Stripping for Success
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service
trip, strip, strip, or strip-pause, strip-pause, or strip longer, strip longer, these are some of the words that I will shout out to my clients as I am trying to get them to hook into fish. As a captain and guide I will become completely involved in every aspect of fly fishing when I have you out on the water. I have said many times that while I may not have a rod in my hand that does not mean that I am not fishing. In reality I am fishing through you.
So with a new season now upon us I would like to specifically address the fly fisher as we prepare for our run of big bass and bluefish this month and the next. As our waters warm above 55 degrees there are many fish to be caught on the fly as this is the magic number we as fly fishers so often wait for. When this happens both the back bays and oceanfront will be the playing field.
To be successful in consistently hooking into fish just doesn’t mean teaching someone how to cast, or giving them the right rod, or right line, or flies, or showing them where to cast. This may not be enough. Many times I will need to show you or tell you how to swim your fly through the water. In other words teach you the proper stripping techniques.
Having your fly emulate the correct movement of the bait while it is in the water is just as important as selecting the correct fly in terms of its profile and color. In fact in many cases it is probably more important than either of these. Just because you have the right fly on the end of your line doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to catch fish. Movement of the fly is going to be key.
For example, let’s say you are fishing a Popovics’ Jersey crab fleye while sight fishing for striped bass in the summer surf at island Beach State Park. Now if this particular fleye was tied by Bob himself you can assume that there are no flaws in the appearance or the design. But upon casting the fleye into the water on a slow sinking line, you retrieve the fleye in front of a hungry bass using a two handed super strip. The fleye moves at the bass very quickly causing it to just slide out of the way. Well no wonder, with this motion the fleye would appear as if it is was attacking the bass rather than being attacked by it.
Employing the proper stripping technique is an important part of your fly fishing success. When in doubt it is best to strip your fly as naturally as the bait moves that you are trying to imitate. This means that you will need to know how your bait moves when it is just milling along and when it is being harassed.
Stripping methods can vary from one handed to two handed retrieves. Many fly fishers will get into the habit of utilizing only one of these methods as they get comfortable with their retrieve and have had success catching fish. However both methods should be part of your arsenal as there are certain advantages to each.
A two handed strip for instance will allow for one to continuously move the fly which is an important characteristic when it comes to how many baits swim through the water. It also always gives you complete control of the fly as one of your hands is always in contact with the line.
A single handed strip on the other hand will keep the rod always in your hand thereby avoiding that sometimes difficult maneuver of the two handed retrieve when the rod must be placed back into the hand from under your armpit after a strike is made. Many beginners get a lot of slack in their line or lose control of it when this maneuver is done which can cause a fish to be lost.
Techniques for Success
When no fish are showing and I am blind casting into an area I employ a strip that imitates the natural movement of the bait. In most instances this is a slower strip pause type of retrieve with a darting motion employed after every five or six strips. If fish are blitzing in front of me then I use a much faster and more erratic strip as to imitate the bait fleeing from its predator.
Another technique that I employ during a blitz situation is to strip the fly erratically and then just allow the fly to drift almost motionlessly afterwards. To do this, allow the fly to either drift in the current or to slowly sink down below the bait while keeping a tight line to the fly. Keeping a tight line to the fly is important so you can feel a take or bump and can be ready to set the hook. If you have slack in your line the take will go unnoticed and more than likely the fish will spit the fly out.
This method of tight line dead drifting gives the appearance of a stunned or injured bait with your fly. While doing this I will occasionally give the fly a few twitches by either gently jerking the rod tip or by giving a few tiny strips on the line. This is done to tantalize any fish that might be eyeing up the fly and may be all that it takes to draw a strike.
Making a mental note of how you were stripping your fly each time you connect with a fish can also work in your favor particularly on those days when the fish are finicky and selective. I like to visualize and concentrate on what my fly is doing in the water as I strip. In other words I will mentally picture at all times what I feel my fly is doing.
I know that certain flies will undulate because of the materials that they are tied with, or certain flies will stop and drop because of weighted heads, or certain flies will push a lot of water because of their head design and so on. When a strike does occur repeating this motion with your fly can many times result in more strikes and turn a normal day into a great one.
My advice to you this season is to utilize both single handed and two handed stripping methods during the course of your fly fishing and to become adept at both. This will give you the option to present a wider range of variations in your retrieve. If you practice and test the waters with different cadences and rhythms you will start to compile your own arsenal of retrieves that you know are effective. On any given day one of these particular types of motion may just be what the fish were looking for.
Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved
Articles by Captain Jim Freda
- A Quick Lesson for a Little Night Flying
- A Word to the Wise...Wader
- August, More than Meets the Eye
- Bang'em Up
- Beach or Bait? Perspective on Surf Fishing & Beach Replenishment
- Bunker and Trophy Bass
- Bunker, Bunker, and More Bunker and Big Bass Too!
- Busting the Blues
- Clams, Bunker, or Herring for Springtime Trophy Stripers
- Coldwater Stripers, Dredging with the Fly
- CPR for the Fly Fisher - Color, Profile and Retrieve
- December’s End, Watching or Catching?
- December's Grand Finale
- Fall's Surf Smorgasbord
- Fly Fishers-Pick Your Tools Wisely When Getting Started
- Four Baits to Know For Your September’s Surf Success
- Get'em with Sand Eel Imitations
- Getting Started in the Salt
- Know Your Baits and Flies
- Jump to the Back for Early Spring Stripers
- Longest Yard, The
- More Lines Less Flies
- My March Madness
- New Jersey’s “Striper Bounty”
- November Trophies
- October' Harvest in the Surf
- Peanut Bunker Blitzes-Jersey Style
- Running and Gunning, Proper Boating Etiquette
- Saltwater Fly Fishing Perspective
- Saltwater Fly Fishing in the Surf
- September Surf
- Shooting the Suds, Albies on the Fly
- Simplifying Fly Lines
- Slack Water Explained
- Springtime Big Bass
- Spring Baits and Flies
- Stretching into Spring
- Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer
- Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer (Part II)
- Stripping for Success
- Surf Scanning
- Tackling Big December Bass on the Fly!
- Take Me to Your Leader
- Ten Degrees of Blitzes
- Tips and Tidbits
- Trophy Tactics
- Trophy Weakfish on the Fly
- Try for that Trophy Bass on the Fly!
- Wind Direction and its Localized Effect on the Striper Bite
Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast,
has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen,
with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.
Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and StriperSurf.com. Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.
As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.
He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.
For more information, please go to Shore Catch Guide Service www.shorecatch.com