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In a debris-littered backwater eddy of the Bighorn River last summer, Gary Knopp saw opportunity.

“There must have been 10 or 15 of those little strike indicators floating around,” Knopp said.

Strike indicators come in all shapes and sizes. Some are like little balloons. Some are balloons. There are also ones made out of yarn and press-on ones made of foam and adhesive.

The indicators are attached to a fly angler's line and used like a bobber, dipping below the surface when a fish strikes a wet fly or nymph imitation. The indicators are often brightly colored — such as a neon orange or green — to help the angler see them. The small foam indicators are the ones most likely to fall off.

Knopp's aha moment was the idea that there might be a market for a biodegradable strike indicator, one that wouldn't be found floating around in a river's backwaters, one that would degrade and not be harmful to a fish if eaten.

He spent about three weeks searching the Internet for possible materials when he came upon a yarn made out of corn by a company in Nebraska. Because it's a natural material, the corn-based yarn will eventually dissolve in water.

“I think it's a really innovative idea,” he said, and his friend who was with him on the trip agreed that it seemed like a pretty good idea.

Knopp, 58, has dubbed his creation Stream Savers and is seeking a patent for the product. After four attempts, he's settled on a design that he thinks may find a market with anglers.

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Knopp ran his idea past Rich Romersa, owner of East Rosebud Fly and Tackle, who was encouraging and offered to sell the indicators. But Romersa also said the market for the indicators may be small.

“There definitely is an element of customers out there who want an indicator that is more aerodynamic and hits the water softer,” Romersa said. “Everyone has their own preference in terms of a strike indicator. The biodegradable part may or may not have an impact.”

Knopp creates the indicators by cutting the yarn into lengths and tying a loop into the middle. Then he coats the entire product in an organic paste to help it float. The final touch is coating the loop in beeswax. He plans to package them three to a bag and sell them for $10.

Although he's not much of a fly angler, preferring in the past to cast lures with a spinning rod, Knopp said his invention has given him a renewed interest in the sport. He even signed up for a class this spring.

The invention has also provided Knopp, a part-time addictions counselor, with something to fill his spare hours.

“They're kind of labor-intensive in a way,” he said. “But I've got all the time in the world right now.”

Contact Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor, at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

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Contact Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor, at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

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