Cortland Indicator Mono

Cortland Indicator Mono is extremely visible, opaque, brightly colored nylon mono. It makes a great sighter for European nymphing and it will make great sighters for tenkara anglers who use them.

I chose to carry the Cortland Indicator Mono because I am convinced there will be a fusion of tenkara and European nymphing. This new discipline, called Tactical Nymphing by Rob Worthing, will not replace either tenkara or European nymphing. It will be a new style of fishing that will exist between the two methods and will blend elements of both.

US anglers have been using tenkara rods to fish weighted nymphs for as long as there have been tenkara rods in the US. At first, they weren't entirely successful because the rods weren't designed for it.

ERiK Ostrander with Daiwa Kiyose SF

Things got a lot better with the introduction of the Daiwa Kiyose SF rods to the US market in 2012 (subsequently replaced by the Keiryu-X rods). Unlike the tenkara rods which were then available, the Kiyose SF rods were stiff enough to get good hook sets when fishing weighted nymphs. Unfortunately, while they were great for fishing nymphs they were a bit too stiff for casting a very light line. To get the best performance, an angler needed one rod for fishing nymphs and a different rod for unweighted wets and for dries.

That problem was solved by the TenkaraBum 36, which was designed to fish with weight and also to cast as light a tenkara line as you can find. The TenkaraBum 40 provided the same dual-use capability in a longer rod, allowing you to keep a longer line off the water's surface.

In a complex system, and even something as simple as rod, line and fly is complex enough, when you improve one area - in this case the rod - one of the other areas may then provide the greatest potential for further improvements in the system as a whole.

Enter Cortland Indicator Mono. Cortland developed these lines for competition anglers who fish under the rules of FIPS Mouche (Federation Internationale de Peche Sportiv Mouche), which in English is the International Sport Fly Fishing Federation.  FIPS Mouche is the regulating body for international fly fishing competition.

FIPS Mouche

However you feel about competitive fly fishing, I think you would have to agree that competition does yield improvements in gear and methods that allow an angler to catch more fish. You do not have to compete (or even approve of competitive fly fishing) to benefit from those improvements.

Of course, that is only if you want to catch more fish. If you fish only because you enjoy being in nature and don't care if you catch more fish, you can stop reading now.

(For that matter, if you don't care if you catch more fish, have you considered taking up birdwatching?)

Under the FIPS Mouche rules, anglers cannot use floating strike indicators attached to their line or leader. To signal strikes, anglers turned to in-line indicators, called "sighters," which are brightly colored sections of nylon mono built into their leaders.

In a sense, a tenkara angler's whole line is a sighter! It is brightly colored and is very effective in signalling strikes. Some tenkara anglers do use separate sighters, though, placed between their line and their tippet. This approach gives them the casting benefit of the denser fluorocarbon and the strike detection benefit of the more brightly colored nylon.

Cortland Indicator Mono Super YellowCortland Indicator Mono
Super Yellow

For those anglers, the Cortland Indicator Mono may be ideal. I know a lot of people use Sunset Amnesia, but it is readily available only in the 15# size, which is a thick .015" in diameter.

The Cortland Indicator Mono comes in a thinner diameter. I have the Super Yellow in and .014" diameter.

Paul Gaskell and John Pearson, in their excellent Discover Tenkara series of instructional materials, indicate that their catch rates improved by a whopping 700 percent when they modified their casting and fishing style to make sure that their brightly colored tenkara line never even touched the water's surface. Keeping the hi-vis line out of the water clearly yields a huge benefit. 

Before getting the Cortland Indicator Mono I had only fished a colorless tenkara line once. It was a test of keiryu line indicators and a clear, colorless line for fishing weighted nymphs with a tenkara rod (Trip Report 12-12-15). I found it to work surprisingly well - but only with weighted flies or split shot.

After having an extended email exchange with Rob Worthing. I tested clear, colorless line (Varivas tippet material in 0X and -2X) with a section of Cortland Indicator Mono and also with keiryu indicators. I didn't catch any fish so I didn't write a trip report (I'm officially blaming extremely high water, although two long distance releases and one sloppy attempt at netting are probably the real reasons for the skunking.)

I can report, though, that the indicator mono was easy to see and did indicate strikes, while the keiyu markers did get wet and even the slight added weight when they were wet caused noticeable sag in the line. Because I was fishing a longer line than in my 12-12-15 Trip Report, the line was much less vertical and the line sag thus more noticeable.

For pure keiryu fishing, with a much longer rod and more nearly vertical line, I do think the keiryu yarn markers make it easier to see subtle takes. Also, with the line more nearly vertical, it is easier to keep them dry and there is less line sag even if they do get wet. (When you hook a nice fish they will definitely get wet.) When nymphing with a tenkara rod, though, the hi-vis sighter seems a better solution than the keiryu yarn markers.

On the whole, I am pretty excited about the Cortland Indicator Mono. I think it, together with stealthier lines and the TenkaraBum rods will play a big part in the fusion of tenkara and European nymphing that I am sure is coming.

The tenkara purists will say it isn't tenkara. The keiryu purists will say it isn't keiryu, and the European nymphing purists will say it certainly isn't European nymphing. Fine (and Fie!)

It will not replace any of those fishing styles. It will be just another way to fish, but it will prove to be an extremely productive one. I think Takahashi san's 121 fish in the heavily pressured Itoshiro River using a blend of tenkara and Euronymphing techniques proves how productive it can be.

If you want to explore the still murky junction between tenkara and European nymphing, get some of the Cortland Indicator Mono and a spool of Varivas tippet in 1X (equivalent to size 2.5 tenkara line) 0X, (size 3), or -2X (size 4) and start experimenting. I think you'll be glad you did.

Cortland Indicator Mono (20' coils) - $8

Super Yellow .014"


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The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.

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