Strip, strip, strip. That's what you've been doing for the past several hours just hoping to feel that line come tight. As the day goes by you soon begin to notice an uncomfortable pain in your line guiding finger. One look at your finger and you find that your fly line has burned itself right through your skin. These are all symptoms of what I like to call "Stripper Finger."
Stripper finger is a common ailment that fly anglers face when fishing streamer patterns or stillwaters all day. The combination of wet or dry hands and stripping in fly line for a long period of time creates friction that can burn its way through the skin of your guiding finger.
My first experience with stripper finger happened while I was fishing Pyramid Lake in the middle of winter. This lake is famous for its big Lahontan cutthroat trout and I was stripping streamers right off the drop-off in efforts to land my first cuttie. About two hours into fishing I noticed a bit of blood on my clothing. Confused as to why I was bleeding I performed a self check and found that my fly line had burned through the skin of my finger. Without a solution at the time I continued fishing for about an hour before I finally gave in to the pain. I left the lake fishless and vowed to figure out a solution.
The first solution that came to mind was a stripping guard. A stripping guard is a piece of fabric that fits over your finger to protect it from stripper finger. After purchasing a stripping guard and trying it out I found that I was happy to not have any more cuts but was unsatisfied with the overall product.
- The stripping guard felt too loose. I'll admit that I have slender girly fingers which doesn't help but I knew that if I bought a different brand the result would be the same.
- The guard made me lose the sensation of feeling my line. I had difficulties detecting subtle hits and grabs due to the thickness and stiffness of the material.
- The combination of a soaked up stripping guard and cold winter air made my finger cold.
The next thing I tried were a pair of fishing gloves. I bought a pair of Glacier Gloves designed with a stripping guard. These gloves didn't work well to protect me from stripper finger due to the way I guide my line. My fly line goes between the indentation of the tip and middle of my finger. The gloves left too much of my finger tip exposed therefore my fly line would get caught on the very end of the glove material. After experiencing chilling winter winds while fishing I was hoping that gloves would help keep my hands from getting cold however as soon as they got a little wet my hands started to freeze. Much like the stripping guard, gloves limited my fly line senses which made me miss a lot of grabs that I should have hook
The best solution for stripper finger that I've found has been waterproof adhesive tape. This tape is readily available in nearly every pharmacy store, is easy to take off and on, customizable for your own use, and won't intrude with your fly line sense. I take a roll of tape with me wherever I know I'll be stripping in fly line such as the surf or the lake. If the adhesive isn't sticking anymore I'll just take it off and put on a new one. No more cold hands or missed grabs. A simple solution to a simple problem.