My Jack Crevalle trip is coming up soon so I have been practicing in what I call “skiff” or “rodeo” mode. To accommodate the fast fish, I modified my personal “Samurai” system with some tweaks. My poor personal bucket is the prototype and it catches heck. Its ugly but it works, all custom for me.
If you use a stripping bucket, you will have some tangles. Heck, fly line, is going to tangle if you give it half a chance. All the “wet towels”, line mats, clean decks, laundry baskets, dish pans, leaf baskets and rubber fingers in the world can’t save you from a tangle in your future so I don’t apologize for an occasional tangle. The more line you put in the bucket, the higher the chance you may get a tangle. If the line is not clean, has memory in it or is super limp, you can have problems. Or with everything perfect, a spaghetti monster can still jump up. It happens. There is more to it than just using a bucket, you have to think and take a few precautions.
One thing I have noticed is that I have the best success in minimizing tangles by taking care in loading the bucket and then minimizing any extraneous movement of the bucket. To load the bucket I usually swing the bucket around to just left of the center of my left leg. That way as I strip line in I can drop the line in the bucket carefully and prevent any bunching up. Ideally when the bucket is loaded the line is suspended with coils randomly around the bucket and no coils are together. It’s kind of like “organized chaos”. To the layman it just looks like a mess, but having the line lay on its side instead of laying flat, keeping coils from getting together, definitely helps. Having the bucket level when you load is important to get line to drop down in between the plastic line tenders. Coiling is the worst thing. If I see coiling developing in the bucket as I load it, I’ll just cast out and re-stack to try and avoid any trouble.
I was having an issue with the bucket tilting and the line coiling in the back, so I put some additional line tenders in the problem spot and I put a piece of velcro on both the belt and on the side of the belt to keep it level. The velcro allows me to knock it loose to angle it away from me when I load it but then I can push it against the velcro on the belt and being level with reduced movement helps to keep line from sliding underneath coils.
On the casting deck of a flats boat, there is no paddle to deal with and subsequently, my entire ready position is different. If we are waiting for fish, say the action is a little slow, I don’t want to hold that big 11 or 12 weight with that honking boat winch of a reel on it because my wrist will get stiff, plus I have to face forward and can’t turn around to talk to the guide or my buddy. When I hold the rod, my movements swing the line back and forth and it can disturb the organization of the line that I have stacked carefully. I want to minimize movement of the rod and line. So when I’m waiting on deck with the system cocked and locked, I have the bucket moved more to the front where I can grab the rod out directly with my right hand. If we see some wakes in the distance, I’ll put my left hand on the fly and my right hand, my casting hand, on the handle of the rod. If I see that the fish are going to make a pass, I can pull the rod and pull the fly at the same time. If not, I can just relax and put my hands to the side to continue waiting. By having my hands on the fly and the handle, what takes me 7 seconds to do in a kayak holding a paddle, takes maybe three seconds on the casting deck.
Another tweak I did was to create another place to hold the fly when I’m on the casting deck of a skiff, particularly for fast moving fish like Jack Crevalle. I want to be able to save maybe a second or so when I release the fly so I glued a plastic rectangle on the bucket with a little break in it that I can just pull the fly through to free it. It’s just a little quicker than yanking it from the velcro, because sometimes, if you put the hook too deep, the velcro can fight you, costing a second or two.
Please don’t think I’m abandoning the velcro fly pad. It works good, especially when I’m in the kayak because I move around so much that the movement can put slack in the line and if the hook weren’t in velcro, the fly would swing loose. The new holder is for skiff use only.
Let me finish up with a note about handling a tangle or “spaghetti monster” when it jumps up out of the bucket. When it happens, generally you will feel the tangle in your hands. DON’T PANIC! Keep your eyes on the fish and just try to shake it out. Usually it comes out easily. Now the following video was back with the old collapsible bucket I started with which had no line tenders and tangles were a lot more common. Watch: