Keep On Stripping!

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

One of the things that I’ve learned over the years, and something that I stress to my clients, is to always, Always, ALWAYS finish your retrieve when stripping streamers.

I can’t begin to count the amount of times I’ve had a trout slam a streamer at the last second, right before the fly was pulled from the water. On the flip-side, I’ve also lost count of the times that I’ve had the water erupt at the fins of a trout trying to smash the streamer that I was pulling off the water. You just never know when you’ve caught some beasty’s curiosity… just not enough of it to entice an immediate eat.

Take musky for instance; these snaggletoothed dinosaurs are known for following flies all the way to the fly shop stickers, only to turn their discerning nose and head back to their underwater dwelling. To help those noncommittal musky, anglers developed the figure-eight technique in order to increase their odds of hooking up. They do it religiously, and out of habit, cast after cast. The reason they do this is simply because they never know when that musky they’ve been after the past 9,999 casts is following closely behind, just waiting for the fly to pause, wiggle, or jackknife just right. Now, I’m not saying that you need to start figure-eighting your trout streamers, but I’ll often strip my streamer until my leader is just shy of the tip of the rod and then pull the rod either in front of, or behind, the boat in a jerking motion. This gives you a little more water to work with, and might entice a strike from a trout that you may not have known was following your fly. Take advantage of all that water and work as much of it as possible!

If you’re fishing from a drift boat, make sure to keep that thing swimming well inside the oars.

Don’t stop, and keep your eyes peeled! I’ll never forget the day Louis and I went fishing with our buddy Jason Tucker. Jason, who writes the blog Fontinalis Rising, was twerking a black sex dungeon on a north Georgia tailwater just as the day’s release had caught up to us, providing plenty of room for the big boys and girls to come out and play. Jason was working his streamer back to the boat, and as the fly approached the oars he began to lift the fly from the water. As the fly laid on the water’s surface for that second before Jason began his next cast, a ginormous brown trout just about did a back flip out of the water in an all-out assault on Jason’s streamer.

There wasn’t a whole lot Jason could have done, but it sure was exciting! It just goes to show, you never know what might be following your fly! As for those that chase big fish on small streams, strip that piece of meat all the way to your feet! Bring the leader in just shy of the tip and tease it back towards you, letting it dance around in the current. If a trout is on the prowl, they’ll likely pounce. Don’t be surprise when an explosive eat occurs right at your feet! I’ll also add that this doesn’t just pertain to trout, or musky. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pike, and even catfish will sometimes follow a fly, only attacking it just before it bumps its nose into the hull of the boat, or the toe of your boot.

Stripping streamers can be a ton of fun. Some days it’s either hero, or zero, but keeping those big flies moving along in the water longer will only increase your likelihood of turning an “ok” day into an “awesome” day on the water. You never know what’s lurking just beyond your fly, so make sure to play your retrieve all the way to the end! Happy hunting!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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