This is our last in a six part series entitled Fly Fishing From The Ground Up and today we are going to discuss some small and perhaps very important items; gloves, hats and stripping guides. Now I will agree that this is not a very exciting discussion, however, all of these items are very important…if you don’t believe me then try fishing on a cold, frozen morning without a good pair of wool gloves or on a terribly hot and sunny August day here in the Midwest without a good hat that covers and gives you shade; chances are these simple items are more important than you think.
I don’t like gloves…in general, so getting me to use a glove while fly casting was a real stretch. I started using a simple pair of wool stream gloves a few years back and did so because it was so chilly that my rod guides were freezing shut. Now I have fished so many cold mornings that it doesn’t feel right to me when I don’t have them on. I know there are literally hundreds of brands and types of gloves, but for me I have stayed true to the old fashion wool gloves with half fingers; actually that is a step up from cutting the fingers off of an old pair of brown jersey gloves like I used to do in the old days. These simple little wool gloves will provide warmth for you on those days when you have to ‘dunk’ your rod on every third cast and you won’t need to break your piggy bank as Cabela’s has several varieties to choose from ranging from less than ten dollars to upwards of thirty dollars. The great things with wool and the polar fleece is that they dry so quickly. I have two pair and if I make a mid-morning stop and it is still cool enough to need gloves I usually stop by the truck and swap out gloves allowing the others to dry over night or for later on in the afternoon.
So….if I wasn’t a glove guy, I am a hat person. I own several hats ranging from sock hats in the winter to a couple of sizes of straw hats that I use in the summer. I love straw hats; have always had a penchant for them as my grandpa Carmichael was a farmer and seemed to always have a straw hat on while baling hay and doing lots of other chores. I also am (was) red headed and to say I burn easy is an understatement so having a big straw hat or a sombrero is a necessity. I also have a creek hat that I wear…hard to know how many fish I have caught under this hat but while I don’t need lots of shade I like to have a hat that keeps the bugs down to a minimum and my light weight brown hat does just that. As I said in the winter I have a few stocking caps ranging from heavy to light to wear on those days when temps fall below the freezing point or the wind is up. For sure you lose a lot of heat from your head and keeping it in during the winter and letting it go when it is hot is very important.
Last bit of discussion is on stripping guides. Here is the truth….I can’t fish without one. I use a stripping guide even when I am using floating line and a top water fly. I know that sounds odd but I tend to strip set all my hook ups and even strip set a bass popper to get some great action. I have seen these stripping guides sold in various places but I have my wife make mine. We buy lycra material at the local craft store (yes…I hang out there a lot!) and my wife sews them for me by the dozen and they always fit perfectly…and like I said I use one each time I fish, no matter what. If you are going to strip fish or streamer fish you need to have a stripping guide, if not you WILL tear your finger up. I find it also helps me in hand fighting fish on a day when I am catching a large number of small to medium size fish. If you ever use the Shark Skin lines you will need to have a stripping guide as it will damage your stripping finger. At first a stripping guide may feel odd but trust me, you will get to a point where you must have one and it is so much easier…allowing you to have contact with the fish at all times.