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The Art of Stripping

by Vic Attardo   |  September 11th, 2012 1

3 Advanced Techniques
The most interesting lifelike movement technique was shown to me by Pennsylvania angler Bruce Fairfull, who uses it to catch both smallmouth and trout in slow to moderate water. I call it “jostling.”

In slow to moderate water, cast 30 to 40 feet down-and-across to a spot you think may hold a fish. With the rod parallel to the water (Motion 1), snap your wrist and raise the rod tip abruptly to the 11 o’clock position (Motion 2). Next, drop the rod gradually (Motion 3, 4, and 5) to its original plane (Motion 5). Repeat this technique quickly three or four times during a drift to make the streamer imitate a minnow swimming to the surface and then falling back to bottom.

The quick lift-and-drop action of this technique causes the fly line beneath the rod tip to jump forward and then settle back. On the end of the line the fly darts toward you, swimming upward as it comes forward. On the drop, the fly falls back and starts to sink. Done right, the jostling fly looks like a darting minnow swimming toward the surface and then falling back.
Since at first no additional line is retrieved, jostling keeps the fly in relatively the same location. It drives fish wild.
Another effective technique is the “slide-and-glide”—good for long, across-stream casts. “Slide-and-glide” describes the action you give the fly as it moves downstream in a moderate to strong current.

To make your fly slide and glide, strip the fly in one to two feet with a staccato action then allow short lengths of retrieved line to slip back through your fingers so that the fly drifts downstream.

With most stripping techniques, you retrieve a fly in one direction—back to you. The across-stream slide-and-glide technique allows the fly to be carried away from you; it covers more distance with natural movement.

To perform the slide-and-glide, simply allow short lengths of previously retrieved line to slip back through your fingers and let the current pull the fly along. After a strip of one or two feet with a good staccato action, let some of the retrieved line drift downstream before you resume your strip. This causes the fly to dart forward with the retrieve and then, when the line is released, float downstream for several feet. The appearance is of a creature that bolts forward, runs out of energy, and is swept back downstream by the current. The action is deadly.

I particularly like the slide-and-glide in heavy water where the current reduces visibility and the fish have little time to think. It also works great at the end of a drift when your line is below you. The technique is not effective in a slow pool.
One technique that brings a lot of fish to the rod is done at the end of the drift in slow to moderate flow. I call it the “stalled strip,” or “dead-sticking,” and it allows a fly to stay in place and still have motion.

The “stalled strip” technique allows a fly to stay close to fish-holding structure, yet still have motion to trigger a strike. At the end of a drift, use your line hand to make repeated short tugs, keeping the fly active, but in the prime spot.

In this technique, your line hand does not shorten the line; it makes short, repetitive tugs, keeping the fly active, but in place. The stalled strip allows you to keep a fly active and near cover to trigger a strike.

This technique can be deadly when imitating nymphs and crustaceans, and it works in imitating slow-moving forage fish such as stonecats and sculpins.

When you combine a number of stripping techniques with the solid fundamentals, you have an arsenal of methods that should increase your strikes. Remember, you have to persuade the fish that your fly is alive, and possibly in trouble, to produce a hit.

Vic Attardo is a full-time outdoor writer and mayor of Red Hill, Pennsylvania.

  • Sayfu

    Best stripping technique I ever learned was from a guy I ran into in a sporting goods store. I was a beginning, steelhead fly fisherman, and a swinger. of the fly. You cast a lot of line, and need to strip line into the water like the guy standing knee deep in the picture drawing. I told him that I often get the line tangled putting 5-6, or maybe a few more smaller loops down to the water line. The guy got me strip, strip, stripping, and making bigger loops the last loop going in my mouth holding it in my lips…roll out the line, pick it up with a double haul, and open my mouth on the forward…out she goes seldom ever getting tangled. no need for a stripping basket.

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