Fishing the surf is a great way to catch fish
on fly. It can be very productive and for some
species it is the preferred method. As some of
you may be fully aware of, it can also be a real
hassle when you don't have the right equipment.
Letting out the amount of line needed for fishing
will almost invariably lead to an impromptu dance
as you hop around your line in an attempt to keep
from getting tangled up. It usually ends up either
wrapped around your foot or leg, or wrapped around
some debris on the beach. To top it off, if you're
not paying attention, your first backcast will
bring that fly racing towards your waiting legs
where it will make its home half an inch under
your skin. It has happened to me quite a few
Taking heed of the learned folks on this website I
set out to get my hands on a stripping basket.
For those of you that don't know, a stripping
basket is a container that is attached to a
belt and is worn around the waist. This is
used as a holding receptacle for all your
loose fly line. Some are made of solid plastic
while others are made of nylon mesh. When you're
ready to cast the line feeds out of the basket
allowing a hang-up free experience.
My local fly shop has just about everything
you could want for saltwater fly-fishing. The
basket I was shown was large, light-weight,
collapsible and easily deployed from a fully
stored position within the belt itself. Fancy.
The price however was pretty high. No surprise
My next stop was EBay. Not very many baskets
there, but a few were worth considering. After
looking over my options I purchased one that was
priced very reasonably. Even with shipping it
was less than half the price I would have paid
at the fly-shop. I always recommend supporting
your local fly-shop, but when the price of a
simple object is almost the same as a weeks
groceries I shop around. After all, all I
wanted was a simple basket. Not one with so
many fancy extras, although an automatic fly
dispenser might make me pony up the dough.
I waited about a week for delivery. When it
arrived I was a little surprised by its small
size. Scarcely larger than a modern thermal
lunch bag I thought it might not be roomy enough
to use easily. However, after trying it on and
moving around a bit in it I realized that anything
bigger would probably have felt cumbersome. It
was made of some sort of reinforced nylon mesh
with a stiffer nylon rim supported by two plastic
arms that can be unattached to collapse the bag.
It came attached to a substantial looking belt
with an easy to release clip buckle. Not bad at
all. There was no 'label name' on the basket, I
suspect the person I bought it from made it.
Trying it out at home can only tell you so much
so I packed up and headed to the beach. There
are benefits to living this close the water although
there is a price to pay as well. This year's
hurricane season hit us pretty hard. The beach
has been a mess ever since, but, to the city's
credit, restoration works started almost immediately
after the storms where over. The fish, however,
didn't seem to notice any of this. The mullet
where running and the predators where gunning.
I admit to being a complete novice to the art
of surf fishing, fly or otherwise, but it wasn't
hard to see that there was action along the entire
beach for as far as the eye could see. It just
wasn't happening at any one spot consistently.
This expedition proved to be more workout than
leisure. Walking along the surf, I'd spot a
school of mullet fleeing the water about fifty
feet away. I'd run to the area and quickly cast
only to find that the blitz was over and the fish
had moved on. Then I'd see another commotion and
the process would repeat itself. This was not what I
had in mind, but the basket was definitely helping
me move around mostly unhindered.
I tired of running up and down the beach and
decided to switch tactics. I went up to the
jetty and found a spot that I knew would be
holding fish. Sure enough they where there,
rounding up the baitfish and picking them off
at will. Again, the basket really helped me
by keeping my line off the rocks. It was here
that I experimented with the position of the
basket for easier use. Originally I had set
it directly in front of me. This proved awkward
to strip into. I found myself focusing on hitting
the basket more than catching a fish. Not good.
I rotated it to my left and wore it on my hip.
I found that this worked very well for me. The
natural motion of my strip led my hand right into
the basket. It wasn't long before I was barely
aware of it at all. That's how I had hoped this
The fishing was not very productive for me,
but that was due to my using the wrong type
of fly. I was trying to take them on top with
a crease fly, but with so much mullet stacked
in the water they where feeding below without
having to exert themselves too much. After
tying on a good 'ole Clouser minnow I immediately
hooked up on a snook. Unfortunately it broke my
line after a couple of fantastic jumps and made
off with the last Clouser I had. Lesson learned;
never leave the home without a fist full of
Clousers. Oh well, it's basket testing I had
come for and tested it was.
If you plan on heading for the surf there are a
few things that you should have with you:
An 8wt rod or higher to toss heavy flies
and hopefully deal with heavy fish.
Protective Polorized glasses, footwear,
preferably wading specific boots.
And if you want to make your experience
more enjoyable, a decent stripping basket.
Store bought or home made, a basket could make
the difference between catching a big one and
catching your leg.
Tight lines, ~ Ed Mercado