This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 19th, 2004

How To Strip

So you've made the cast - now what?

It doesn't matter if it's upstream with a dry fly - long casts on saltwater, or a fly down deep for lunkers in the lake. Eventually you have to retrieve your line.

We have a nice feature in Fly Fishing 101 by the late Leon Chander on the Figure 8 Retrieve, which is just one of the methods you can use to get your line back - the trick to all retrieves is to keep control of your line.

We've often seen folks on the stream - or on our saltwater beaches here just pulling in some line and letting it fall where ever it is . . .on the ground, or in the water where current, weeds, flotsam of all sorts gets tangled in the line. What happens if you hook a fish? And the fish decides to make a run? Opps. Tangles don't go through guides very well - probably not at all! (Not to mention chunks of kelp.) The result of not having control of your line is lost fish.

If you are in a float tube or pontoon craft you can strip your line onto the apron trying to make large loops or coils so the line can be feed back into the rod when needed - if you are on a stream - moving water, a cast upstream or quartering upstream you must gather your line back as the fly floats downstream toward you. Some do this using their non-rod hand, twisting the hand back and forth making loops in your hand as you do so, if not the line just drifts past you downstream.

A piece of advice you hear on FAOL often, is when you do hook a fish, "put the fish on the reel!" What is meant by that is reel in all the line you have out so there is no line to catch on anything or worse, slack in your line which can allow the fish to get off, or break the tippet when the the fish hits the reel.

I suspect we all develop our own methods of 'gathering' line - once we realize how important having complete control of the line is. You probably won't realize that until you have a disaster and lose a nice fish.

A recent question on the Bulletin Board had to do with stripping line in - and how to protect your finger (the one the line goes over) from being cut. Band-aid was suggested, and there actually is a product, a neoprene tube which looks like a cut-off finger from a glove open on each end. It will work, but you shouldn't need it in the first place.

How you strip in line is the catch. Most people strip in line by holding the rod in their dominate hand, and off to the left (figuring on a right-handed person) is your line hand. Instead, shift your ROD HAND a foot or more to your LEFT. Now your LINE HAND is directly behind and in line with your ROD HAND. The line comes in the stripping guide and across the finger in a straight line instead of at a 90 degree angle.

This not only keeps from cutting the finger, it also gives you more working room to make a short or long strip, long strip and pause, or if you get a hit on your fly, strip-strike the fish. It really is easy - and solves several problems at one time.

One other thing - there are some situations where your line can become cruddy fast - saltwater, mud, sand - and besides not casting very well, the opportunity to cut or damage your fingers by dragging the line across them increases dramatically.

Do some experimenting, try different methods of retrieving line - keeping in mind you must have complete control of the line in every situation. Your catching will improve if you do. ~ The LadyFisher

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