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Strip Strike technique Fly Fishing For Tarpon

A tutorial: By, Capt Steven Lamp

You can take the trout fisherman out of the stream, but you cannot take the trout fishing out of the trout fisherman. How to strip strike a saltwater fish on the fly. Fishing the flats of the Florida Keys and Key West as a guide now for quite a few years I have not been able to conquer one thing with my clients.... It never fails. No matter how many times I tell these guys who are die-hard Stream trout fishermen not to "lift" a strike on a saltwater fish, they do.

Lets look at the physics here. Brook trout- I am looking at a picture of one in a book here as I have never seen one in person let alone experienced catching one. They have soft mouths, very soft mouths, and the fly is really small. Ok, here is why the trout fisher person uses a lifting technique. He / she does not want to rip the lip or break that super thin line that he / she is using. Taking advantage of the soft tip in those trout rods sets the hook very nicely almost as if it were placed in the fishes mouth strategically. What a talent! I have read enough about trout fishing to feel like a recreational pro at the sport. Looks fascinating and I cannot wait to try it. Saltwater fish- We will use the Tarpon, as our example. The tarpons mouth is a lot like a concrete vise, and the fish weighs a whole lot more than most fish we attempt on fly. Generally using a 12 wt rod with a floating or intermediate tarpon taper joined with a menagerie' of knots to create a shock absorbing medium for the leader system that is generally 6 - 12 ft long. My most liked tippet strength is the 16 lb. I find that this allows my anglers to stick the fish without breaking the tippet yet allows the fish to break off without damaging the rod or the line should a mistake occur. (Will do a tip and trick for home made tarpon leaders that work if the readers request it.)

Lets get to the strip strike. Presenting the fly is extremely important in saltwater as most fish are very weary. For the strike you want to make sure the fly is presented and the line used is reasonably straight. Keeping the rod tip pointed at the fly or the direction of line run is VERY IMPORTANT. This keeps any slack or bend from taking away the strike to the fly. When the guide yells "strike" take the stripping hand and grab hold of the line firmly. Yank it back in a hauling fashion WITHOUT lifting the rod tip. Your rod tip should not leave the straight line, there should be NO bend in your rod otherwise your strip strike is not being as effective as it needs to be to drive the hook home. In a tarpons instance the fish, once he has been stuck, will shake his head slightly under water just before he completely cuts loose. You can choose to do two things here both are equally important. 1. Yank the fly into his mouth again with force almost great enough to break the tippet. 2. Look around you to make sure all the line at your feet and on the deck is clear because it is going to fly.


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I use a technique of making a circle between my thumb and first finger of my stripping hand to clear the line smoothly while looking down to see what may get tangled. while doing this lifting the rod may help in absorbing the sudden impact of the fish coming tight to the reel. That is what it takes to sink the hook to a tarpon. Down here in the Florida Keys we get lots of practice. In a days time during the migrations season it is not uncommon for my clients to jump 10 tarpon and land 1. The reason the ratios are so bad is because of the hook set. Practice, practice, practice.

If there is anything the readers of this site would like to know about saltwater fly fishing I will be happy to write about it. Drop me an email and lets get some information out to you folks about EXTREME Fly Fishing in the Florida Keys.