As a boy I began fishing with little more than a hook tied to a string with perhaps a washer or bolt attached as a sinker.
I would impale some poor sea creature, mostly shrimp, on the hook and sling it all as far as my 8-year-old arm could into the Elizabeth River in Virginia. I didn’t even have a rod; I used a short stick, and pulled in my quarry hand over hand, like Hemingway’s Santiago in "Old Man and the Sea."
But, hey, I wasn’t fishing for marlin. I caught croaker and spot. The croakers made funny noises and were a big hit with my friends.
Then I graduated to using a rod and reel. I used big ol’ lead sinkers to get the bait into the deep water. It was years before I discovered bobbers, which dance on the gentle waves until a fish strikes and pulls its red-and-white body violently underwater.
Boy, that was fun.
I fished like that for years. One time in South Carolina, I fished for bass with a fellow who used long rods and bobbers. I thought that was weird at the time. Still do.
About 20-some years ago I discovered fly fishing, bought a rod and a bagful of flies and attacked the nearest river 225 times out of 365 days. I kept a record.
I forgot about bobber fishing.
But within the past couple of years, I began to zero in on nymph fishing under the surface. At first, I just watched the fly line for twitches that indicated a strike. Then I began tying on a dry fly with a nymph or wet fly attached to about 6 to 8 inches of tippet. When a trout nudged the nymph, the dry fly got dunked like a bobber. Fish on.
But a lot of anglers today use yarn tied to their leaders as strike indicators, while others use a fluorescent colored putty on the line. And there are indicators like the Thingamabobber that’s supposed to be easy to put on and remove.
On the MidCurrent fly fishing Web site, they say strike indicators have three primary jobs: they must float well, be easy for anglers to see and small enough not to scare all the trout. Big roiling water requires a much bigger indicator than slow pools.
Last week I tried fishing a blood midge attached by a skinny 7X tippet and a No. 16 dry fly. These little nymphs, about the size of a little girl’s freckles, are usually deadly on the Davidson River, and huge trout will gobble them like corn chips all day. It was way too early for any major mayfly or caddis hatches, so I fished the little nymph.
And you know what? I caught trout … on the dry fly. They ignored the nymph, which I thought was odd.
The next day I bought some bobber indicators. They’re as bright as fire trucks’ flashing lights and may startle some wary trout in quiet pools.
But bobber fishing makes me feel like a kid.
If I catch fish, so much the better.