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.

Sugar Barge

By Capt. Doug Sinclair, Grantsboro, NC.

Just rounding a bend from the remains of an old sugar barge, we heard loud yelling.




Came the cry from across and down a bend in the creek. We were somewhat alarmed by hearing what could be hunters snuggled in a secluded blind. As we rounded the corner we could see clearly what was happening.

A fisherman and his friend had taken their two labs out fishing. It was a beautiful morning with a light mist on the water. When they located their favorite fishing spot, they spotted the ducks. The captain's friend yelled out those words and the dogs immediately dove in the water in chase after the ducks.

I remember Rob doing that in my father's boat. It took 5 towels to dry him off before I put him in my truck. Dogs seem to have a keen eye and liking for ducks or any fowl, and fish too. Rob and Lula were no different. After a while Lula was left home because she would jump in the water just to swim. Rob liked to scout on the bow, vigilant of anything moving in the brush or along the waters edge. At an early age we had to tie him in the boat and after awhile he learned that he wasn't supposed to jump out unless someone called "DUCK!" He was real good at spotting redfish and was my First Mate on many charters.

We were at the opening to Slann Creek where the old sugar barge is still partially submerged. Rotten and decayed, it is a legacy of an earlier period when colonists shipped many staples including cane sugar and molasses up the Neuse River and the port of New Bern (namesake to Bern, Switzerland).

John Wright Stanly was a leading ship owner, shipper, and molasses distiller in New Bern. He had trade connections with both Philadelphia and the West Indies. Active during the American Revolution, Stanly provided much needed supplies for the American forces and used his ships as privateers against the British. Stanly lost 14 ships during the Revolution. After the Revolution, Stanly continued to serve as a prominent leader in New Bern. He was appointed by President George Washington (Washington, NC is named after President Washington and to this day is referred to as "Little Washington") as the first judge of the Maritime Court in North Carolina.

There was severe shoaling in those days and since. The rivers and creeks that feed the Neuse brought a lot of silt from the farms and clogged many areas. So a lot of old barges ran aground and were never removed. Luckily for us, the old sugar barge is a handy landmark to point us to Spotted Sea Trout and Puppy Drum heaven.

We moved on in passed the boat with the guys yelling at their dogs. You could see those dogs wagging their tails in the water as they made their way back to the skiff. The anglers weren't too happy but you couldn't blame the dogs.

Back in the creek a small cut runs to the bank and a deep, deep hole channels to the west. My, my, my, this is a beautiful spot. This watershed is protected on three sides by high pine trees. Talk about flat water - the water is smooth as glass.

The fly rods were pulled out from under the gunnels. Fred took the 8 weight HP, his favorite rod (actually my rod). It has a Wulff Bermuda Triangle Taper Tropical Line with a 16-pound Mirage knotless tapered leader and a 20-pound bite tippet. Our flies were simple. Three colors, exactly the same pattern of a Ponce Mullet and a Gray Puppy Drum fly (below).

The Puppy Drum fly lays up partially submerged and has a nice swimming action. It is most effective in early morning or late afternoon. A slow strip action moves the fly and the tail undulates in the water like a wounded mullet. This is a very effective fly on stripers, jacks, blues, trout and Reds (when tied in white or olive).

It was too early for sight fishing, so we looked for pushes along the edges of the grass or along the myrtle shrubs and cat-nine tails hugging the bank. You could hear mullet piercing the surface. And, an explosion of bait behind us.

"REDS!!" Charlie yelled. A big school was breaking up bait on the surface moving towards us.

"Fish on" yelled Fred. We could see the pouncing of the red over the fly as it was inhaled inside of his mouth. It was an over-sized red. Typical for a red, he hunched his shoulders and tore across the creek at warp speed, then ran down the creek a ways, line was ripping off the reel. Fred and Charlie yelling. . .




In all the commotion, Charlie forgot to reel in and all of a sudden line started running on his rod too. It was a good thing I didn't have the drag tight or I would have lost a $900 outfit.

"Charlie, grab that rod. You have a fish on!" I yelled.

He hadn't even noticed that the line was running out. He was so mesmerized by Fred's hook up he didn't notice his line.

"IT'S A DOUBLE" he yelled, "IT'S A DOUBLE!"

"START REELING!" I yelled back.

It was a miracle we were able land both fish, take the photos and release thm. Double hook ups are difficult to manage. Easier in a creek than a big flat. And, they hadn't had their fill, because I found the school again and we were on fish for the next two hours.

The Old Florida Reels were really humming. We were using the 5SA Super Arbors with the big cork drags that can stop a freight train and are smooth as silk.

For another hour we pursued these reds and then they disappeared. Further down the creek you could here some more bait being chased.

"Captain, are those reds?"

"I don't know but I don't think so." I replied.

I was right. On the next bend and about a mile from where we had jumped the reds, gator trout were rolling on some menhaden. The creek was on fire with activity. So we snuck up as closely as we could. I had Charlie do the first cast because he was the longer caster. At this point I handed Charlie the Old Florida 8wt rod with a 5 SA reel and Royal Wulff BT mono clear saltwater line. I wanted the presentation to be very stealthy. That rod was all set up with an SA Bonefish 16# tippet and bead eye olive and white deceiver.

"Give that push a long lead and let the fly sink!" I said to Charlie, "Make short quick strips".

No sooner than that fly hit the water did Charlie have a fight on his hands. The trout pulled hard and the rod tip bent, down. The spotted sea trout made a swift run along the bull rushes and over near on old cypress stump. I was worried that we would get hung up in the roots.

"Quick, Charlie, Turn him!!" I yelled.

Fred put side pressure on the rod and pulled hard to turn the trout. We didn't need him running into the roots or we would never get him out. The trout dove down and the rod tip bent under pressure from this 7 pound trout. Fred pulled harder and down. The pressure seemed to work as the trout made a run at the boat.

Nice fish," Fred yelled.

"7 pounds on the Bogga grip," I said, "indeed this is a nice, nice trout."

We had quite a good day of fishing. Time passed quickly even after many hours of fishing. They almost forgot about lunch, but remembered just as I was about to head back to the Neuse and up the river to drop them off at the Sheraton Grand's dock, a convenient pick up point for anglers.

The old sugar barge just sat at its pins as we motored by. The relic was still a beacon for finding a great fishing spot and lots of fun for these fly anglers.

"Great day, Captain, we'll have to do this again."

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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