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Basket case: keep your flyline tangle-free and ready to cast.

Line control is everything in fly fishing. Unlike with conventional tackle, your line is off the reel much of the time, until you hook up. And even then, you might end up hand-stripping a small fish in.

Unless you are fishing in a boat with an uncluttered deck or on a clean shore with no vegetation, rocks, or other things that can "grab" loose fly line, a stripping basket is a must. You can opt for a stripping bucket of some sort that sits on the ground. But for now, let's address the kind of stripping device you wear on your waist and that allows you to move around while casting. It can be used on shore or aboard a boat.

There is an array of products on the market, similar in size, but of various materials. My favorite stripping basket, a KR LineTender by HMH Precision Vises ( is worn on the waist, front and center, traditionally. Its close-mesh "floor" drains quickly, measures 15 by 14 inches, and is 7 inches deep at the front lip. It has a "D" shape with the flat side against your waist. The company also offers its Line Shooters, which are insertable hard strips that have three stiff mono loops each that help keep line coils separated. They lock right into the mesh bottom.

Another I've used for years, the Charlie's Total Control Stripping Basket, is about 30 percent smaller overall but taller by 3 inches. Line does not spill out, but by virtue of its smaller interior, it tends to crowd the line into smaller loops that can tangle at times. It can be worn cheated to your side, and even on the upper leg, if desired. It is the lightest basket I've fished, being all mesh with a wire frame that can be twisted and collapsed so that the basket ends up small enough to fit in a big pocket.

Others I've tried are far inferior to these, made of either hard foam or solid plastic and typically too small and cramped to keep the line coils lying flat, or coming out freely on the cast. To be honest, casting can be a nightmare with a few of them.

The key is to choose one that is big enough to hold large coils, and deep enough to prevent loose line from spilling out too easily. Of course, it should not be too heavy and should be perforated for drainage.

Basic Technique

Whichever type you choose, basic techniques apply. The first tenet of line handling with a basket is simply don't overload it. In other words, strip only the amount of line into the basket that you will routinely cast. You're asking for trouble with an extra 10 to 20 feet in there--especially if you are wading in the surf where an occasional wave might wash into the basket and tangle the line.

You should as a habit stretch your line before flycasting. And that is especially true when fishing with a basket. That will help the coils lay flatter. Also get in the habit of re-stretching it occasionally during the day. If you're walking some distance while bank or beach fishing, keep your line in the basket. Reeling it up only sets tight coils back into the line. Clean your line occasionally, too, particularly in water that is dirty, or if it contacts sand or soil occasionally.

For stripping comfort, wear your basket low enough on your hips to create enough space between the bottom of the basket and your line hand to make typical strips up to 6 inches long. To make longer strips or draws on the line, you will probably need to elevate your line hand a bit.

When it's time to pick up and recast, keep a fairly firm grip of your line between thumb and finger and when you shoot on the forward cast, choke up a bit on the line to keep any snarls from forming. Should the line come out of the basket in a snarl, shake the snarls loose as much as possible and recast. Should your line come out of the basket while fishing your fly, do not simply grab it and toss it back in--it will be in the "wrong order." You must cast out all of the line, and then strip it back in orderly. And during the course of fishing your line might become twisted, which leads to more tangles. In this case, snip off your fly and make two casts before stripping the line back in and reattaching your fly.

Caption: Green Line Shooter coils in the KR LineTender basket help to keep line coils separated.

Caption: A stripping basket is particularly valuable when surf fishing.
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Author:Conner, Mike
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:May 1, 2017
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