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Reel or Strip?

A trout takes your fly. The tug on the other end of your line is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Whether it’s some sort of a dry fly, nymph, terrestrial, or one of the many woolly bugger variants, you’ve got the trout hooked and it’s fighting.

You could be on your favourite lake, stretch of river or stream. Sure, we can say it depends on a few situations at hand (fishing technique, length of line in play, environment, etc.), but when it comes down to landing that trout, generally speaking, we all know our preferred preference of either ‘reeling in’ or ‘stripping in.’

As anglers, should we be familiar with both styles? There’s not a right or wrong way and there’s no shame if you prefer one way over the other. In most cases it simply comes down to personal preference. I know some fly fishermen that reel and some that strip, as I’m sure we all do. There’s a lot of fishermen accustomed to reeling in their fly line. Time spent fishing for larger, more aggressive species will do that to you. Or perhaps these anglers first learned how to fish using a spin cast rod, where stripping isn’t even an option.

Myself? Well, I am a stripper, yes you read that right. Jokes aside, I rarely use my reel to bring in a fish. Once that fish bites and my hook is set, I need to instantly create slack in the line beneath my hand that’s holding the rod, while at the same time keeping tension between myself and the fish. Two to three long fly line pulls gives me the initial space or buffer I need to defend myself from the trout’s first run. Constant contact. Let the fish do its dance, strip it back in and fall suspect to another run. It’s a feeling of connection, it’s art in its purest form.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying there isn’t contact if you choose to reel in. But I would argue there’s less contact compared to stripping in your line. With reeling in, you get to hear the reel scream with every run. Which is a sound every fly fishermen loves to hear.

Of course, stripping in your line can get messy. Your fly line can be susceptible to damaging tangles if it sits in a cluster on the bottom of your boat, or is left trailing beside you downstream in a river. It’s important to take good care of your lines with regular cleaning and removing coiling memory caused by your reel.

Do what works. One of these styles will come more naturally– which one are you?