Strip Set, Dammit!

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Capt. Joel Dickey Demonstrates a Good Set Photo by Louis Cahill

Quite likely the most frustrating thing for an angler who is new to salt water is the strip set.

A dedicated freshwater angler will have thousands of hours of muscle memory to overcome. I did it myself time after time. I’d see a fish eat and my arm, without permission from my brain, would raise the rod tip and off would swim a happy bonefish. Then I would hear my friend Josie Sands, from the platform, “da ain’t no trout in the Bahamas Louis”. To be fair, as frustrating as this is for the angler it may be worse on the guide. He has to deal with this almost every day.

I wish I had a silver bullet to offer that would solve this problem for you instantly, but I don’t. It just takes focus and practice. However here are a few suggestions that may help. First, don’t beat yourself up. Every guy who stands on that bow has gone through this. You are not a moron, you just feel like one. Self loathing will not help.

Second, stay focused. There is a lot to think about and when you spot fish things happen quickly. Try this. When a fish turns and chases your fly, with each strip say out loud, “strip set, strip set, strip set”. When he eats, you may remember what to do.

Lastly, apply a proper strip set. There are a few important points to this. Point you rod at the line. Rod tip in the water works best. When you set you don’t want the rod tip to bend at all. Set yourself up for a good long set. Reach the rod out as far away from you as you can. Take the line with your line hand, right at your rod hand. Now, if you’re six feet tall for example, you have your full six foot reach to apply a good firm set. This is crucial because the fish is likely moving toward you. If the boat is also drifting to the fish you will need every inch to come tight.

It’s not that tough. It just takes practice. So practice. Before long you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll be on to solving the next problem, which is the one I had last week. After a great week in the Keys I went trout fishing with my buddy Dan. A beautiful brown trout well over twenty inches came up and inhaled my fly and what did I do? That’s right, STRIP SET! SNAP! …Searing waves of self loathing.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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9 thoughts on “Strip Set, Dammit!

  1. That’s one of the best descriptions I’ve heard. I’ll admit, I had a hard time in Andros, but I got better every day.

    Sparkles gave me the best advice – ‘just keep stripping mon, you’ll know when you have him.’

    Of course, he’d never caugh a 20″ cuttie on a dry though. 🙂

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