Are you a seasoned freshwater fly fisherman or a saltwater fisherman looking to add a new and fresh dimension to your angling pleasure? Why not take up saltwater fly fishing? It is a wonderful pastime although it can be challenging.
If you are already doing freshwater fly fishing, be prepared to gear up for a different type of fishing. You will in all likelihood need a heavier rod, reel, and line. What is the reason for this? Well, unlike fishing freshwater, the ocean or bay tends to be windier and you need more weight to slice through the wind. Additionally, the fish tend to be heavier in the saltwater.
For example, the best models for all around use would be a rod 8-1/2 to 9 feet long. Line weight? Again, for all around use a 7, 8 or 9 weight line would be ideal. It goes without saying that you need to use a rod and reel balanced to your line weight. Of course these are just average weights. If you know you will be fishing in primarily low wind conditions, you can bump your line weight down three notches or so and for high wind, you can bump it up three notches. Since fly fishing equipment is expensive, do your homework and buy what will work for you.
The fly patterns used in Saltwater are different than the ones you would use in fresh water. This makes sense when you think of it because the food available to the fish is different. Remember, match the hatch. Some popular patterns are crabs, shrimp, baitfish, and marine worms. Just as with fresh water, what works splendidly on one day might be a total wash on the next.
How does the fisherman find the most productive water? Consider that tidal activity is the device that modulates the entire living environment of the shoreline. Let’s consider the Gulf of Mexico since that is what I am most familiar with.
Passes and estuaries bring in fresh saltwater from the Gulf and approximately six hours afterwards return a more diluted mix of water back to the Gulf. Flats and estuaries go through a cycle of being flooded and almost drained. This serves to provide the food eaten by the baitfish and other prey that attract redfish, drum, trout, and other gulf game fish.
This constant flooding/flush cycle generates natural channels. All life forms use these channels as “roads” on which they travel. These channels are any number of sizes, depending on local conditions. They can up to a hundred yards wide and several inches or a few feet deeper than the surrounding bottom. Phytoplankton languidly float in the prevailing current and your baitfish come along next, because phytoplankton is their primary food source. The game fish you are after navigate these “roads” and feed on the baitfish, crabs, and other prey. You, as a fly fisherman, use these same roads to find and flush out your prey, which is of course the game fish.
So you see, you are just another part of the natural cycle of life. By becoming familiar with the local tides (you can buy a chart or just reference the newspaper) and the whereabouts of your channels, the fisherman can find the areas where game fish are active and the when their feeding is most likely to be aggressive.
Now let’s take a few moments to consider how you are going to get to the fish. If you are fishing close to shore, say on a pier or on the shore, you can just find a spot where you judge the fish to be and where you can make a good presentation. A popular alternative to this is wading. If you are wading, stingrays can be a real problem. Fortunately, some of the newer waders on the market are made of a material that deals with this very effectively. One case of stepping on a stingray’s tail will ruin potentially a month’s worth of fishing as you recuperate.