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Stripping for Bonefish – 3 Techniques

Posted on January 08 2016

Retrieving the fly for bonefish by Hollis Bennett.
Change it up. Photo: Hollis Bennett.

When retrieving your fly for bonefish, most of the time a slow, medium length strip will get the job done. Strip speed should be roughly the same speed as the fish, which of course is dependent on how fast the boat is moving as well.

But, sometimes even with a smooth retrieve, fish can follow the fly a long ways without ever committing. We know, it’s super frustrating. What happened? Did he not like the fly?

It’s easy to blame the fly pattern, calling it ‘a refusal,’ but in our neck of the woods, that’s probably not the case. It might actually be your retrieve! So, here are 3 techniques to try before changing patterns.

Stripping Your Fly for Bonefish – 3 Techniques

  1. Change it Up. Lately your fearless editor was humbled on the flats (shocking, we know). Good casts, light presentations, following fish, yet no takers. What did he do? He started using really short and quick strips and voila! Fish on. In fact, he watched the same fish that payed zero attention to a standard stripped fly pounce upon it once stripped more erratically. We’re not sure why, but just like trout, sometimes changing up your retrieve from the norm can make all the difference. Short quick strips also work well at close distances, keeping the fly moving over a shorter distance to evoke a strike before the fish makes his way close enough to notice you.
  2. Let it Dive. If a fish is following your fly over a long distance and won’t seem to eat your fly, another great technique is letting it dive – abruptly stopping your strip allowing your fly to dive to the bottom. This imitates the natural behavior of scared prey trying to dive to the bottom for cover, often causing the fish to strike. Just make sure to pay close attention to your fish, because if he stops he’s eating your fly, and it’s time to set the hook.
  3. Let it Sit. When retrieving your fly, it’s super important that your fly always moves in a direction away from the fish. It’s not natural for prey to charge a predator, and a fly stripped directly at a bonefish will most likely cause him to spook. Therefore, if you make a cast that presents the fly at an angle which will cause the fly to move at the fish, don’t move it! Instead, let the fly sit on the bottom until the fish has either moved out of range of the fly, or into a more favorable position before you start stripping again. Remember, your fly doesn’t always have to be moving, and sometimes simply letting it sit is your best option.

More on Stripping for Bonefish

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