Welcome to Salt Water Fly Fishing

Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.

Saltwater Fly Fishing For Inshore Game Fish:
Part 1: Equipment Selection

By Capt. Douglas Sinclair

So, this is your first time saltwater fly-fishing. This is going to be one of your best experiences fly-fishing ever. Just do me a favor. Don't, I mean don't, go into a fly fishing shop and pick out the prettiest rod and reel and plunk down your mortgage payment for the month. Well, if you fly fished freshwater you know something about fly-fishing equipment. But are you ready to shell out a thousand dollars for the best on the rack?

No. I didn't think so. Good. Types of rods and reels vary widely and the price range is dramatic from one system to the next. There are other factors to consider too. Like where you will fish, what you will fish for and what conditions you'll encounter. Think of it this way; if it were calm all the time, an 8wt rod would be perfect. Even with a little wind. It is rarely calm on the flats.

Hopefully this is not your first time fly-fishing. But if it is, don't worry. There are some experts in fly shops all across America, and they do give sound advice. Start off with a slow taper rod in at minimum an 8wt a 9wt is better. If you put one line size bigger you will find casting easier. In any case, go for the least expensive, top quality gear.

Fishing the flats

Suppose you just want to fish the flats. Nothing real big, say a bonefish, sea trout, or redfish, maybe even a permit. That's probably a 9-wt rod. It will be great in most windy conditions. But if you are after Tarpon in the 100-pound class you'll need a bigger rod. You can use a 9wt for tarpon, but a 12 wt is better. If I were going on vacation and I could only take one rod, it would be a 3-piece, 9wt saltwater rod. There is a big difference in the casting of a saltwater rod to a freshwater rod. Freshwater rods break on saltwater game fish. Their stripping guides are usually smaller too.

The reel should be a sealed, bar stock aluminum with a disk or cork drag, preferably anti-reverse reel that can hold 200 yards of 20-pound Dacron backing. Attached to the backing is a WF9F or WF9I or WF9S fly line. (F stands for floating, I for intermediate, S for sinking.) A bonefish taper works well in most warmwater situations because for our type of inshore game fish you will need to get the fly down.

That doesn't mean that you won't fish situations where you will fish top-water flies like ultra hairs or poppers (Yes, we use poppers in saltwater). You can also use a clear sink tip for a faster sink rate. The intermediate (I) or sinking (s) monocore lines work well, cast well, and are a lot easier to handle. But, a floating line works just as well because you can vary the depth of the fly by the rate that you strip. If you want the fly to sink just wait after it settles before stripping. For most situations, unless you are trying to break a world record, use a 16-pound tippet. I prefer fluorocarbon tippet, because it has no memory and it is invisible. Shock tippet isn't necessary unless you are gunning for big tarpon, barracuda or shark in which case you had better be using 40-pound wire shock leader, and the fly line should be a one-sided Albright Knot tied to the loop bimini from the backing. Use a loop connection, or a nail knot between the fly line and tippet. Also use a double unit knot to the fly. Big flies turnover better this way.

Now you are in that fly-fishing store, ask the clerk to put together an outfit so that you can try it out. You bet! This is probably more important than going fishing. Selecting a rod and reel combination is a matter of feel. Experts say that the two must be in balance. I think that is subjective. What they really mean is does it feel comfortable to you. Please have the guy put some backing and line on the reel. You can't measure feel with an empty spool. Go in the parking lot and try a couple of casts. How does it feel? You don't want an outfit which is too reel heavy. I know you would never put a tarpon reel on a 9-wt rod. That would be like putting 400 gallons of water in the stern of your boat then trying to get on plane. You'd be looking up a lot. So, that balance point they talk about is somewhere just a little forward of the reel seat, where the rod is somewhat level. Try it. Besides you'll really impress the guy in the store.

Redington Saltwater Outfit Ok, if I were new to saltwater fly-fishing and didn't want to spend a small fortune on equipment I'd pick a Redington Redfly RF908/9 graphite rod and a Redington Large Arbor 9/10 Gold Reel. With a case, backing and tippet you are looking at about $350 total. If you buy anything else you'll pay a minimum of $250 for the reel and $400 for the rod. By the time you are through you'll be up to $800 dollars. Redington has made it possible to get into saltwater fly fishing much more reasonably.

Remember it takes some time to get used to a new rod. Have a guide or friend show you the technique and then go practice casting in your backyard or a nearby sports field where there are few trees to tangle your line. Have he or she show you how to single or double haul. This is important because on the flats stealth is everything. You need to cast as far as possible. Hauling is easy and it will get that cast out 70 to 90 feet. It is not uncommon to see casts go into the backing. Try casting about 15 to 30 minutes a day until you get really comfortable with your outfit. This will improve your confidence when you get out on the water.

Caring for your new (or old) rod is the easiest part. Just wash it with freshwater after each time you've fished. Dry it with a towel. Don't let it dry by itself just in case there are some salt deposits on it. Salt is the scourge of all fishing equipment and can eat away at rod guides and reel seats. Every couple of months take time to give your rods a coat of car wax, you will be amazed at how it will help your rod stand up to the elements. Rinse your reel thoroughly in fresh water, then remove the spool and let it dry. Apply a spot of light oil if recommended by the manufacturer. ~ Doug

More on equipment next time!

About Doug:
Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters. Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental. Catch him on the web at www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500. Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.

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