The problem with commercial stripping baskets
Stripping baskets are an accepted necessity, and not only for salt water fly fishers. Many fresh water situations, especially those that require the use of a boat, call for one, and as such they have become quite common. Stripping baskets come in many formats and shapes, from those that fold up totally or partially, to rigid and semi-rigid versions. However, most of the commercial baskets I have seen and used have fallen far short of the mark. They either collapsed too easily, were flimsy, not deep enough, uncomfortable to wear or just downright impractical. They all had one thing in common though – they failed miserably at the task they were designed for. Getting hold of a commercial basket that actually worked proved to be difficult, if not impossible, and I was forced to make my own.
A sensible compromise
After numerous attempts at various options, I settled on a basket similar to those you’ll find at many retail stores. It was (and still is) not perfect, but rather a sensible compromise between the available options and what works satisfactorily from a practical standpoint. Worn around the waist, it performs adequately in salt water situations, but I soon found that the main problem was that water entering the basket would compact the line already in the basket, resulting in a guaranteed tangle when the next cast was made. This was alleviated to some extent by cutting (more) holes in the basket for the water to exit more quickly, but the problem persisted.
The problem of water entering the basket
The next step towards creating an adequate stripping basket was to attach something to the bottom of the basket to prevent the line from swishing around when water entered the basket. As a possible solution, I added a piece of plastic imitation grass such as was used by golfers at the time, AstroTurf I think it was called. This helped somewhat and, although still far from the perfect solution, I used this basket for many years. One of the downsides was the fact that the piece of imitation grass was incredibly pricey and added considerable weight to the (already not too light) basket. The alternative was to create spacers on the bottom of the basket that would keep the line from coiling. I experimented with various options, including tie-downs, but none achieved better results than the AstroTurf version, so I stuck with that.
Nozzle line spacers made all the difference
Several years later, Anthony Krüger came up with an idea that proved better than anything else I had tried up to that time: nozzles as line spacers. These are the plastic nozzles commonly used for dispensing silicone, foam and a host of other industry adhesives, bonding agents, etc. Anthony’s design called for epoxying a stainless steel bolt into the bottom of each nozzle, drilling a corresponding hole into the bottom of the basket, then adding a nut for tightening the nozzle. The conical shape of the nozzles proved perfect for separating the line, also causing minimal friction when shooting the line. One of the advantages of the design was that the spacers (nozzles) could be removed after use and the basket utilised as a storage device. This made it considerably easier to transport and, when not in use, you could fill it with gear and then pack the basket.
Improving the nozzle system
While Anthony’s solution was simple and effective, it had its drawbacks. Even with marine-grade stainless steel (if you could find it), the nuts and bolts eventually rusted and became difficult to remove. You also had to carry a tool to fasten/remove them. Still, the basket worked pretty well and served with distinction for many years, both in fresh and salt water. However, it did not stop me from searching for a solution to these problems, and finally I discovered a viable option. The basic principle of Anthony’s design works so well that there was no reason to improve on it, and he deserves every credit for it. However, what was needed was a way to attach the nozzles to the basket with materials that didn’t rust, but that would still be durable and able to secure the nozzles firmly, thus improving Anthony’s design a bit. It would, however, be a worthwhile improvement.
The final design emerges
While this did not provide the ultimate solution, it met the criteria I had in mind. First off, the material had to be (relatively) cheap and easily installed into the nozzles. It also had to be able to secure the nozzles properly to the bottom of the basket (to prevent the line from being washed/pushed in under the base of the nozzle) and, finally, be easy to attach and remove without tools. An added advantage would be that the nozzles could be spaced according to personal preferences or as conditions dictated. For example, some types of running lines need more spacers than others, as do certain sinking lines versus floating lines.
Materials needed to create your own stripping basket
Materials used for the total design are the following:
Nozzles (free at your local hardware store or supplied with the purchase of silicone dispensers or similar) x10
Skiffy SA, Tel: (011) 314-8750 | www.skiffy.com
Mias Angling & Scuba, Tel: (011) 804-4102 | www.miasangling.co.za
TrolleyQuip International, Tel: 086 110 5829 | www.trolleyquip.co.za
Here’s how we went about it
Step 1: In a piece of MDF, shutterboard or what have you, drill ten 8mm and ten 10mm holes. While not strictly necessary for the construction of the nozzles, this board/s will help considerably by holding the nozzles in the correct position while drying and positioning the bolts and nut/washer.
Step 2: Cut the five 200mm nylon bolts in half, taking care not to damage the thread. You now have ten bolts to be inserted into the nozzles.
Step 3: Round one end of each bolt. We used a sander, but a mill file will work as well.
Step 4: Cut 25mm off the top of each nozzle. This should leave a hole slightly smaller than the bolt and through which the rounded edge of the bolt will protrude.
Step 5: Screw the nut/washer about halfway up the bolt.
Step 6: Cover the tip of the nozzles with masking tape. Invert the nozzles and place them into the 10mm holes in the holding board. Spoon a generous amount of epoxy into the nozzles. The goal is that when the epoxy sets, it will cover at least the threaded section of the nozzle, adding strength to prevent the washer/nut from coming loose with time.
Step 7: Cover the sides of the nut/washer with epoxy.
Step 8: Insert the nut/washer and bolt into the nozzle. Insert the bolt into an 8mm hole in the holding board. Press down hard until the nut/washer is properly seated.
Step 9: Remove the nozzle from the holding board and take off the masking tape. Screw the bolt further in until it exits the top of the cut nozzle. Be careful not to unseat the nut/washer.
Step 10: Re-insert the bolt into the holding board and leave overnight to dry.
Step 11: Sand/file the rounded ridge on the bottom of the nozzle flush with the nut/washer. The idea is to eliminate any possible chance of thin running line hooking onto it when you are shooting line.
Step 12: Add the washers to the bolt protruding from the nozzle – one above the basket bottom and one below. This will ensure that the nozzle seats firmly on a hard and unyielding surface. (If you are using a basket with a hard and stiff bottom, they can be eliminated as part of the design, as they are not strictly necessary.) Space according to preference and screw the nozzle tight onto the washers with a butterfly nut. Make sure that each nozzle seats properly on its washer (or on the bottom of the basket if you do not use the washers), to prevent thin running line/backing from catching under the nozzle.
Step 13: Attach the strap/belt through two or more of the open slots on the sides of the basket, and you’re ready to go fishing! We sourced two kinds of straps; the one a common luggage strap, the other a scuba belt/strap (blue), which is the better option.
Other important aspects to consider
Depending on your choice of basket, you will, after some experimentation, be able to determine the number of spacers needed. We found that up to ten spacers work for our basket, but most of the time we use only eight. A basket with many holes/slots on the bottom and sides allows for free water movement in and out of the basket and has its disadvantages, but is generally a much safer option when fishing a beach with strong currents or off the rocks. Some anglers prefer solid baskets when fishing certain salt water conditions. This can be dangerous, so if this is your choice, make sure that the clip of the strap/belt can be released easily with one hand.
Ed’s note: The basket design explained in this article is not set in stone. The same principles can be applied to a number of different basket concepts, including freestanding VLMDs.