole.

Enter the Air-Lock. It features a slotted screw and an o-ring nut mechanism at the top of the plastic ball. The leader slides into the slot in the screw. The nut fits over the top of the screw and is tightened down to hold the leader firmly in place. The leader isn't damaged or kinked by being slid into the slot in the plastic screw. And the nut doesn't appear to do any damage to the leader either. As I said, every strike indicator has its drawbacks. The Air-Lock's drawback is this: it requires two hands and fairly nimble fingers to attach. Steelheaders accustomed to fishing in sub-freezing temps will find attaching the Air-Lock to be rather challenging. I haven't dropped a nut into the river yet, but I know it's coming.

As drawbacks go, it's a minor one. The Air-Lock will be my go-to indicator when drifting deep runs and slots on Steelhead Alley. It's not as subtle as the New Zealand Strike Indicator, but it floats much better with heavily weighted flies; a must for steelheaders. I expect I will be using the Air-Lock until indicator #764 comes along.

No comments: