Stripping the Fly for Sea Run Cutthroat, Trout or (even) Bonefish
Moving the fly actively has to be one of the most important techniques for our local fisheries, and for the traveling angler, the lessons learned on our local beaches have a surprising way of being relevant half-a-world away.
We love to fish with Seth’s Sand Eels, Rolled Muddlers, Shock-and-Awes, anything that looks like a scared baitfish to local sea-run cutts. Lucky for us, they’re not shy. Sea-run cutthroat, or SRC’s, attack with reckless abandon. The trick is getting their attention, and it’s not always done with a slow retrieve. Make that fly look scared, make it look like it’s out of its comfort zone. If our tiny fly the Seth’s Sand Eel doesn’t move really fast, it will perish! So make it move fast and erratically.
If you’ve never tried stripping flies, tuck the running line under a finger of the hand that holds the rod, typically the index or middle finger, and retrieve the line with your free hand. Use a fluid motion with the hand that retrieves the fly. Start slow, end fast. If you don’t have the magic formula, vary the amount of time between strips, letting the fly sink or jig. Vary the speed of the strip. For SRC’s, a fast strip that’s 6 inches to a foot or more typically puts your fly in the danger zone. Expect the take when the fly is still, and get your retrieve hand back to the rod hand and ready to strike!
Start playing with the retrieve, and you’ll find endless variation. Certain retrieves get the attention of SRCs focused on baitfish. Slower retrieves are often the trick for invertebrates like euphausids or copepods. Other retrieves can imitate a fleeing damsel fly in a lake, or draw the attention of a wary trout to a hopper imitation. And if you have the opportunity to chase species outside of Puget Sound, dialing in the retrieve can help you target the feeding behavior of striped bass, redfish, bonefish, tarpon or permit. It’s all in the wrist.