Strip Striking Trout
When we think about strip striking, we generally think salt water or big game. This means a heavy tippet, large flies and a powerful strip to set the hook when a big predator eats the fly. However, what many trout anglers don’t know is that strip striking can be adapted to suit trout fishing and is a very useful tool. From blind streamer fishing to close range nymphing sighted trout in clear water, I use the strip strike in many facets of trout fishing.
Fishing streamers for trout is usually a fast paced affair. It’s a great way to cover a lot of water quickly and is generally a blind fishing tactic. When a take comes during the retrieve, we hope that everything goes tight and the fish is on. There’s not too much to think about. However, sometimes it’s not so straight forward. Slow retrieves can be a different story.
Sometimes you know when a fish is following because you can feel taps on the fly. Striking these taps conventionally can work, but it often accelerates the fly out of the fish’s feeding zone, which results in the end of the follow or maybe a spooked fish. This is the perfect opportunity to strip strike. Depending on the perceived likelihood of the eat, I vary my strip strike from one foot to about three feet. One foot is tentative, and three feet is pretty certain. The strip strike will set the hook just like a conventional strike. But, if you miss, the fly is still in the zone and you might get another chance to set the hook!
Strip striking can also be used when streamer fishing to a fish you can see. Here in New Zealand it pays to strip in your streamer until you can see it because trout often follow right to the bank or boat. When the fish is in sight—hot on the tail of your streamer—you may see the take. Once again, I prefer a strip strike here because a missed conventional strike will take the fly right out of the water making it almost impossible to get the fly back in the zone before the fish sees you and fecks off. One important thing to note when streamer fishing—especially if you intend to strip strike—is to use strong tippet. Don’t go lower than 2x. I’ve learned this the hard way too many times!
If you want to read more on sight fishing tips and tricks, check out Ronan’s last piece on the blog!
The other place I commonly use a strip strike is when sight fishing a single nymph or spider pattern. Usually this is in a stillwater scenario. Most of the time I fish my nymph or spider about a foot under a dry in shallow stillwater environments. However, the advantage of a single fly is that I can move it to intercept a fish without spooking it with a skating dry. I can also retrieve it to induce a take. The disadvantage is that the take can be hard to see without an indicator when everything happens slowly.
Reading An Eat
Sometimes the take is obvious. For example, the fish accelerates to the fly and I see his mouth open to inhale the fly. In this instance, I strike with the rod. However, it’s not always obvious. When a fish moves slowly towards the fly, then slows down a little more – this could mean he’s eaten the fly. But it might not. This is the perfect time for a gentle strip strike. Remember, you’re fishing with 4x or 5x tippet so it must be gentle. Like with streamer fishing, the advantage is that your fly is still in the zone after the strike. There’s another advantage, though. You are far less likely to spook the trout with a strip strike.
I only strip about a foot with this gentle form of strip striking. With a conventional rod strike, the splash and commotion of the fly leaving the water at 100mph will probably spook the trout. To put it simply, anything that might be a take is worth a gentle strip strike to find out. If it is a take, you’ll probably hook it. If not, you’ve lost nothing. Your fly is still in the zone and the trout is still happy so you can have another go.
After the Strip Strike
After a successful close range strip strike you may need to slip a little line while lifting the rod up to fight the fish. You definitely don’t want to be pointing the rod at the trout for too long after the hook-up! In fact, in thinking about it as I write, as soon as I feel contact I’m pretty sure I finish the strike with the rod – there’s less chance of breaking the tippet this way.
I expect many seasoned anglers strip strike in one form or another instinctively. I certainly used to. Then, one day I caught myself doing it, so I tried to advance it. The more I thought about it, the more I could see places to apply it.
With the single nymph strip strike, I learned so much about trout mannerisms. For example, one kick of the tail from a fish to glide to the fly often results in a refusal, where a constantly swimming trout is more likely to eat. A fish slowing down, changing direction, or stopping could all be indications of an eat, but they also may not. This makes the strip strike so useful. Keeping your fly in the zone without spooking fish—and of course setting the hook when you get it right—is crucial. Fishing with no indicator to sighted fish will teach an angler a lot about how trout take the fly. Strip striking has added a lot to my fishing and I certainly catch more trout because of it.
Feel free to contact me with any questions. If you’re reading from New Zealand and would like some guided fly fishing in the lower South Island you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website. To read more of my stuff you can check out my blog “Ronan’s Report” over on www.sexyloops.com.
Tight Lines, Ronan.