Basket case – the quest for the perfect stripping basket

Basket case – the quest for the perfect stripping basket

Too big; too small; too deep; too shallow; too square; too round; too oval; too rectangular. Too punk rock…Not punk rock enough. Hint: It doesn’t exist.

“The most useful type of basket is a supermarket shopping basket, held around the waist with a rubber bungie such as which can be acquired at most hardware stores.”

So reads an excerpt from a musty, well-thumbed copy the resource that is the African Fly-fishing handbook – a guide to freshwater and saltwater fly-fishing in South Africa by one Bill Hansford-Steele.

“Every saltwater and estuarine fly-fisherman must have a line basket,” Mr Hansford-Steele goes on to say.

Now, much may have transpired in the development and evolution of fly-fishing since Bill first published his bible in 1997. With regards to a few things though, I think Bon Jovi was on point:

“The more things change the more they stay the same…”

Wikus van der Walt testing (and rejecting) a way minimalist version on the Garden Route

For the past six odd months I’ve shelved the tried-and-trusted shopping basket model and been toying with various shop-bought, home-modified line holders. I even imported one from China! Only to come full circle, sort of.

the also-rans

Application dictates need, of course and, more-often-than-not across various styles, environments and target species you won’t be using a basket, but for wading our estuaries, well if you aren’t a basket case, then that is your own issue (thanks Bill).

Some context:
I’m a short shit, which means getting to where I need to in our tidal rives I’m usually ball deep. In the surf, worse. The real ball ache of this is line-management – in a shopping basket it usually becomes a floating mess. Nay uncaste-able. But, it does drain the water, which in the surf is a safety concern.

Conrad Botes talks about (and successfully addresses) the problem, here. The floating line, not the ball ache.

Also, because of my stubby little arms, my long strip is a lot shorter than, say, a Justin Kemp retrieve, but I have found that on a high speed one-handed strip retrieve for Garrick and other pelagics I need proper depth in the basket to get the (long, fast) retrieve right.

Thoughts the three main contenders after the also-rans were shelved:


Too, err, flaccid

Pros: Packs small (small enough to live under my bakkie’s back seat as part of the you-never-know, smugglers rig); lightweight, comfortable.
Cons: Too shallow for fast, long strip-retrieves, line tends to spill out if it hangs too low, floods easily if you wade too deep. No line dividers – can obviously be solved with some vertical cable ties or any such similar hack.
Notes: Best for freshwater dams and float tubes and perhaps works on the bigger freshwater rivers, if you must. Deeper ones than the model I was given by a tackle shop owner in my home town are available from the likes of, but personally I don’t think they have much salt relevance. (Not punk rock enough?)



This moulded plastic model sits snug on the waist and has built-in internal cones to keep your line from tangling. Various similar models are available locally, but this one comes directly from the source.
Pros: Super ergonomic and comfortable, light enough, line spreads well and doesn’t tangle (too) easily, solid base means deeper wading. Easily accessible buckle on the adjustable belt so you can ditch it for photos etc.
Cons: Too shallow.
Notes:  With some slight modifications (a few tiny holes to drain any water that does come in and being deeper), it will be the ideal. Stay tuned…


Silicone nozzles in Ant Hulsen’s model

Pros: Big, light(ish), dispensable, inexpensive
Cons: Can be uncomfortable and ungainly, floods if wading too deep.
Notes: The trusted favourite, and, by cutting off the very top section with a grinder (makes it smaller and lighter) and adding some ‘spikes’ to the bottom to assist line management it is the default go-to. For this I use thick cable ties, rounded at the top. I’ve also used astro turf (artificial grass) in the bottom, with limited success, but have seen any number of methods, some guys recommend silicon nozzles (see pic) and the like. As well as one decidedly lethal-looking model belonging to Caleb Bergfield, who had glued what can only be described as sharp, plastic anti-bird spikes down the centre of his. If it works for you bro…..

I guess there-in lies the moral of this little quest: If it works for you, rock it. Let ‘em haters, hate.

*As an aside – if you use a Gorilla Pod tripod for your fish-selfies, it mounts very neatly to the side of the shopping basket model – perhaps more on that in another post.

5 thoughts on “Basket case – the quest for the perfect stripping basket”

  1. I’ve tried many different types of ‘baskets’, buckets, line trays etc etc over the years, and keep going back to my shopping basket with cable ties. As Jazz mentions, cutting off the thick rim on the top of the basket, makes it probably about 30% lighter, and allows it to take on your waist contour very effectively. In my opinion, you don’t get a better option for most saltwater scenarios 😉

  2. Hi Guys

    Another i option i have tried is making my own out of a gym mat which is about 8-10mm foam. i find it very useful as i can squash it down in my suit case. i have actually taken it to phuket with me on honeymoon. its super light and i have used it in both fresh water and the salt.

    you make a cylinder of the foam depending on the size you want. you then cut another piece of foam from the mat using the inside of the cylinder as your guide. now at the bottom of them cylinder find a way of attaching some light mesh. The cut out will go in there with the mesh holding it in place and the cut out also maintaining the main cylinder shape. in the bottom piece, you can insert golf tees for line management. make some straps on the outsideof the cylinde for bungee cord attachment.

    i find this basket very useful especially when u cant lug a shopping basket anywhere. the cylinder can be folded up and when the base is fitted it the cylinder will take shape. u can hook flies to dry on it or cut out a depressions to hold your rod while you change flies etc.

    theres lots of other ways to trick it out. if anyone would like to see mine. send me an email

  3. Comfort on the shopping basket can be improved by taking a length of 10mm foam (about 30cm ‘high’), folding it over to have the ends meet in the middle and thus forming two ‘loops’ on the ends, looking a bit like a squashed figure-8 shape. Attach the middle portion of the foam figure-8 to the middle of the basket using two or three cable ties spread over the ‘height’ distance. You will note that the foam now bends around to conform to you body, especially if you use a wading belt to hold on the basket. An added plus of the foam is the basket now floats if you need to dump it in the surf in a hurry to swim after something. This idea for working with foam originally came to me from Arno van der Nest, ace hardcore, no-bullshit fly-o hiding away in Kwazulu.

  4. Another way to attach the silicon nozzles is to find a dowel at your hardware store that is slightly too small for the threaded part of the nozzles, then find some clear (fish tank) tubing that just fits over the dowel. Then screw the nozzles onto the tubing-fitted dowel and cut it off flush with the base. Now drill out 3.5/4mm holes in the dowel, then screw 5mm screws into those holes from under the basket, as-in through the plastic of the basket’s floor, use a washer for added strength. You can also use the plastic number plate screws, but will need to fiddle with hole dimensions.

  5. Been using a Mangrove casting basket for 15 years. This hard foam basket breaks down completely flat, weighs nothing, comes with huge drain holes, two types of line tenders (thin and fat), and a built in rod holder. The dense foam holds flies as well! At first I did not like the depth of the basket but that was easily resolved with a box cutter-I carved 5cm off the top of the basket and sanded it smooth. I seriously love this basket.


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