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Which two piece is right for you? Don't choose just one. Gear Review: Airlock Centerline vs. Oros

The difference between a good angler and a great one is the willingness to adjust to different conditions. River flows, weather, entomology, and the number of other anglers are all factors, among others, that are constantly changing. That said, more often than not, the angler that adjusts to these ever changing factors is the angler that will catch more fish. In the world of guiding, the guide that adjusts and the one that doesn't is the difference between a guide with a job, and a guide without a job.

Making the proper adjustments on the river (lake, pond, salt-flat, etc.) is imperative and it can not be overstated. So fittingly, as guides, we are constantly looking for the best tools to aid in quick and definitive adjustments. The tools we choose and the reason for selecting them range from the obvious (rods, reels, flies), to those that are often overlooked (tippet, indicators, leaders). In order to be effective and efficient, we have to rely on dependable gear that will hold up to the daily rigors of being out on the water daily for 6 months. The gear has to work not only for the guide, but more importantly the client. The tools we use have to be versatile and cost effective if we want to make money in the end. Oh, and one more thing; they have to aid in catching fish daily, not just fishing daily. 

Over the past couple years I have been experimenting with several 1 & 2-piece strike indicators. As technology changes, so must the angler.  Now that's not to say that you have to try every new product, but I think we'd all agree that as of 5 years ago the indicator market needed a major overhaul. Enter Oros and Airlock. Over the past several years both of these brands have released newly designed strike indicators with the very thing that will differentiate the good and the great anglers (and guides) at the core of their design; the ability to make on water depth and weight adjustments quickly, effectively, and securely.

This design definitely needed an upgrade.

Airlock is a manufacturer that has been around for several years. Most of us are familiar with this brand as they have been on the market for several years and have made several changes to its design. Oros, on the other hand, is a rather new manufacturer and is considered the brand that really brought the 2-piece to the masses through rather clever marketing and ingenuity. 

While one brand has been considered the industry leader for sometime now, the new kid on the block has forced the old vet to re-think their design process. The result has equaled an unsurpassed variety that did not exist a few years ago. But while variety is a nice luxury, performance is a key necessity. 

On recent outings, we tested the newest offerings from both of these manufacturer’s. First up was the Oros brand, only because it was the first to put out a 2-piece strike indicator. The idea is simple: an easily adjustable strike indicator (I prefer bobber) that is designed for the leader to run through the middle of the bobber, unlike previous designs (Airlock being amongst them) that had the leader running through the top, which every angler knows that means it ends up on the bottom ultimately and creates drag, a major no-no. 

The innovative 2-piece design of the Oros Strike Indicator

So when Oros came onto the scene I was one of the many that were very excited for the new design, which didn’t have easy to lose screw parts like the previous iteration of the Airlock, created less drag that resulted in a more natural presentation,  a win-win. I, like many others, fell in love with them immediately and when they released the red/white color combination it got even better, especially for clients (and newbies) not used to looking for a bobber in the river. They came in multiple sizes and you could switch up the colors for easy to see contrasting color combinations; not to mention the ease of depth adjustment. 

Now enter Airlock, on its heels. They were already getting complaints about the missing screws (and even resorted to manufacturing extras) when Oros came on the scene. Airlock, left with no other choice, reacted rather quickly, releasing their new Centerline Strike Indicator line of products. You can immediately tell they put some thought into the new design, which was an absolute market reaction to the overwhelmingly successful new Oros product. 

The aforementioned Airlock design with the screws that go missing.

What they ultimately did was take the Oros design and they improved upon it (at the time I didn’t think the Oros design needed an upgrade but apparently it did). The very first & very noticeable improvement is what I like to call the ‘traction bars’. Essentially, it’s a series of ridges on the indicator’s exterior that aid in releasing the two pieces from each other when you try to unscrew them. It also aids in tightening the indicator onto the leader and securing it in place, a must on the water unless you want to keep replacing them. Now while the Oros smooth surface does help minimize air drag when casting, I would argue the added drag from the ‘traction bars’ is minimal and well worth the lack of frustration when not being able to unscrew the indicators. 

Also, Airlock took it up a notch and thought of adding a 2-way leader insert in the middle of the indicator; giving yourself the ability to have a 90° rig (see picture). Now while it’s not a true, independent 90° rig, it will suffice in most situations. It’s actually rather clever, and while you don’t have to use that option, it’s definitely an upgrade to the Oros straight-line only design. The two different size leader notches also allow for thicker/thinner leaders to grab and hold easier in the bobber. 

The new & improved Airlock Centerline Strike Indicator. Note the 'traction bars' & the 90 degree design.

Oros, clearly seeing that their clever new product had been out-designed, had to answer back. Their answer so far has been the new Extra-Small (XS) indicators; also, a very ingenious idea and a unique product. 

I recently purchased the new XS Oros and the new Airlock Centerline Strike Indicators and went out for testing. Simply put, while I do prefer the design and more buoyant design of the new Airlock Centerline Strike Indicator, I do like the Oros XS Indicators as well. The XS Oros gives you something that Airlock can’t right now, an adjustable 2-piece in a micro design for when you’re targeting trout in 2’ or less of water (technical stuff).

The new XS Oros Strike Indicator

Comparatively, size to size, the Airlock is more buoyant, meaning it will support more of those BB weights you keep pinching on to the leader before you have to up-size. Also, I do like the versatility of the Airlock compared to the Oros as it does allow for a thin leader to thick leader switch over much more efficiently if I decide to go from a shallow to a deep run. That said, in the absolute shallows, I like the lightweight XS Oros as it doesn’t spook the trout. It reminds me of the Palsa foam indicators from back in the day. Yes, the ones you loved for techy days but they wouldn’t adjust very well. Well now Oros has replaced that.

The Oros size offerings.

In conclusion, both of these manufacturers have put some great products out on the market. Similarly priced at about $10.00 for 3 indicators, part of your decision will be left purely up to your preference. I prefer the Airlock Centerline Strike Indicator overall as it offers higher buoyancy and a more versatile centerpiece; but the new XS Oros 2-piece Strike Indicator will still have its place in my pack this season next to the Airlock and the New Zealand wool for those technical shallow days. New Zealand wool? Well, that’s another type of strike indicator, for another discussion, for another day. See you next time!

The Colorado Fly Angler


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