“Bobber Wars,” Part Deux: The Truth Comes Out!

Deeter is a real sport to let Louis wind him up like this.
Photo via ginkandgasoline.com

Yesterday, we posted about a hot online debate between Kirk Deeter and Louis Cahill about the use of strike indicators—a.k.a. “bobbers”—in fly fishing. Well, it turns out that this whole “spontaneous” argument was. . .gasp!. . .planned months ago. Writing on the Angling Trade website, Deeter says that the whole thing was a “media experiment to see how anglers would react.”

However, he then goes on to respond to Cahill’s arguments, making a perhaps more nuanced case for at least limiting the use of strike indicators. In the process, though, he makes some bold claims, such as that “matching the underwater hatch” is a myth. Hmmmmn. I definitely know anglers who stand on both sides of this debate. . .and some who say the same thing about dry flies and streamers, as well. I am reminded of an old-timer I met on Maine’s Rapid River twenty years ago, who told me that after decades of fly fishing, he had decided that all he needed to catch fish were three patterns: a Royal Wulff, a Hare’s Ear Nymph, and a Hornberg. This last fly he fished dry, as a swinging wet fly, and stripped deep as a streamer.

Now that you know the skinny behind the “Bobber Wars,” does it change your opinion at all?

Relevant links:

  1. Deeter’s original Article
  2. Cahill’s response
  3. Deeter’s latest argument

6 thoughts on ““Bobber Wars,” Part Deux: The Truth Comes Out!”

  1. I have caught plenty of trout using “bobbers” in our Driftless streams. But the frustrating thing is having to constantly adjust for drift. The most effective “bobber” that myself and my fishing buddies have found is the Pulsa float. Which is a real pain in the butt when you have to change depth. So, I find myself doing more nymphing without an indicator, fishing dry flies, or swinging soft hackles. At my age, while the objective is still to catch a few trout, I find myself fishing the method that is more enjoyable, all be it, perhaps less effective.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Dave R: Try the New Zealand Strike Indicator. It’s easily adjustable. You just grab it and move it up and down the leader with ease!

  2. I cannot figure out why this is a controversy. Fish an indicator when appropriate, leave it off when it isn’t (or don’t). Each has its place. This whole thing seems to be ginned up by people who are embarrassed that it might be related to spin tackle. Mostly, my experience is that these are new-style steamer guys who are ashamed of their “Raplla” past.
    If Deeter and Cahill did do this trolling on purpose, then the should be ashamed of themselves for encouraging this nonsense. I enjoy reading both of them, but this is just low.

  3. Kirk’s real message has nothing to do with indicators. He is trying to divide fly fishermen. Read my original response to his article below.

    As a full-time fishing guide I am having a hard time understanding your position or intent here. While it seems as though you want better fishing, your message is unclear and your argument somewhat flawed.
    You say, “Some scientists suggest one in 10 fish or more croak after being caught. So you tell me who’s having a bigger impact on the system, the person who catches a creel limit every now and then, or the guide who’s raking in 50 fish a day with nymphs and bobbers? Maybe anglers who use bobbers should keep the fish and adhere to a limit.”
    The first question is why you are singling out nymph fishing and guides? What about dries, streamers and swung emergers? My best days guiding this season (in regard to numbers) involved dries and swung emergers. My second question is what about unguided fishermen? Are you implying that without the aid of a guide they cannot put up these numbers as well? If so, you are sadly mistaken as some of the finest fly fishers I know rarely hire a guide. Lastly, are you implying that the angler who harvests fish just takes what they are going to keep and then goes home? Like the rest of us most of them keep fishing until they are bored, tired or run out of time.
    If catch and release nymph fishermen have such a negative impact on fish populations, our fisheries would have collapsed long ago as these fishermen represent a large percentage of the total angling hours and have for years now. You say, “Some scientists suggest one in 10 fish croak after being caught.” However, most of what I have read suggests it is more like 2-3 percent for catch and release fly fishing—and more toward the lower end when it involves barbless hooks.
    Let’s assume an incidental mortality rate (IMR) of 3%—the upper end of what is commonly accepted. Then let’s assume that most anglers catch somewhere closer to 25 fish when they go out. Round it up and it results in just 1 fish being inadvertently killed. Double it and it is just 2. Conversely those who use bait and lures have a higher IMR that is more in the 5-35% range. And those who kill their limit can harvest between 1-12 fish depending on the state and species. Plus they usually have to release at least some level of fish due to the fact that most states have minimum length limits. And as I noted, they don’t always stop fishing just because they have their limit. So let’s say they catch 20 fish, keep 2, and have a 5% IMR—the lower end of the range. This results in 3 fish being killed, or 1 more than the extremely successful nympher who catches and releases 50 fish, and 2 more than the more realistic scenario where this angler catches and releases 25 fish. The average C+K angler is doing more damage than the most effective fly fisherman.
    In your July 2013 article Three Ways to Help Catch-and-Release Trout Survive, you highlight the importance of proper landing techniques and minimizing the time fish are outside the water. This is great advice, and something all anglers should do. But based on my time afield, which as a guide and serious angler is considerable, those who harvest fish often do not carry low-impact nets—if they carry one at all, wear waders that allow them to keep the fish in the water, or use barbless hooks in order to reduce tissue damage. Plus many use treble hooks and double-hook lures which regardless of what any spin tackle industry funded study says, do more harm than many are willing to admit.
    So in reality, the C&R nympher is doing far less harm than the C&K angler. To say otherwise is misleading, reckless and divisive. The real issue here seems to be that you do not like nymphing. The same could be implied about C&R. And if you were not a “fly fishing” editor, fly fishers. Or maybe you are just trying to win over the C&K guys in an attempt to increase readership at F&S or bring these guys into the TU fold and thus increase membership numbers.
    The harsh reality is that the consumptive angler has had a huge negative impact on our resources and by default our fishing over the years. Angler exploitation is the primary driver behind stocking. This heavily subsidized practice takes money away from habitat work, reclamation, land acquisition and infrastructure (boat launches, outhouses, trash containers, trails, parking areas, etc.) It is also bad for wild trout as any biologist will tell you. To imply otherwise raises some serious questions as to whose side you are on.
    We all know that artificial lure, barbless hook, catch and release regulations help sustain and even increase wild trout numbers. We all know that harvesting fish reduces fish populations to at least some degree and in some cases, removes the very fish that are most important to us recreationally, economically and biologically— older breeding fish.
    I understand that you are the editor of TU’s magazine, TROUT. As a former member of TU, I now understand why the organization’s focus and mission has shifted away from fish and more towards fishing. Gone are the stickers proclaiming “TU Zero Limit” and “TU Wild Trout Catch and Release,” and gone will be members like me who actually did something other than simply paying dues. TU isn’t a fishing club and it never should be. By inviting everyone to the party you are losing more than you are gaining, including TU’s original mission–to protect the nations wild trout.
    With all due respect, you couldn’t be more wrong on this one.
    Nate Hill

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