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.


By Capt. Doug Sinclair, New Smyrna Beach, Florida

It is hard to remember a time when I actually fished with my Dad that he wasn't smoking a pipe. Back in those days, I don't recall people spraying themselves with insect repellent. A pipe was the next best thing to carrying a smudge pot with you. In the summer the weather got so hot and humid your body chemicals emitted natural attractants to the bugs, at least mine did. I remember many times wearing a hooded sweatshirt just to keep covered enough to limit the amount of skin exposed to mosquitoes. They were worse in the early morning and late afternoon, prime fishing times.

My dad seemed kind of regal with that pipe in his mouth. With each rising puff came the distinct aroma of sweet Cavendish. Now here's a term that is used so broadly with so many different nuances that Webster could spend a whole page in the subcategories of definition. Briefly, Cavendish is generally a mixture of different component leaves such as burley, Virginia, and Maryland, that have been flavored and pressed into cakes to age. Any tobacco that has been treated in this manner can be called a Cavendish.

The term "Cavendish" also refers to the cut characteristic of matured Virginias and burley plug. The pressed cakes in which the leaves are aged are cut into bars and then the bars are cross-cut into thick or thin slices called flakes. I can recall reading the brands in the local tobacco shop like Mac Baren, Peterson's Sherlock Holmes, Cavendish & oore's of Calgary, Crouch, McConnell, Three Ten Pipe, McClelland's Virginia #27, Highlander's Choice, Abenaki, Milan, or David's Coventry. I'm sure there are a lot of fly angler pipe smokers out there.

Next to catching fish, smelling that great aroma was the best part of our fishing adventures. Smoking was, in some cases, a matter of necessity versus pleasure, or so I thought. It was like a rite of passage for the true angler, even more so if you were a fly-fisherman. It seemed like just yesterday that the little creek was filled with various aromas from pipes all along its banks. I couldn't wait for my turn on the Cavendish.

"Captain," came Paul's question, "Do you mind if I smoke my pipe, it's light Cavendish?" Did I mind? Hell, no! Absolutely light it up and send some puffs my way. What a delight. No one had ever asked to smoke a pipe on my boat before. This was different and welcome. I didn't mind, just the smell of that tobacco was good enough for me. And, he smoked for pleasure.

Paul Paul was a somewhat unorthodox fly angler. His casting wasn't my standard, but he could get the fly out there and that's all that really matters. I took him to the north corner of the basin where we blew up some redfish. The casts were on the money, but the reds weren't taking anything. It can really be frustrating when you sight fish and you see the push or the fish and you get the fly to them and they just swim by. Naturally, we did change-ups on the flies, trying to find just the right color combination. Most times I have one or two go-to flies and they work 99% of the time. Today was different. The fish were on holiday.

We left the basin and motored up to an old backwater flat near Strickland's Creek and the Tomoka River. Man I probably just gave a hole away to some reader out there. Anyway in that vicinity there is an old slew that meanders back a ways. There, by the broken tree, we stopped and settled in the water. I like to do that sometimes. I'll pull up to a fishing hole and let the boat settle out and for everything to calm down before we start fishing. I think it does make a difference in your hook up rate. Paul sat down and offered me a sandwich and we talked a while about our backgrounds, which I found interesting. Turns out we went to the same college and graduated in different programs but in the same year. I went off to south east Asia and he had returned to his family's business. Life presents such a small world sometimes. I had never met Paul before, but we had come from similar backgrounds and careers, and had a lot of common interests.

After finishing his sandwich he lit the pipe. He smoked it for about 10 minutes and then got ready for some fly-fishing action. The creek we were in was a favorite tarpon spot. Tarpon spawned in these waters and their offspring grew rapidly during the late spring. From babies to 30-50 pounders, they present the best there is in fly-fishing excitement. They are like hooking into a runaway sidewinder missile.

All morning Paul worked my favorite "Puppy Drum" fly. This works great on Redfish and Trout, when they cooperate. The fly is tied on a #1 hook and is a variation on a saltwater muddler. The design was inspired by JB Brazelton's Green Mullet fly, Joe Brook's Muddler Minnow and Capt, Forrest Faulkingham's Bunker. I've used Forrest's bunker and slab flies for the monster tarpon around Chicken Island. The morning was overcast and the darker fly seems to work better in these conditions. The fly floats high from the eye up and slightly submerged from the mid-eye down.

He did try some other flies too. Even one of Al Campbell's Shrimpf flies initiated a bump but no taker. We were now in tight quarters with a tree line on both sides of the creek. You could see the tarpon rolling and tailing in front of us. About fifteen feet ahead near a broken limb, I motioned for Paul to cast.

"Just let the fly sink a little before you start the strip." I said, "Keep the strip constant but not fast." Paul did just as I instructed. Seconds later his line went tight and the tarpon was on. The 8-weight fly rod was bent in half and line wizzed off the reel. Down the creek the baby made his run. Tail walking and jumping, clearing the water. That fish tail walked for about 40 feet. In seconds the fight was fast and furious. That baby tarpon was on fire and did not like being hooked. He just tore off down the creek, stopped and turned. Coming back he made a couple of strong shakes and leaps and spit the hook within six feet of the boat.

Paul just looked at me with maybe the same thought I had, "too bad they don't make nets on 30 foot poles." He looked like someone had just eaten his lunch.

Paul's look was one of "did I just have my first tarpon on the line?" "Did the tarpon just jump the fly?" He had this look of someone loosing his best friend. I really felt bad for him. We were nearing the end of our charter when I decided to work the entire back of the creek. We saw countless other tarpon and Paul managed a couple of near hookups. Tarpon are really funny sometimes. They'll all come crashing on a fly and other times they will completely ignore it. The best experience is seeing them close up, or fighting them almost to the boat. It is wild action, even if short lived.

We moved again, up river to a bend in the Tomoka River. We fished this place for about an hour before returning downstream and back to the ramp. What a great morning. Sweet smelling Cavendish to cover the musty aroma from the saltwater marsh and a new friendship, and the unmistakable hook up of baby tarpon. Life doesn't get any better.

Please don't teach your trash to swim. ~ Doug Sinclair

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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