Fly fishing is the Rodney Dangerfield of fishing because the push-button folks just don’t know any better. But then, stripping buckets are the Rodney Dangerfield of FLY fishing, because most fly fishing folks don’t know any better, in my opinion. Fly line management seems to be ignored by almost everyone except saltwater fly fishers and even then the standup buckets and line mats seem to get preference.
To me, the line mats are for the birds, literally, see right inset. The rubber spikes suck energy from the cast and the line still goes all over the deck.
Here is a fellow fisherman with a line mat, you can see what good it is doing:
Here’s another one:
I remember the time when I tentatively tried a stripping bucket. It was homemade by a friend out of a plastic dish pan. I remember when trying it out I was afraid someone might see me. And I admit, I didn’t like it. The dish pan bucket was intended to be worn in front on the belly and it needs to be worn on the side for my purposes. Also I kept banging my hands against the hard plastic dishpan when hauling, which was painful.
Stripping buckets are certainly nothing new, the Internet is full of homemade versions and numerous vendors have come and gone with varying designs. The “Samurai” bucket is of course a little different in that its designed to be used with the rod holder/line lock and also the paddle holder. Of course the paddle holder is only for kayak use and can be removed and then you just have the rod holder/line lock and bucket. My bucket is designed for saltwater use and by that I mean it’s to be worn on the hip to be out of the way for fast action in the way of quick casts, strip-sets, and long, fast hauling. The bucket is made out of closed cell foam to make sure that the hand won’t receive any injury if someone’s hand does hit the bucket in the heat of battle. Outside of those differences, the SS bucket shares the same problems of line management as other buckets.
The biggest problem with the line seems to come from the line laying flat. When laying flat, the coils will slide into one another if the line stays in the bucket for any period of time and is subjected to movement. That’s where the line tenders come in, they prevent the line from sliding. Most line tenders are spikes of some kind; however my best results came from using loops of stiff plastic line. Below, an SS bucket on the left is shown before line tenders have been installed, the bucket on the right is my personal bucket which is the original bucket I built about 3 years ago and has plastic-loops to help manage the line.
I have tried and observed different types of stripping bucket solutions in the bottom of the bucket trying to find an optimal solution to keep the line from tangling. My most successful line management has been accomplished with line tenders made of loops of re-purposed plastic line trimmer line as seen in my bucket on the right, above. To organize the loops, whenever I noticed line bunching up, I would make a change, moving a loop or a adding a loop to solve a particular problem, evolving into the configuration in the photo. No scientific algorithms, just trial and error.
You can see in the video below how the line does not lay down in flat coils but remains standing up in loops.
The time lapse images below show the line as it stacks and then leaves the bucket.
A discontinued version of the bucket used spikes of foam for line tenders. The intention was to make the bucket take down and use less room making it better for travel and stowing on a skiff.
The bottom can be turned on its side for travel or stowing which the foam spikes facilitated by compressing. I have also noticed, rightly or wrongly, that the weak foam or rubber spikes seem to draw some of the energy out of the cast. When the line tenders are stiff, smooth plastic, the line seems to bounce with very little drag. The rubber or foam spikes offer some give which results in the line dragging over it and too, the spikes push back against the line.
Hands down, the single best solution has been the plastic loops of stiff plastic line. It is what I currently use in my personal bucket. To make it compress for travel the loops are not connected to the walls of the bucket like they are in my personal bucket.
Using a stripping bucket with no line tenders installed works well if you stack and cast with no time in between. In fact, the line comes out like lightning since there is nothing to hinder it.
But without line tenders of some kind, the line tends to lay mostly flat and when subjected to movement, the coils will begin to work themselves together. The coils will manage to intertwine and produce some nasty tangles. For the bottom video I stripped the line into the bucket and then shook it just a little:
Best practices when using a stripping bucket:
- Stretch your line before you get on the water! Trailer hitches work great for this task.
- Try different lines to find out what works best in your stripping bucket.
- Start the day with a clean line.
- Whenever you take the casting deck, cast and re-stack the line. Anytime there is an opportunity to do so, in between fish for example, cast the line out and re-stack it.
- Never pick up line and drop it into the bucket, ALWAYS re-stack.
- If you give the bucket a shot of 100% silicon from a spray can you will slick up the line in the bucket as well as the line tenders, guaranteeing some extra feet on the next cast. Beware though, putting too much spray in the bucket can make the line so slick it’s difficult to haul and/or strip-set the hook.
- Whenever the “Samurai” system is “cocked and locked”, meaning you put the fly in the Velcro pad and lock the line in the rod holder, the last thing you should do is carefully grip the segment of line exiting from the reel and pull out about two feet of it from under the stacked line and lay it loose on top of the stack. That way, when you spot a fish and pull the rod out very quickly, the line closest to the reel will already be loose and won’t have to come out from under the stack. If the line is pulled from underneath the stack with too much energy it can potentially disturb the stacked coils in the bucket, even launch it out of the bucket! It’s always best to be smooth about the rod grab, but one can get “buck” fever. I have!