Stripping a Jig with a Fly Rod for Trout

Stripping a jig with a fly rod is a must-know technique if you're looking to catch trout on a consistent basis. Here's how to do it:

First tie on 7-9 feet of fluorocarbon line (4x works well). Fluorocarbon leaders and tippet are expensive so I usually opt to buy bulk spools of 4 pound and 6 pound test fluorocarbon line and tie straight to my fly line. I skip the traditional leader/tippit combo but that is your call. Fluorocarbon line of any type sinks while monofilament has more buoyancy. When you are stripping a light weight jig you want your line to stay down as much as possible, thus I go with straight fluorocarbon and no monofilament. If you are fishing in fast, deep water (e.g. tailwater generation) you should first put on 8- 10 feet of sink tip before you tie on the 7-9 feet of fluorocarbon leader or line. 

In shallow water and/or water with little current you can fish a 1/125 oz. or 1/50 oz. jig.  If there is strong current you should go to a 1/32 oz. jig. Heavier jigs are very difficult to cast but they are effective in high water conditions. I will often hit myself in the back of the head when casting 1/16oz. or heavier jigs, but don’t let that stop you from trying.  For the record false casting with heavy jigs is virtually impossible and generally a waste of time and energy.

If you are wade fishing with a very light weight jig first try casting across the current and using a traditional swing method of letting the jig reach the downstream end of the swing before you start stripping it in. Vary the speed of the stripping and hesitate some while retrieving. The pause will let the jig drop and often trigger a strike.

It may be more effective especially if you are floating downstream in a boat to start stripping the jig shortly after it hits the water so that you are stripping cross current rather than using a traditional swing or drift technique. Try this when wading as well. If you do this be sure to hesitate a lot to allow the jig to drop. Most strikes will occur while the jig is falling or drifting, but the stripping is generally what attracts the fish.

If you are new to fly fishing then here is what I mean by the terminology letting the jig “swing”, “stripping” and retrieving “cross current”. Make your cast across the current flow (not upstream or downstream) and then point the tip of your rod down toward the water and toward the jig. If you are letting the jig “swing” or drift downstream, wait until the jig reaches the farthest point downstream before you start the stripping retrieve which means that you will be retrieving the jig upstream toward you. If you are stripping the jig “cross current” then you simply throw across the current and again point the rod down toward the water and the jig, hesitating only long enough for the jig to drop and not waiting for the jig to drift downstream before you start stripping.

A “stripping” retrieve is done the same way that you land a fish on a fly rod. If you are right handed your right hand will stay on the fly rod handle in front of the reel after you make your cast. Simply run the fly line between your index finger and thumb on your right hand and use your left hand (index finger and thumb as well) to pull or retrieve the line through your right hand. You can vary the retrieve by increasing or decreasing the speed and the length of the pull. When you feel a strike simply raise your rod tip over your head and that will set the hook.

- Jim

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