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Boat Speed and Strip Length

Posted on March 18 2010

Light wind, slow boat, short strips.
Light wind, slow boat, short strips.

When you’re on the deck of a poled skiff looking for bonefish (or permit, or anything else for that matter), it’s really important to be aware of the speed that the boat’s moving, and to adjust the length of your strips accordingly.

Fishing from a Moving Boat

  • Most of the time (hopefully) you’re going to be poling a flat with the wind at your back, since that makes for easier poling and easier casting too.
  • When you see a fish in front of you, your guide (or your buddy on the platform) may try to slow the boat down so you can present your fly well, but there might not be time, or if you’re on a rocky bottom, stopping the boat might make too much noise.  Regardless, there are plenty of situations in which the boat is still moving when you’re presenting your fly.
  • So assuming that the wind is at your back, the harder the wind is blowing, the faster your boat is going to be moving.  OK so far?

Presenting Your Fly

  • When you make your cast from a boat moving forward, the instant your fly line hits that water, slack is going to start forming.  You need to strip line in to remove that slack and keep a tight line to your fly – enabling you to moving the fly and to feel it when the fish eats.
  • After that initial strip that took out the slack, guess what – the boat probably didn’t stop.  Assuming you’re bonefishing and you want to just bump your fly along the bottom, every strip that you make is going to need to be longer than normal – the first part of the strip is going to take out the slack that’s constantly forming, and the second part is going to actually move the fly.
  • Strong wind, fast boat = long strips required to move your fly.  Moderate wind, moderate boat speed = medium strips required to move your fly.  No wind, boat barely moving = short strips that probably do nothing other than move your fly.

Got it?  The next time you’re casting to a bonefish from a moving boat, in addition to landing the fly where you want it to land, be sure to make note of the speed the boat is moving, and adjust the length of your strip accordingly.

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