Sunday, January 24, 2021

GHOSTech Indicators Review


Full disclosure: I was contacted by the creator and owner of GHOSTech, Stephen Cunic, last May and was sent a package of indicators with a note to write a review for the blog. Stephen and I are from the same area of Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley. This product was born on the waters I grew up fishing and still do. I have not met Stephen and we have not fished together. I have not read other reviews of the product and the thoughts and feelings are my own. Please read the entirety of the review in order to understand its best uses. 

Every fly fisherman has used, or uses indicators, while nymphing for trout. For a lot of us, it is how we learned the subtle nuances of a dead drift or how we caught some of our first trout on fly. Indicators are a staple in any angler's kit and the industry has seen a lot of different styles come and go over the years. Personally, I started nymphing as a 12 year old using yarn style indicators. I used different yarn indicators, almost exclusively, until the arrival of the Thingamabobber. The "thing," has since been replaced in popularity by the Airlock indicator and that is what you'll find me using when I feel the need to suspend nymphs. The most recent iteration of the Airlock style is the most popular indicator on the market and probably the most used. With the arrival of GHOSTech's unique platform and marketing, does it beat out the Airlock? In short, no it does not. However, the GHOSTech presents a new take on indicators and has a few unique characteristics to pay attention to. Owning the GHOSTech indicators will round out your nymphing toolkit and make you a more successful angler in specific fishing situations. 


The indicator created by Stephen Cunic was designed to be more stealthy than the Airlock style, while still maintaining the adjustability that anglers love. It uses three "air pucks," linked together around a central pillar system that the leader slides into. An adjustable nut tightens the leader against the air pucks. This enables anglers to slide the pucks up or down their leader to adjust to different fishing situations and depths. As an added dimension of adjustability, anglers can add more pucks to the central pillar system, which Stephen calls "stacking". This is beneficial when using heavier nymphs and nymphing in water that is more turbulent. 

The GHOSTech indicator is very lightweight, casts well, and does land softly on the water. This alone makes it more advantageous for wary trout that have grown accustomed to the "plop," of the Airlock style. Stephen also designed his air pucks to be clear and from a trout's point of view, they do appear to resemble the bubble and foam lines that we so often fish. In addition to the adjustability, the GHOSTech indicators also avoid the problems associated with yarn style indicators in that no floatant is required to keep them aloft and functioning at their best. Overall, this product finds a niche in the market between yarn style indicators and the Airlock "bobber" style by combining their best attributes. 

In my experiences, GHOSTech indicators are best utilized in small to medium sized streams for heavily pressured trout. In the Lehigh Valley, this means water like the Little Lehigh, Saucon, Monocacy, and Bushkill Creeks. These are gin clear, mostly shallow, Class A trout waters whose trout see everything on a daily basis. Stephen most likely developed this product as a solution to targeting these trout and immediately found success. If most anglers are using bobber style suspension devices, utilizing something that lands softer and more closely resembles the surface of the water, will be readily received by the trout in these waters. GHOSTech indicators are game changers on the tributaries of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario along the fabled "Steelhead Alley". These small spate style creeks have large numbers of Great Lakes steelhead that pile into bathtub sized slots and small pools that receive an insane amount of pressure. Again, bobber style indicators, or the chuck and duck method of bottom bouncing, are the preferred nymphing styles on these waters. A GHOSTech indicator presents a more subtle presentation that may prove the difference on these heavily pressured creeks. 

I would not utilize a GHOSTech indicator in larger water situations where there is a more turbulence and a higher rate of flow. A major downside to the "air puck," system is that it rides very low on the surface of the water and is flat. This presents an issue with visibility, even when fishing from a drift boat or raft. The different color options (on the top side) aid in seeing the indicator, but you will still have a hard time tracking it, especially in low light conditions. In addition to riding low in the water column, the puck system has a larger surface area. The pucks, especially when stacked, tend to get swamped in pocket water and riffles. Due to the trapped air, the pucks will not sink but suspend a few inches below the surface. With the larger surface area getting swamped, it is more difficult to mend and pick up line to cast without the flow of the water catching the pucks. This is not a big problem when fishing in smaller water but it is a major issue on larger water where skilled anglers may be dead drifting nymphing rigs 50+ feet with switch and trout spey rods. This problem is amplified by using tungsten weighted nymphs or multi-nymph systems. 

If this is the type of water you fish or how you typically suspension style nymph, stick with an Airlock. 

A good example of the aforementioned issue is the end of a long drift. When using suspension style indicators, euro-nymphing, or fishing a dry-dropper, stopping the drift and allowing the nymphs to rise and swing in the water column is a very effective technique, especially during an emergence. With the GHOSTech indicators, the large surface area of the pucks will catch the current and be pulled under water. This produces a lot of tension and will look, and feel, like a trout ate your nymphs. While indicator nymphing, it is very easy to use the surface tension of the water to catapult your rig upstream into the next drift. With the pucks being dragged under the surface of the water, this effective and efficient technique, becomes more difficult to perform. Again, this is an issue predominately related to larger water, heavier flow, and long drifts. It will not be as apparent of an issue fishing a riffle, or pool, on a smaller body of water. 

In general, complex roll casts and two handed techniques are more difficult to perform with a GHOSTech indicator than they are with an Airlock. The larger surface area grabs the water, while an Airlock stays on top of it. By stacking two or three air pucks to fish big water with heavier flies, the issues become amplified. This creates a greater chance of fouling on a cast and creating a tangle. This happens to all of us, regardless of skill, and three stacked pucks simply result in more tangles and the tangles tend to be more severe. This may seem like I'm trashing this style of indicator but I'm simply stating why it is less efficient compared to the Airlock style while fishing in larger bodies of water with longer drifts and casts. The GHOSTech indicators still work in these types of situations and I caught plenty of nice brown trout this spring in big water. If I was faced with a choice, I would pick the Airlock for large water situations. 

One other issue I experienced is that the puck system has a difficult time staying in place. Once again, this is an issue when using heavier nymph rigs and fishing larger bodies of water with heavy flows. The greater surface area of the air pucks catch more water and cause the indicator to slide down the leader. In big water situations, I could not prevent this from occurring. It still happened when I had three pucks on the central pillar and had the nut tightened as far as it would go. It did however stop at my knot connecting leader to tippet. For my fishing, I place indicators on the smallest diameter portion of the leader that I can get away with. This increases the likelihood that a take will register on the indicator. The GHOSTech indicators stay in place on leaders with greater diameters, especially on the butt sections. If you've been fly fishing for a long time, you probably know that this is not as efficient in registering takes and will result in a lot of missed opportunities. It is also why so many anglers are euro-nymphing so that they can have greater contact with their flies. I believe Stephen can easily remedy this issue by incorporating a small rubber o-ring (much like Airlocks) between the air pucks and the nut on the central pillar system of his indicator. This will enable the GHOSTech indicator to stay in place and be placed on the ends of leaders where the diameter of the line is most efficient at maintaining contact with flies. It will also prevent the likelihood of an indicator sliding down the leader.

I believe GHOSTech indicators have found a hole within the saturated fly fishing market. If you fly fish in heavily pressured water for wary trout, they are a product that you should add to your arsenal. They function best in smaller waters with moderate rates of flow and are definitely more stealthy than the most popular indicator styles. If you're a guide that frequently takes beginner clients to nymph pressured water, GHOSTech indicators are a necessity that will allow your clients to make softer nymph presentations due to their limited casting abilities. In general, GHOSTech indicators still function in turbulent larger rivers but they aren't as efficient as the Airlock system. As a product that is handmade in the USA, they're worthy of your attention and deserve a place in your kit. 

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