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.
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.
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!
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.