Whether you are nymphing the gin-clear waters of New Zealand or creeks in Colorado, you want to be sure to use a bung. A fly fishing bung is a strike indicator that is used while nymphing. The BUNG indicates a strike on a subsurface fly.

What is a fly fishing Bung?

A fly fishing bung is a strike indicator that attaches to your leader and serves as a bobber. In fly fishing we call it a ‘strike indicator’ or ‘bung’, but a bung is essentially a bobber. The purpose of a bung is to indicate a strike on your subsurface fly.

Different Types of Bungs

fly fishing BUNG
fly fishing BUNG

Bungs come in many different forms. They can be large dry flies, hard rubber balloons, actual balloons, foam, poly yarn, styrofoam, or putty. Bungs can also conceal a stinger, or hook, in the odd event that a fish eats your bung instead of your fly. Stocked trout tend to eat the bung more often than wild trout because the bung shape and color are similar to shape and color of feed pellets that stocked trout are fed before being released into wild fisheries.

Bung Fly Fishing Setup

The bung is attached to your leader between your nymph and the beginning of your fly line. Most bung packaging includes directions for attaching your bung to your leader. If you are using a large dry fly, attach your tippet to your dry fly using an improved clinch knot tied around the bend of your dry fly hook. In order to know where to place your bung on your leader, you have to take the speed of the current and the depth of the water into consideration. Faster and deeper water requires more weight, usually applied via split-shot, to get your fly down to the necessary depth. A nine-foot tapered leader works well for fly fishing with a bung.

What Type of Leader and Tippet Should I Use While Fishing with a Bung

You can use either monofilament or fluorocarbon while fishing a bung, but I would recommend using fluorocarbon for several reasons. Monofilament leaders and tippet tend to float, whereas fluorocarbon sinks. Since a bung is only used while nymphing, using fluorocarbon in your bung setup will help get your flies down to the right depth quicker with less slack in the line. Fluoro is also more sensitive than mono because it doesn’t stretch as much. This lower level of stretch leads to greater sensitivity when you are dealing with very subtle strikes. A typical bung setup includes a couple flies, some split-shot and of course your bung. That is a lot of material in the water, and the low-stretch of fluoro helps bring it all tight for a solid hookset.

How Much Line Should Be Between Your Bung and Your Nymph

Setting up a BUNG or Indicator for Fly Fishing
Setting up a BUNG or Indicator for Fly Fishing

A general rule is that half the distance between your bung and your fly is how deep your fly will ride in the water column. So if the distance between your bung and your fly is six feet, the fly will ride three feet beneath the surface of the water. You should adjust your bung to suit the water you are fishing. If you are fishing a shallow riffle, you’re bung should be closer to your nymph. If you are trying to dredge a deep hole, you should have more space between your fly and your bung. The running depth of your nymph can also be adjusted by adding split-shot to your leader above the nymph.

When to Use a Bung Fly Fishing

You should use a bung anytime that you are nymphing, unless you are Czech nymphing. A bung is priceless when nymphing because it tells you when a fish has taken one of your flies beneath the surface of the water. Bungs are not necessary when you are dry fly fishing because you can see the fish eat on the surface.

When to Set the Hook When Fishing with a Bung

If your bung does anything other than float naturally with the current you should set the hook. This includes if the bung stops, dives beneath the surface, starts moving against the current or sideways through the current, jigs, bobs or twitches. Remember, your bung should float naturally in the current, and if it does anything other than that you should always set the hook. Sometimes you will catch the bottom, but you never know why that indicator went under, so always set the hook!

How to Set the Hook When Using a Bung

There are a variety of ways to set the hook when fishing with a bung. In general, when you are fly fishing with a bung, you want to set the hook by moving your rod tip directly downstream or straight up in the air. By doing so, you are utilizing the drag of water against your line to bring your line tight more quickly.

Fish will usually feed while facing upstream into the current because that is where the food is coming from, so if you set by pulling the tip of the rod downstream you pulling the hook into the fish’s mouth rather than out of it. These technique increases the odds of setting the hook successfully.

Best Casting Techniques While using a Bung

Bung rigs can be difficult to cast. Typically you are casting several flies, some added weight from split-shot, and a bung. Add a little wind to this recipe and you have a wind knot for the ages. The best casting technique to use while fly fishing with a bung is the roll cast. At the end of the drift, I like to let the flies swing through the current (sometimes fish will eat your nymph on the swing so pay attention!).

Once the flies are downstream I lift the road tip so my bung is clear of the water and my first nymph is riding on the surface of the water, and then I rollcast my flies back into the hole. This will ensure that your bung doesn’t drag through the water and spook the fish you are trying to catch.

What Type of Bung Should I Use

The type of bung you use depends on what kind of water you are fishing. If the fish are spooky and the water is very clear, consider using a small foam or poly yarn bung. If the waters you fish tend to be deeper and faster, thus requiring heavier nymph rigs, consider using a hard plastic balloon bung because these tend to float better.

Can I fish with a Bung in Stillwater

Yes. A bung works just as well in still water fisheries as it does in creeks in rivers. The methods and techniques are essentially the same.

Bungs with Hooks

If you want your bung to have a hook in it, they are very simple to tie. Popular materials include foam and poly yarn. Bright colors such as orange, pink, and red tend to work the best, especially during high water events or while fish are spawning.

Is a Bung Different Than a Strike Indicator

No. The term ‘bung’ and ‘strike indicator’ are interchangeable. In some fly fishing circles, the term ‘bung’ means a strike indicator with a hook in it.

Tips for Fly Fishing with a Bung

The most important thing when nymphing is getting your fly to the depth at which the fish are feeding. It is always easier to add more weight, so start with a little or no weight, and then gradually add split-shot to your rig until you start getting into fish. Utilize the roll cast; the more time your flies spend in the water, the better your odds are of catching a fish. High sticking is a great option when fly fishing with a bung because it enables you to get a great drift.