Today’s post comes from the questions-we-get-asked-a-lot category. Today’s question being:
How long should I strip my fly for bonefish?
There are many variables that are important to consider when retrieving a fly for bonefish. The speed of the boat, the speed at which the fish is moving, the depth of the water, and the weight of your fly are just a few of the factors that come in to play when determining how fast (or slow) to move your fly.
However, when it comes to strip length, for the majority of situations we like to keep things as simple as possible; begin each strip even with your rod hand (positioned out in front of the body), and end each strip at your pocket, or as our guides say, “strip to your pocket.”
Depending on how far in front of your body you prefer to hold the rod, this results in a strip length of approximately two feet which offers the following advantages.
- It gives convincing vertical motion of the fly. Part of a good retrieve is mimicking a bonefish’s natural prey. A large part of a bonefish’s diet is comprised of critters that do one of two things when startled; jump from their hiding place on the bottom in an attempt to flee, or dive towards the bottom in attempt to hide. Stripping an appropriately weighted fly approximately two feet at a time (from rod hand to the pocket) does a great job to mimic this behavior under the majority of circumstances, making it a great default strip length to start with.
- It leaves room for a strip-set. One of the most frustrating instances on the flats is a fish that eats your fly at the end of the strip, or worse, in between strips. Often caused by a strip that is too long, the most common result is a fish spitting the fly before the angler has time to properly drive the hook home. On the other hand, stripping no further than your pocket still allows you to extend your hand an extra one or two feet behind you to properly set the hook, even if the fish eats your fly at the end of your strip. Plus, with a shorter strip, there’s less time in between strips, and thus less chance of the fish taking the fly at that inopportune moment.
- It keeps your line hand in a position to recast. Bonefish are unpredictable. Its not uncommon for a fish that’s following your fly to change direction at any time, or a larger fish to show up just before a smaller fish attempts your fly. The ability to pick up and recast under control is extremely valuable to maximizing opportunities. With your line hand never further away than your hip, you’re always in position to make another cast. Its a small distinction, but one that can pay dividends down the road.
Effectively retrieving a fly for bonefish depends on a number of variables, far more than could ever be covered in a single article. However, from our experience, stripping to your pocket produces the most versatile starting point for consistently effective presentations. Give it a try!