Customising a Stripping Basket

by Nial Logan

Love them or hate them, there are instances where a stripping basket is as essential as your fly rod. If you are a saltwater exponent, where management of 70 or 80 feet of flyline is critical, they are invaluable. Whether you will be wading an estuary, standing knee deep in the surf, fishing off the stones or just walking the shore watching for an opportunity to present itself,  never leave home without one. Many of the commercially available baskets, while having some good design features, are let down by equally bad shortcomings. Whatever design you finally decide on, practice or use it on a regular basis and become familiar with its use. Use it once and you will quickly decide it is not for you.

The original home made stripping basket made use of a plastic 20 litre box however the ones now available are brittle and crack very easily. After some research, the following design has been trialled both here in Australia and overseas and has proved to fulfil all requirements and it’s still cheap to produce. It can be quickly taken apart and is ideal for storing reels to prevent damage when travelling.

Materials List

 Plastic bucket with handles – can be found in hardware stores and most cheap shops but some are made of a thinner material than others. Try and locate one made of a thicker material. The bucket size used is 32cm diameter across top and 23cm high.

Closed cell foam – camping mats are ideal

Toilet seat retaining screws – 2

Silicon Nozzles – 7

Instructions

Step 1 – carefully remove the handles with a sharp knife

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Step 2 –  use a hole saw and drill 3 holes about 3cm up the side of what will be the back of the basket for drainage.  These will eventually be on the side closest to your body. If water gets in, this allows you grasp the front of the basket and tilt it towards you to drain any water out quickly.

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Step 3 – Make the two attachment points by pop rivetting 2 small stainless saddles spaced about 20cm apart and 2-3cm down from the top of the bucket. Alternatively, the cheapest way is to drill two holes and make a loop by knotting each end of some stiff cord on the inside of the bucket. These are the attachment points for the belt straps that position the basket below waist level to enable long strips. Note – if using pop rivets use some thin aluminium as reinforcement to prevent the heads of the pop rivets pulling through the plastic.

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Step 4 – The secret of any basket design is to have some sort of retaining clip for the flyline coming from the reel. If you don’t have one, the action of casting will pull the line on the bottom of the basket causing the line on top to tangle. I think this is the main reason a lot of people find baskets troublesome. The clip will also stop the line spilling out of the basket in strong wind or as you move around.
It was found the best system is comprised of hook and loop velcro attached to the side of the basket. Position it on the front end of the basket with the opening facing out away from you. One piece (about 2-3 inches long) with hooks is attached to the side of the basket (pop rivet in each corner). Stick the other piece with loops on a piece of flexible plastic and attach on top by one end at the rear with a pop rivet in each corner. The system allows the line to be pulled clear as the fish take up the slack line.

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Step 5 – drill 2 x 9mm holes in the bottom that are large enough to thread the foam bottom retainers through. These are the plastic screws that are used on toilet seats and can be bought at hardware stores.

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Step 6 – Cut a piece of solid closed cell foam(camping mats are ideal) to fit neatly into the bottom of the bucket.

Step 7 – Place it in the bucket and drill holes for the retainer screws. Mark the position for the silicon nozzles and drill holes in the foam.

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Basket assembled ready for use.

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Step 8 – The basket is hung from two cord loops that are knotted on the top so that they can slide around the belt. This allows the basket to be positioned to suit individual preference for position. The loops lower the basket below waist level to allow long single handed strips when positioned on the side or double handed strips when positioned on the front. This avoids the uncomfortable necessity of holding the rod high to strip as you have to do with many of the commercial baskets that are worn about waist high. 

The lower ends of the cord loops are fitted with clips that connect to attachment points on the side of the basket. The basket can be unclipped or swung around out of the way when fighting a fish. More importantly, you can sit down in a boat with the basket on and still be ready to make a quick cast if an opportunity presents itself.

As a rough guide when making the loops measure the length so that top of the basket is positioned at the top of your thigh. Test the position and adjust to suit yourself.

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Fly – Trigger Kandi

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 Background

Thirteen odd years ago when I first visited Christmas island, everybody used 8 and 9 wt rods for bone fish and anyone using something like 6wt were looked upon as being a bit strange. Black hooks and black barbell eyes were taboo and flies with rubber legs usually received comments like “nice fly” just prior to the legs being unceremoniously removed by the guide.

A brown waving tail attracted my interest…..”What’s that I said?” Guide’s response ……”Trigger Fish, don’t waste your time casting at them as they seldom take a fly.”

How times have changed. A large number of fishermen now use five and six weight rods. Flies tied on black hooks are used with no objections from the guides. As more fishermen expressed interest in chasing Triggers, techniques were developed that resulted in the catch rates improving. Suitable flies, apart from the normal crazy charlie and gotcha bonefish flies, are now becoming more sophisticated. Crab and shrimp patterns that incorporate orange hotspots and rubber legs as attractors are the goto flies for anyone with “trigger fever”.

A number of years ago, one of the first flies I experimented with was the CF Bongo. The CF, standing for Ceel-Furr, was a great synthetic fibre but it is now unfortunately no longer available. In addition, forming the dubbing brush, dubbing the body and trimming to shape took time. The sourcing of a alternative material to use and a consequential change to the tying sequence to suit, has made this variation quick and easy to tie.

The pattern variation was used for the first time this year and it accounted for numerous trigger fish. On occasions, even though it is a fairly large fly compared to the normal ones used, it also proved to be to irresistible to bonefish when coupled with a slow, short retrieve.

There could be any number of reasons why it works so well. The rubber legs float and move in the current and when stripped. The orange hotspots are UV sensitive and there are theories that fish can see in that spectrum. It is different from the vast majority of flies that are presented to them and the fish could perceive it as a more substantial meal. Probably the main reason is that, with a lot of fishing pressure, anything that looks more like a close representation to their actual prey source receives better attention.

Hook – #2 Gamakatsu SL12s
Thread – orange flat waxed
Eyes – small black barbell
Flash – rootbeer or yellow krystalflash
Legs – red and black or tan with orange tips
Hotspot – orange finn raccoon
Body – orange straggle, cinnamon UV straggle
Wing – fine tan coloured hair
Tying Sequence

Lay a base of thread along the hook shank.

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 Attach flash at hook bend and wrap slightly around the bend.

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 Attach a small piece of hotspot material.

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Tie eyes at the start of the bend

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Turn hook over. Attach legs behind the eyes.

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Take a small bunch of fine hair and tie in on top of legs.

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Tie in straggle body material, move thread to the hook eye and then wrap body material up to the hook eye, tie off, trim excess.

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Attach a small clump of hair behind the hook eye so that it extends just past the hook bend. This wing will ensure that the fly turns over to be hook point up even in shallow water. Whip finish and apply some head cement to the wraps.

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Does Line Colour Really Matter?

Some time ago, we had an extended conversation about the colour of flylines used for bonefish on Christmas Island. It coincided with the time that Rio produced their orange bonefish line and subsequently the bonefish quickshooter hivis model. The conversation got to the stage that, in an endeavour to prove that colour has little influence on spooking fish, a variety of coloured lines were laid on the water. With the use of goggles and snorkel the opposing sides took it in turns to go under water and look up at the lines. From underwater all you can see is the dark under side of the line even clear lines.

When I returned home some research turned up the article below that about sums it up. My apologies because I can’t remember where it came from but it was penned by Louis Cahill.

Article by Louis Cahill

“Why do you need a bright coloured fly line and does it spook fish?

A reader asked for an opinion on this and that’s what you’re going to get….my opinion. This is one of those hotly contested arguments that anglers can’t seem to agree on and my saying one thing or another isn’t going to settle it. I do have strong opinions on the subject, so since you asked, here they are.

The colour of your fly line doesn’t matter, until it does.

For most fly fishing, if you’re doing things well the colour of your line doesn’t matter any more than the colour of your eyes. There are, however, times when it can make a difference and the difference may not always be what you think. When I make a purposeful choice on line colour, it’s usually not to keep the fish from seeing it.

What doesn’t matter

Assuming for the moment that we are talking about trout fishing, if you are thinking that you are being stealthy by using a dull coloured line, you’re coming at things from the wrong angle. If you are putting your line over the fish, it doesn’t matter what colour it is. Fish are very attune to shadow and movement. If your fly line passes over them while casting, they will see the shadow of the line, even if it’s clear. The same goes for motion. Colour doesn’t matter.

If you are floating the line over them, on the surface of the water, things are worse. They now see the depression of the water’s surface as well as shadow and motion. Sure, they can see that a bright orange line is orange and a green line is green but they will find neither acceptable. The bottom line is, if you’re spooking fish it’s a presentation problem not a colour problem.

If it matters at all, it’s in the margins. Meaning, do fish see the colour of your line when you are casting on the edge of their field of vision? You thought you were far enough away but you weren’t and maybe they would catch a glimpse of an orange line but not a green one. Maybe, and maybe they’d see it while it’s still on the reel and you are passing by. You can make yourself crazy about stuff like that if you like.

Personally, I choose my fly line based on the taper, the materials and the performance. The colour is secondary at best. There was a time when I went completely the other way. I used to buy white lines and dye them camo, olive and tan. You can do it in the bathtub with fabric dye, changing colour every few feet. It’s a pain and will not make your spouse happy, trust me. In the end I decided it didn’t make any difference.

What does matter

When I choose a line for its colour, it’s usually for its visibility. It’s also usually for fly fishing in saltwater. In saltwater fishing it’s crucial that you always know the attitude of your fly. Where it is in relation to the fish. Whether it’s moving or still, slack or swinging in current. The best way to know that is by watching your line. I want a line that is bright enough for me to see in my peripheral vision, so I can watch the fish and still know what my fly is doing.

Swinging flies with spey rods is another case where I want a bright line. I want to see my line so I can effectively manage my swing. Again, the attitude of the fly is what’s most important and I need a line I can see. You are in no danger of spooking a steelhead with a Skagit head so the sky is the limit.

I do like clear tip intermediate sink tip lines for streamers. They allow me to use a short leader, 4-5 feet, to effectively get the fly down. Since the tip sinks there is no surface depression to worry about and they are stealthier. I like clear tips for migrating tarpon as well. They give you better odds at not spooking fish when casting to schools on the move.

What does matter way more than the colour of your line is your confidence as an angler. If a bright line, that you can see, gives you confidence in your casting or in detecting a take, by all means that’s what you should fish. If you feel the need to get in the tub and dye your line camo to be confident, then have a go at it. Make your own decision, try it and respect the decisions of others who don’t feel the same need.”

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 Another Consideration

There is another factor that has could be taken into account besides line colour when fish spook.

If you look up from under water, you will see an area above water that is in focus. If the surface is particularly calm, clouds can clearly be seen. This circle of focus to above the water world is at an angle of about 97degrees from the viewing point and is referred to  as Snell’s Window. The area around the circle is a reflection of the seascape, and as such is much darker than the sky.

When fishing in skinny water, this could be another reason why fish spook apart from flyline colour. Assume the fisherman is 6ft tall and he is using a 9ft foot rod, then the moving tip of the rod would be between 13 and 15 ft high. Let’s say the fish is 30feet away and if the Snells Window principle is applied, this movement is in focus and can be readily seen by the fish. Proof of this has been observed in glassed out conditions, when the fish spook as soon as the rod is moved even at considerable distance. At certain times of the day when the sun is at a particular angle, the flash off the glassy finish on the rod can be seen from a considerable distance away and certainly by fish at close distance.

The solution to lessen the effect of Snell’s window and rod flash is to crouch down and use a low rod angle to make the cast.