Bruce Ajari: Cast even farther with stripping baskets
Last week I did a column on gaining distance when fly casting. I failed to identify one of the easiest ways fly casters can pick up distance. That is, by the use of a piece of equipment called a stripping basket.
A stripping basket allows the angler to handle the fly line that is stripped back in while fishing a fly by actively retrieving it. Without this device, the angler would try and maintain lines in a coil on one hand or let it lie on the ground or in the water.
Steelhead and salmon anglers in the Northwest, where I went to school, would hold the coils of line between their lips.
When I was a college student many years ago we made our own stripping baskets out of a simple plastic waste basket. By cutting a couple slots for the insertion of a belt, an angler could attach it to his waste and strip line back into the basket in preparation for his next cast. This prevented the line from dragging on the ground or in the water, thus reducing the drag when making a forward cast. The result is a longer cast.
The crude basket that I made when I was in college has since been replaced by commercial models. While the stripping basket has evolved, the basic basket still remains pretty much the same. It is nothing more than a receptacle for one’s fly line.
Commercial bottles come in a variety of materials these days. You still have rigid plastic ones and others made from foam or even cloth materials. The one great innovation in some models is the little nubs at the bottom of the basket that help keep the line from tangling, either from jostling around or from the wind.
A plain receptacle without the nubs at the bottom is fine if you are fishing from a boat or ladder, like those used at Pyramid Lake in Nevada, as long as there is no wind. What happens when the wind comes up is that the line is actually blown around in the basket.
This causes the line to be pulled out unevenly, which generally creates a large amount of line trying to pass through a guide. The result is a jam and the termination of your intended long cast. The nubs typically prevent this mixing.
I have found the stripping basket to be of great help for gaining distance. They are great for fishing in saltwater from the beach, as long as you are blind casting. If you are sight-fishing for predator fish such as the Roosterfish in Baja, you have to sprint to put yourself in position to cast to them. This sprinting does a great job of mixing the line thoroughly, thus causing you to pull up a wad of tangled line into the guides of your rod.
When you are fly fishing from shore on our local lakes, a basket can really help keep your line from snagging on little stick-ups and prevent your line from getting dirty. This will help both your casting and extend the life of your fly line.
These practices feel awkward when you first start using them, but once you get used to them they will help you in the right conditions. Give them a try sometime.
– Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.
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