The Great Bobber Debate: Where Do You Stand?

Kirk Deeter wants these things to go the way of the dodo.
Photo via

Earlier this month, Kirk Deeter wrote a provocative piece on the Field & Stream “Fly Talk” blog entitled, “Is It Time for Bobber-Free Water?” Deeter had just completed what he called his “bobberless year,” in which he did not use any sort of strike indicator, so he felt as if he had accrued a certain amount of authority on the subject. Many of the 39 comments below Deeter’s article agreed with him, although others had such insights as “Take your elitest [sic] ideology down the road.”

Louis Cahill takes no prisoners when he breaks out the PhotoShop.
Photo via

Now, Louis Cahill of the “Gink and Gasoline” blog has written a pretty strong rebuttal, “Kirk Deeter’s One Man War on the Bobber,” although, as usual, there’s a heavy dose of humor apparent, as well. (Just check out that lead image!) Cahill and Deeter are pals, so I don’t think that this will turn into an all-out war, but it’s fascinating to see two heavy hitters take on such a debate.

Have a look at both articles. Are you Team Kirk or Team Louis?

30 thoughts on “The Great Bobber Debate: Where Do You Stand?”

  1. I have tried them many times with very minor success. I watch others who do well with them. I just do best with split shot and try to feel the take.

  2. The body of water that I’m fishing dictates whether or not I use an indicator. I do think there are advantages to not using them on heavily pressured waters. However, pushing to ban then in light of supposed negative effects is ridiculous. I personally would rather watch a fish take a dry fly or crush a streamer but nymphing will always be part of my approach to catching fish with or without an indicator.

    Bob Reece

    1. Dry fly fishing is beautiful and nymphing mode can be awesome if you know how to do it right. Some rivers and lakes can be really hard to fish with indicators even if you think you know how to fish them. I love to fish on dries but im just amazed on how much im learning on nymphing, some trout can be just almost impossibly hard to catch even if you have the right nymph.

    2. I’m 66 and have been fishing since I was a little kid. Started with a worm and bobber. As I got a bit older and was able to save enough to buy plugs, jigs, etc, I realized different tools were effective under different conditions. I have been fly fishing for 25-30 years. Very similar logic. Different tools are effective under different conditions and I’ll use whatever it takes (legally). Banning indicators, bobbers – whatever- is ridiculous.

    3. I agree the water and weather do often dictate the technique used. I just hope this same chap doesn’t have any views Euronymphing! Tight lines!

  3. Here in SW Virginia, I never used a strike indicator until this past fall. My usual technique was to cast out and drift my fly while mending the line or if using a streamer, stripping like hell with the current. Not so when my son-in-law and I hired a guide to fish the Cascade and Little Truckee in Northern California. I was surprised at the use of the strike indicator and now have adapted it for use here in the East. Do I use one all the time? No. But in big pools with slow moving water and in tail waters, maybe. I’ve had good results both ways. I see no reason to stop any time soon. Banning their use? Nonsense.

  4. Deeter is a boob. I’d vote Team Louis anyday

    Banning bobbers? Ridiculous. Learn what they are used for. They aren’t just a strike indicator. They are a drift indicator, a depth regulating device. Why not ban nymphs then?

    Seriously? Deeter a boob… I had doubts, now Im certain.

  5. Hummm…So according to Mr. Deeter us “newbies” are simply destined to fish only those waters deemed beneath “dry fly fishers,” and to struggle our way through the learning curve with no payoff, except the warm fuzzy of knowing we’re learning the way our grandfathers did 75 years ago, until we develop the requisite skills to effectively fish a dry fly. Interesting concept. Will Mr. Deeter be administering the final exam?

    His idea will most certainly clear out a lot of the unworthy; not to mention a lot of guides, fly shop owners, tackle manufacturers, and oh yeah…magazine writers, when the number of people involved in the sport plummets to pre-WW II levels.

    Yes, Mr. Deeter, I’m a new comer to the sport. I’ve had a long standing fascination with the beauty, the skill, the stream etiquette, the comradeship and the obvious joy of fish caught on the fly. Unfortunately, I was only able to act on my lifelong dream two years ago at the age of 64 (And, yes! I do have a couple of trucker hats even at my age. I also spent time with a very good guide who both fished “bobbers” to give me the incredible opportunity to hold a trout I caught and taught me stream etiquette.). So please forgive me for attempting to experience some of the joy and rewards of fly fishing while I do everything in my power to shorten my learning curve and step into the extremely rarefied air of the purist dry fly fisherman. Gotta say though, if those guys are all like Mr. Deeter I may just hang down here with the “newbies” and “neophytes.” At least we still have enough of the kid left in us to have fun and accept others.

    Now I remember why I cancelled my F&S subscription years ago.

    1. I am with you on this. While you cancelled your F&S subscription, I just got rid of all my Orvis gear and will be using only my Scott Radian and G Loomis fly rods.

  6. I started flyfishing before the popularity and use of indicators.As a result ,flyfishing for me was mostly dry flies and small streamers.When i did choose to use nymphs it was without an indicator and had more to do with the how -to techniques of nymph fishing. Either way i fished, my success grew as a fisherman because i learned more abt. the behavior of the streams themselves and the life within them. My personal opinion is alot of that is lost because with the use of strike indicators the emphasis is more on catching rather than having a deep understanding on the whys and hows .Also many flyfishermans opinions on indicators are different because thier goals in the sport are different. Is your goal to catch your first fish, to catch the most fish, to catch the biggest fish, to teach others how to flyfish, or something entirely different ? Your goals will dictate how you feel abt. it. Nowadays i could care less abt. someone using indicators or not. Success has more to do with teaching others to enjoy the entirety of this sport and enjoying the places where the rivers live.

  7. This is simple: if your not breaking any laws and your enjoying yourself then all the arguments for and against a different way of fly fishing is just back ground noise that goes away once your on the water


    Posted from the Orvis Fly Fishing App

  8. Fishing is fishing. If you like worms, use them. If you like flies, use them. If you want to use a bobber, go for it.

  9. Deeter does not ask for a ban but limited use as a conservation tool to protect fish, mostly fish which are pressured. This makes sense to me.

  10. Many years ago Lee Wolfe wrote that some waters or stretches of waters should have bottom refuge- no weighted fishing. There is so much pressure some places that it makes sense to me. Fishing with bobbers makes it easy. If I wanted just easy I would have never moved on from worms. But as Emerson once said, ” a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” – if nothing, nothing is working, I’ll put on a nymph and an indicator just to get a bend in the rod. The indicator is one of those little plastic red and white smelt bobbers that’s a miniature version of the usual. Indicator? Call a spade a spade!

  11. Pingback: "Bobber Wars," Part Deux: The Truth Comes Out | Orvis News
  12. Somebody finally recognizes that “strike indicators” are simply bobbers – just like the red and white ones many of us used when we first began fishing for sunfish in our youth. If you wanna use em that is fine with me. I’m too lazy to bother. But at least call ’em what they are.

  13. I totally agree with Kirk. Bobbers should be banned with fly fishing and anyone using them should be all designated to fish only “bobber” fishing water and be treated like second class fishing people; they’re not real fly fishers. Real fly fishers don’t need bobbers. It’s all about true fly fishing techniques, the casting, the presentation, not bobber fishing and lobbing junk like a wiper blade sweeping back and forth on the windshield. If you’re going to use a bobber, go use conventional gear, or better yet, center pin. Stay true to why fly fishing was developed, get rid of those bobbers and stop lobbing all that junk.

    1. I thought you might be joking with your statement, but if your not, you need to realize how arrogant you and everyone else sounds with this whole ban the bobber thing. This is exactly the kind of mindset that will turn newcomers off to fly fishing in a heart beat and all you are doing is accomplishing the stereotype that we are all snobby purist elitists who think we’re more badass because we ‘fly’ fish. Get off your high horse, throw on some nymphs some split shot and a bobber and see if YOU can go ‘Lob’ that junk.
      Winter is coming and those of us who don’t take ourselves so seriously want to catch fish and have fun, ya we’ll be using the horrid and sinful bobber.

  14. Fly fishing has evolved and there are so many layers to fly fishing that using a bobber is just another form of it. You should learn how to use a bobber and the chuck-and-duck method. But you should also learn how to cast a tight loop as well as the many other forms of casting, like spey casting. Sure fishing with a bobber and the chuck-and-duck method isn’t elegant, but it has it’s purpose too in the world of fly fishing. What I most enjoy about fly fishing is casting light flies, be it, dry flies, nymph, wet flies or small streamers. Light systems are just a pleasure to cast and fish, which was what drove me to fly fishing in the first place. There really is no debate about why you shouldn’t fly fish with a bobber. In certain situations, you’d want to use a bobber and in other situations, you don’t. That’s just fly fishing today. And no, it’s not, “it is what it is,” It’s what we made it is today. Ok, I’m done. All this talk is making me want to go fly fish…I’ll use a bobber first, then without, just for fun. Cheers!

  15. Blog posts like Deeter’s are made to do nothing but cause infighting within our sport. When dry fly or streamer fishing, I have never gotten upset because someone close to me was indicator fishing. I have gotten mad if someone was on top of me and fishing too close but that has to do with lack of etiquette, not fishing style.

  16. I got started by sinking dry flies under a strike indicator and fishing for bluegill because I didn’t know any better. I caught lots of fish and had a great time doing it. As I kept going further down the rabbit hole and developing my technique, learning how flies work and why, I began to gravitate away from indicators. They began getting in the way of my success. The styrofoam numbers are hard to pull out of the water if you just absent mindedly start again. And they don’t cut through the wind at all. I tried switching to yarn to minimize the weight and air resistance. But I was just over it all. I taught myself how to feel the smallest twitches and subtlest takes. I would still use an indicator as a depth regulator if I really needed to, but I generally don’t even look at the water I’m fishing and wait to feel it . But I certainly wouldn’t hold it against someone else if they chose to use one. Going without is very rewarding and helps me feel very in touch with every part of the experience, but banning them is ridiculous. At least it’s not a treble hook with a wad of Power Bait on a steel leader.

  17. Don’t want to use one, don’t use it.

    Where it really matters, I have no problem with “non weighted” water to protect pressured and vulnerable fish. Some of the NY side Champlain tribs have that in place during the LL salmon run — no weight, no beads, no split shot, no sink tip. If you can’t get the fish to come up to your fly, you’re not getting the fish. Seems in line with Lee Wulff’s argument about the refuge of depth, and it makes sense for that situation. I’m fine with whatever the overall management situation really calls for, even it it means nobody may fish at all, by any means.

    Elsewhere, though — who really cares? Who needs or wants one more person telling them how to pursue their hobby? For that matter, who wants to be the one doing the telling?

    Up here you can shoot pike in spring with a rifle, did you know that? Wonder what the no-bobbers guy would think of that …

  18. Designating a stretch of some rivers as dry fly only would be OK by me. It’s easy to blame something else when your not hooking up, but don’t blame or judge other methods .

    The way I see it, Dry Fly anglers have the advantage. They see where the fish rose last and they can see what they took. Nymphing isn’t dynamite , fish just eat more food subsurface.

  19. Although I have neither the time nor inclination to read all the posts, I’m with Deeter. To adapt an old idiom: real men don’t use bobbers.

  20. Is this friggin serious? Cant believe im even taking time to respond but it reminds me too much of political correctness disease worming its way into the sactuary of the angling community. Bobber have many uses like monitoring current and depth of a bait. Id like to see more lead in our waters lol.

  21. Fly fishing putting it’s Worst Foot forward. Kirk D., not Louis. Louis is right on the $.

    Silly family squabble about nothing; means nothing, matters nothing.

    We as anglers have way more important wars; such as the battle we all are fighting constantly for access and public water. ( assuming Orvis folks are on the right side, inspire of all that private water ). Not to mention the enviro/ habitat/ spawning issues.

    I’d sooner have beers and talk fishing with any hardware guy than have to suffer the arrogance of Kirk Deeter. Sour grapes, Kirk. Anyone can see it from a mile away.

  22. I remember a guy at my marina who used to drift chunks of herring with a fly rod for stripers because he preferred playing the fish on fly gear – was he fly fishing? His casting was a lot like the bobber lobbing I’ve seen, he just used better bait. I don’t think you can ban them, but I don’t consider it fly fishing either. Just another concession to the cult of instant gratification. I suppose it’s a great way to get more selfies in the course of a day astream, and isn’t that what life is really all about?

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