by Steven Neely


The Bung, bobber, sight indicator, call it what you will, is a perfectly legitimate and often lethal method on stillwaters large and small across the UK. Sadly, some anglers seem to loathe it. I’m not sure why: ethics; casting aerodynamics; the fact that it’s far too close to coarse fishing for comfort perhaps? Whatever the reasons, some people just really don’t like the Bung and those opinions may be tough to change with this article, but we’ll try!

The Bung, in my humble opinion, should be part of your fly-fishing armoury, it’s as simple as that. Ask anyone who uses this method, either for pleasure or while competing, and they’ll be sure to tell you about its effectiveness. It offers near perfect static presentation which cannot be achieved any other way – and trust me, I have tried – making it essential if you are looking to up your catch rate.

A Little History

The Bung has come a long way since its introduction, I think, and I’m sure that someone will correct me if I’m wrong, that it was Steve Schweitzer who brought the sight indicator to the fly fishing community. His original tactic, targeting fish feeding on the riverbed with various heavy nymphs suspended under some yarn or a bobber (little plastic float), was quickly and easily adapted for stillwater fishing. It’s still a lethal and popular method for river fishing, particularly in the US, but our own UK stillwater fraternity have taken this method and honed it to within an inch of its life to make it what it is today.

The Design

The original indicator was just a piece of sheep’s wool tied on to the leader. But with the onset of competition fishing it has been adapted for use on our stillwaters.

The type of Bungs we use today are shaped foam (ball, bullet or cone) and usually made from ethafoam; super buoyant foam basically. We need the Bung to be buoyant enough to suspend our fly or flies so they come in various sizes to suit the fishing and the flies that we hang underneath them.

Things to consider to get the most from the Bung:

  • The size needs to corelate to the fly or flies that you’re fishing below it. It needs to be big enough to hold them up, no more, so have them in various sizes.
  • Colour is crucial. On those bright days with glare on the water there’s no better colour than black for a contrast. On dull days yellow will be the stand out colour. And in changeable weather, one minute sunny, the next cloudy, use orange.

Easy To Use

There are many indicators on the market but you could create your own, by carving a lump of ethafoam to shape and lashing it to a hook. Then coat it with Loon Hard Head in either yellow, black or orange. It couldn’t be simpler.

Of course these days there are perfectly shaped Bungs on the market, painted in a variety of colours to suit all the different light conditions. Fast, simple and fuss-free fishing for those that want it.

A Bung with a hook in it is what the majority want so that’s what they use and it’s amazing how often a fish will take the actual Bung.

There are other alternatives. I can’t get enough of good old-fashioned yarn, the thickness used dependent on your eyesight and just whatever it is fly-wise you’re looking to suspend underneath it.

You can make your own adjustable indicators too, back to the block of ethafoam, shaped, then a trimmed down cotton bud superglued on the outside and then slid through the ethafoam, the ends heated and melted so the butt up against the foam. You thread your tippet through the cotton bud and secure by inserting a cocktail stick, not all of it just a small end, in the hole facing the fly line to lock everything in place.

I also use coarse fishing ‘line stops’ on my tippet so I can slide my Bung up or down should I need to.

Too Good!

The Bung’s effectiveness should be measured by the amount of anglers who now use it – thousands! The results too speak for themselves, get it right and it’s a game-changer.

I remember fishing an international match on Rutland water in May. It was to blow a gale and so everyone, it seemed, had set up for pulling. The Scots however put two or three of their team out on the Bung right at the very start of the match. Although it was windy there were one or two areas that were less ‘blowy’. And in that one hour window before the wind had gotten up properly all of them, on the Bung, had bagged up. That was it, game over for everyone else. Those boys had won it for the Scots team in the first hour or so of the match.

On small waters too, it’s devastatingly good in the right hands. There are a handful of competition anglers that will sit on the Bung all day long and nine times out of ten will be there or thereabouts in any competition. By making subtle changes in Bung size, fly weight, pattern and depth at which they’re fished, these anglers will follow the trout up and down the water column all day long.

The Good, The Bad (But Not So Ugly)

There are some negatives with this method such as spooking wary fish cruising just below the surface, casting it into a stiffish wind, and turn over with a long leader (the Bung is as aerodynamic as a wellington) – but they are far outweighed by the positives.  

For every trout that is scared by the Bung landing on the water, twice as many are hooked as the Bung, unlike other static presentation methods, allows you to see the very softest of takes. Normally, these gentle takes when fishing nymphs or indeed lures like Blobs or Snakes ‘on the drop’ are missed, as they are often not registered at your hand.

The Bung can also be used whatever the weather (as long as it’s not too windy and even then you can fish it in the margins where it’s lethal on the downwind shore). It is at its deadliest when conditions are overcast and there’s a nice ripple on the water. Conditions like this allow you to have complete control of the Bung, the floating line and most importantly of all, the fly you choose to fish below it.

Conventional Bung

Conventional Bung fishing is conducted with a floating line and anything from one, two or three Buzzers suspended below the buoyant indicator, attached at the top dropper, placed close to the fly line.

The flies are spaced evenly, usually at three or four feet intervals, 12ft from Bung on the top dropper to point fly so you can land fish. Anything longer (deeper) than that and you’ll struggle.

Fishing the Bung in this way allows you to cover various depths from top to bottom in 10 to 14 feet of water – ideal buzzer water early doors.

A sizeable indicator can also hold up a couple of lures or fry patterns which can be just as deadly as the usual small flies, given the correct conditions and the time of year. The whole aim of the exercise is to present your flies, whatever you choose to use, static in the water column.

A trout swims along, likes the look of the tasty morsel hanging there and it inhales it. The take is registered on the Bung at the water’s surface, it’ll either dip under the water or move in an unnatural way.

Try not to strike as you normally would when fishing conventional methods. Lift into the fish gently, just pull the line and lift the rod tip and you should increase your hook up rate no end. I like to use a rod with a softer action but a fly line with no stretch, they tend to work well together with this method.

Adjustable Bung

The Adjustable Bung is ideal for finding the depth the trout are feeding at as it can be moved (slid up or down on the leader) without changing droppers or re-tying, allowing you to cover various depths quickly and efficiently. We see this style of Bung fishing a lot more on smaller waters. We don’t tend to fish as deep and we prefer to use a single fly rather than a team.

It’s worth noting that more and more these days we tend to use larger flies, lures instead of nymphs, and weirdly they probably catch far more than the natural looking offerings.

A whole host of flies have been developed for use with the Bung, patterns like Blobs, Eggs with beads, Puddlebugs, Okidokies, the Shammy and a plethora of other weird and wonderful creations. None of these really work with other, more conventional fishing techniques – nope, it’s Bung or bust for these flies! There aren’t many fishing techniques where the flies only really serve one purpose and that’s to be fished in conjunction with a Bung.

Reverse Indicator

The reverse indicator can be fished on a variety of fly lines from a floater down to fast sinkers, the best of which would probably be the sink-tip or a slow-sinking intermediate.

You can suspend a few nymphs, on the droppers, as you would with the washing line but as the Bung is more buoyant it will keep the flies up for far longer than a Booby or FAB. You can control the depth at which they fish even more accurately and for longer.

When it comes to faster sinking lines, the nymphs will fish from the lakebed up. Using this method with a fly line that sinks at seven inches a second, the flies will hover above the lakebed all the way to the bottom and during the length of the retrieve. A figure-of-eight retrieve is ideal, but as the weight of the line is reduced as it’s retrieved they start to rise up, the Bung pulling them up to the surface.

This can be a fantastic way of finding the depth the trout are holding at early season and in the heat of the summer.

So, there is far more to fishing the Bung than many would have believe. As with any method there are subtle nuances that can make all the difference.

Give it a try and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

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