From the simplest bobbin to the most elaborate buzzer, bite indicators carry the blame for many missed fish. But however intricate, they rely on competent fishing to work as they should
The most expensive, well balanced, and skilfully fished ledger outfit, can only be as successful as the bite indicator used with it will allow. Whether ledgering by day or by night, the angler will require an in-dicator light enough to allow a fish to run unchecked with the bait, but heavy enough to withstand wind, current and floating debris.
Indicators fall into two distinct categories – those that record the
fish’s action and movement with the bait, telling the angler when to strike, and those that are simply alarms, giving aural and/or visual signs that interest has been shown.
The simple dough bobbin
The cheapest and most simple in-dicator is probably the dough bob-bin, a moulded dough weight attached either to the line above the rod tip, or between butt ring and reel.
Its main disadvantages are that, because of its small size, it is not easily seen, especially in poor light, and that it needs to be replaced after every cast or strike. An improve-ment in this weight-type indicator is the large bottle cork, split at one end so that it can slide onto the line, and secured at the other by a short piece of cord, the other end of which is tied to a rod rest. The cork indicator, which is usually painted bright red or yellow, responds to a bite in the same way’ as the dough bobbin, but with the strike it pulls free and drops to the ground.
Yet another simple improvement in the weight-type of indicator is the silver foil loop. The rod is adjusted in its rest, the bale arm of the reel closed, and over the line between this and the first rod ring is looped a folded strip of foil, turned round on itself to form a complete circle. Lying on the ground, it will reflect light, even when other things have merged into shadows, and its slightest movement will show. On the strike it will fall free without obstructing the line.
Keeping any form of weight-type indicator still during windy weather is always difficult, especially when it is necessary to use one as light and sensitive as possible. Increasing the weight that is hung onto the line creates a resistance that fish will feel, and that will cause them to drop the bait. Restricting the wind’s action on the indicator by building windbreaks blocks the angler’s view, and small takes can be missed. The only solution is to use needles or pots to steady the indicator.
Set the rod-rests firmly
Before either method is used it is essential that rod rests should be firmly set, and the area immediately around the rest, which will support the butt end of the rod, cleared of all twigs, weed, and other vegetation. After the cast is made and the line has sunk, the rod should be laid into the rests and line wound on to the reel until the lead or bait can just be felt to move on the bottom. The strip of kitchen foil is now circled round the line as previously described and sufficient line paid off for it to drop onto the bank immediately below the reel, and over a metal knitting needle set at an angle in the ground.
As a further assistance in gauging a bite, the needle may be painted with coloured bands, which act as a rough scale. Once set in this way there will be no swinging of the indicator due to wind action and no obstruction once the strike is made.
Using a pot to prevent wind action is similar in every respect to the needle method, except that the circle of kitchen foil is dropped into a piece of cardboard tubing or small flower pot, where it will lie until the bite of a fish pulls it upwards into sight.
Bite indicating at night Obviously, bites from an indicator at night are always difficult to see, and so most anglers resort to a torch or other lighting aid directed onto both indicator and line. After several hours spent in looking at one spot in a subdued light it begins to strain the eyes and, worse still, one’s night vision for areas other than the illuminated patch. Fortunately, there is a better aid on the market – the Betalight.
The Betalight is a small, gas-filled tube which glows brightly, needs no re-charging, and lasts for approximately 20 years. In use it is either strapped on to the rod tip near the top ring by a short length of Sellotape, or clipped on to the line between reel and first ring, a short length of cord securing it to the rod rest, as with the cork bobbin. No matter how dark the night, this little tube’s powerful light is easily seen and in no way impairs night vision.
A final range of indicators remains, the electric buzzers and flashers. In general, these indicators are activated by the line, which is trapped or tensioned between metal arms. While it is in place the alarm is silent, but when a fish takes, any pressure or jerk imparted to the line makes an electric circuit, which in turn sounds the alarm.
There are several models on the market, but many amateur electricians have constructed their own. They are as sensitive as the angler allows them to be by observing simple requirements like renewing batteries and protecting the sensitive wire that attaches to the line.
Naturally, these alarms must be protected from water, including rain and mist. Models produced in the last few years are carefully sealed in plastic boxes that should not be tampered with unless absolutely necessary. Two basic models are on sale – those set into the head of a rod rest and which stand a little way in front of the angler’s seat, and those which have the line-attaching mechanism at the same point, but have an alarm and/or flashing light set in a box connected to a length of flexed cable and which can be placed right beside the angler.
This latter type is excellent where an umbrella-tent or shelter of any sort is rigged, and in which the angler will probably sleep or doze. However, they are not large, and it has been known for equipment to be dropped over them, and even for the angler to roll onto them in his sleep, thus muffling the alarm signals. The answer is to try to stand the alarm box off the ground, preferably at eye level and away from potential accidents.
Whether the alarm or flashing light is best is a matter of personal preference; there have been plenty of fishermen who have slept through both. If you are a deep sleeper, stan-ding the alarm in an empty tin box to magnify the sound can often help. Whichever model you purchase, read carefully the maker’s instructions on setting.
Finally, remember that electric in-dicators are designed to do exactly what their name implies – to indicate by an alarm that a fish has moved the bait. Judging when to strike is the angler’s responsibility. Those who achieve greatest success with this aid are anglers sufficiently in tune to respond to the alarm by checking the amount of line running out, either by feel or with a torch.