Should You Use a Bobber When Trout Fishing: Help Detect Bites

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A trout stream in Wyoming

You should use a bobber when trout fishing. Bobbers keep your fly or bait at the same depth, whether you’re fishing still or moving water. Keeping your bait or fly at a consistent depth is helpful. Once you find the trout, you want to keep everything at the same depth.

When I first started fly fishing, I thought bobbers were a thing of the past. Gone were the days of tying on a bobber and bait. I quickly realized that bobbers have a place in spin and fly fishing. They’re effective and help your presentations be consistent. 

Fly Fishing for Trout With a Bobber 

Fly anglers call bobbers indicators. It’s another thing we’ve taken and changed because we wanted to be different. They perform the same as bobbers on a spin fishing setup. The primary difference is their appearance. 

Fly fishing bobbers come in various shapes and sizes. Many look like fish eggs or small pink bubbles. It’s common to see trout hit the indicator if it resembles something they’re used to eating. Other indicators are hourglass shapes with tubes to put your line within. 

Most strike indicators are small. They don’t get in the way of your cast and are just large enough for you to see them on the water. When you get a bite, the indicator dips in the water like all other types of bobbers. 


Regardless of the type of indicator you’re using, they’re easy to set up. Run your leader and tippet through the eye of the hook and slide the bobber up to where you want it to sit. If possible, measure the depth of the water you’re fishing to get a good idea of where you want your indicator to sit. 

Once the indicator is in the right place, run the tippet and leader through the eye again. The double loop keeps the indicator in position. If you have the screw-top indicator, it’s even easier. Unscrew the top, place it exactly where you want on the tippet or leader, and screw it in place. 

You can easily adjust the indicator to get your fly lower or higher in the water column. I like to make 5-10 casts with my indicator in a certain place. If I don’t get any action, I’ll adjust as needed. If you’re using the proper fly and it’s at the correct depth, getting a strike usually doesn’t take long. 

Danny fly fishing for trout.
Fly Fishing for Trout


Most anglers use indicators when they’re nymph fishing. Nymphs are small flies that sink and act like insects crawling along the bottom. If you’re fishing a large river or fast water, it’s difficult to detect when you get a strike. Cast upstream of where you want your fly to get. Give the fly time to drop in the water column and enter the ideal depth. 

The indicator is easy to watch as your fly drifts downstream. Your nymphs bounce along the bottom or wherever you have the indicator set. From there, watch and wait. 

Set your hook when it takes a hard dip below the surface. It’s better to be safe than sorry. The indicator dips quickly any time your fly suddenly moves, whether you get snagged or have a fish. 

I don’t use an indicator for fishing a small stream or slow-moving water. I closely watch the end of my fly line to see if I’m getting a bite. I like to keep as many distractions off the surface as possible. 

Indicators can withstand a decent amount of weight, so feel free to use beadhead nymphs as needed. I’ll use a multi-nymph rig with an indicator on some bigger water I fish. The longer leader, tippet, and flies don’t pull the indicator under. 


Today, many anglers move away from indicators and use a large dry fly as their “bobber.” A Chubby Chernobyl covered in floatant stays on the surface for multiple casts, even with the weight of a nymph below it. 

This rig is known as a dry dropper. It’s a great option if you want to cover water and aren’t sure if the fish want to feed on the surface or below. 

The main problem with a dry dropper rig is changing it. If the depth of your nymph isn’t right, you have to cut the tippet off the bend in the hook and your nymph. Then, you have to retie with a different length of tippet. 

An indicator is easily adjustable and doesn’t require any cutting or retying to adjust it. 

Bobber fishing in the water. A catch of fish. The background is angled.

Spin Fishing for Trout With a Bobber

Spin anglers who fish ponds and lakes love to fish for trout with bobbers, which trout spin anglers sometimes call floats. Attaching a worm or minnow below a bobber, casting it near some cover, and waiting is as relaxing as it gets. Plus, it’s easy to set up for anglers of any skill level. 


It’s easy to set up a bobber on a spin fishing rig. Traditional bobbers have a spring at the top that you push down, run the line through, and release. You can adjust where you want the bobber to sit- move it up or down, depending on how deep you want your bait. 

Some anglers put a few split shots between the bobber and the hook to keep the bait lower in the water column. If you don’t, it has the potential to float to the surface behind the bobber. 


When bobber fishing on a lake, tie on the bobber, a couple of split shots, your bait, and make your cast. Once it’s in the water, it’s a waiting game. If you don’t get any action after a few minutes, reel in and adjust the depth. 

Live bait is extremely effective, so you shouldn’t wait long to get a bite. 

If you’re using a bobber/float in moving water, you can have the same setup as you do in still water. Cast upstream of your target and let your bait drift through the strike zone. Once that bobber dips, set your hook.  

Keep repeating this process and changing the depth of the bobber until you get a fish. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Best Way to Fish for Trout? 

My favorite way to fish for trout is with flies. It’s a great way to target them because of the skill required and consistent movement. Many anglers, however, claim that using live bait is the best way to fish for trout. Trout have a hard time resisting minnows and worms. 

What is the Best Bait for Catching Trout?

The best bait for catching trout is minnows. Shiner and sucker minnows are best. 

Is it Better to Fish With or Without a Bobber?

Fishing with a bobber doesn’t hurt anything. It helps you detect bites, so it’s always a good option. 


Don’t shy away from using bobbers when you’re trout fishing. Trout often bite your bait lightly, and it’s difficult to know if you got hit. They’re effective whether you’re using a strike indicator on your fly rod or a bobber on your spin rod. Always keep a few on hand if you’re having trouble and need extra help. 

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