Notes from the Tackle Room: The Stripping Basket

Ever wonder why fly fishermen wear dishpans around their waists? These contraptions are called stripping baskets, and the Vineyard was a testing and proving ground for them. A stripping basket is a container into which fly line is retrieved or “stripped.” It gives the angler the ability to control the loose line so that it doesn’t tangle with rocks or seaweed or other detritus or get rolled up in breaking waves. Furthermore the basket enables longer, quicker casts because there isn’t any friction on the line; rather than being in the water or on the ground or wrapped around all the stuff in the bottom of a boat, it is simply coiled in the container and shoots easily.

When I began saltwater fly fishing in the late 1970s, stripping baskets were a work in progress and homemade versions predominated. A plastic dishpan was the most popular and least expensive choice. All you needed to do was drill a couple of holes to attach a shock cord that belted it around your waist, and for less than five dollars you were in business. If you were a perfectionist you glued grasslike doormat material to the bottom or installed vertical pieces of two-inch-long 300-pound-test monofilament to hold the line in place.

In those early days we also experimented with rattan bicycle baskets and various canvas and folding baskets. When I went south in the winter I’d pack a shock cord and attach it to a wicker scrap basket that I would borrow at my destination. Vineyard legend Roberto Germani pioneered the use of grocery shopping baskets with a preference for his signature green color, while I chose a red version and used it for years. The shopping baskets raised some eyebrows, but were extremely effective.

Things got serious when Orvis rep and Vineyard regular Pip Winslow set out to make the ultimate stripping basket. He enlisted several local fly fishermen, including Cooper Gilkes and Germani, as field testers, and eventually arrived at a prototype that resembled an enlarged dishpan with several vertical cones to keep the line from tangling. This evolved into today’s Orvis basket and set the standard for the industry.

In addition to being an aid in casting, a stripping basket can double as a fly changing table, a rod holder, and a boat bailer. Germani also noted that you can eat your lunch on it

Comments (1)

Rick Germani
Cape Cod
Roberto Germani was my younger brother who dedicated his life to catch and release fly fishing. He would leave his hospital bed in the early morning, with terminal cancer, and go fishing for stripers. Roberto died too early at age 56.
August 18, 2017 - 4:00pm