Fly-fishing Voices

Stripping baskets are not for nude fly-fishing

Photo Credit: Don Oliver | Special to the Drum


I know a retired fly fishing guide who once tried to convince his wife that a stripping basket was meant to keep your clothes in a neat pile when fly fishing nude from the deck of a boat, or picnicking on a secluded beach.

She listened to his explanation long and hard. Then after about two seconds of consideration she told me, I mean him, that was the craziest thing she had ever heard.

It soon became obvious that no amount of sound reasoning was going to persuade her otherwise. So, a truthful explanation of just what a stripping basket was, and how it was used, became necessary.

Simply put, a stripping basket is a container that holds fly line as you strip it back after making a cast. They do come in various sizes and shapes. The most common one is a cylinder shaped tube that looks like a trash can, and is about three feet tall.

These are seen mostly on the decks of flats and bass boats. If you’re watching people fly fishing in the surf you might see something that looks like a wash basket tied around the fisherman’s waist.

For those spey casting, a smaller basket attached to someone’s waist is what you’ll most likely see. You can either fabricate a stripping basket from items found at the hardware store, or buy one from a fly shop. Either way, they are a good addition to a fly fisherman’s arsenal of equipment.

You might now be asking yourself, why should I use a stripping basket? A stripping basket keeps the line out of the way, so you don’t step on it, while fishing from the deck of a boat. It will also stop your line from being magnetically attracted to everything on the boat.

If you’re fly fishing in the surf it will prevent your line from being washed in and out by the waves.

For those wading the flats, or spey casting, a basket will keep your line close to you, and out of the water. Having the line out of the water lessens the drag and resistance water will put on your line when you make a cast.

Your next question is probably how does something this sophisticated work?

In order for a stripping basket to function properly one has to remember to put the line into the basket as you bring it back in.

Remember to put the line in last that you want to go out first. Or, put the line in first that you want to go out last. If it helps think lifo, or filo. I think those are old computer terms, but they do make sense.

To state the obvious, line is put into the basket as you strip it back. You don’t want to bring your line in to where you’re standing, then put it into the basket in a big wad. If you put the line into the basket in a big wad, that’s how it is going to come out.

And, fly lines with big knots will almost always guarantee a broken off fish. So, as you lay line on top of itself, do so gently. It will come out the same way and make for easier casting and a better chance of landing a fish.

If you’ve never used a stripping basket, and think using one makes sense, I suggest you practice using one before heading out.

Try baskets of different heights and sizes. Also, try one that is attached to your waist. With a little practice you’ll find a style and size that is comfortable and useful.

You might also practice your explanation to the other person in your life about what a stripping basket is used for. Maybe you’ll be more successful than that retired fly fishing guide I know.

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