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.

Sight Fishing for Striped Bass

By Alan Caolo, Rhode Island

The diversity of our fly fishing world is expanding. Rapid technological development and hard work by innovative sportsmen over the last decade have provided fly fishers with a vast array of modern tackle, advanced techniques and worldwide angling opportunities. The most dramatic growth has been in salt water where changing attitudes on the part of sportsmen have led to unprecedented popularity in saltwater fly fishing.

The game fish sought by today's fly fishers are perhaps the best evidence of this growth. With the "bait and switch" techniques and some very high-tech equipment nearly all the blue water species are routinely taken now on fly gear. False albacore and bonito have become widely sought after inshore game fish albeit for decades only a few fly-rodding mavericks pursued them.

Exciting things are happening on the flats as well. Several innovative Northeast anglers and guides have begun exploring flat-fishing opportunities at home - for striped bass. Long thought to be exclusively a tropical experience, the successful introduction of southern-style flats-skiffs for stalking stripers on Northeast flats has proven otherwise. In a short time, fly-rodding for stripers has experienced a popular shift from traditional approaches. At the apex of the sport today is sight-fishing, where visual excitement and challenge provide fly fishers a thrilling and rewarding experience.

Stripers are superb flats game fish and they're readily available to many fly-fishers. When striper stocks are up the sight-fishing opportunities are endless. When their numbers are down, sight-fishing is perhaps the most effective way of catching one of fly tackle. They offer a spectrum of challenge to suit the expectations of all fly fishers. The school-fish commonly associated with easy-to-fish inshore flats offer moderate challenge for beginners and casual sight-fishers. Experience fly-fishers looking for a tougher challenge find the large, sophisticated fish on offshore flats more appealing. For anglers seeking trophy fish in a high-skill environment, the surf offers the "major league" experience. For some fly-fishers, sight-fishing is an exciting alternative during the hot summer months after the spring migration has evaporated and the fall migrations is still months away. For others it is an obsession, where the fast action of spring and fall become the bookends to the preferred sight-fishing season. And for winter bonefish junkies in search of an off-season fix, stalking stripers in skinny water is a welcome surrogate. Stripers, however, are much closed to home for most of these folks, and no plane tickets or passports are required for a quick trip to the Northeast flats.

Visually stalking game fish with fly tackle is not new. Early fly-fishers began by casting dry flies to rising trout centuries ago, and the sport remains as challenging and as popular today. In salt water, anglers have been sight-fishing for bonefish, tarpon, and permit for decades and the immense popularity of this sport has ignited an entire industry throughout the tropics. In light of the challenges involved and the potentially overwhelming complications of adverse weather, third-world destinations, Miami International, hostile natives, sharks, toxic sea-life, and more, it may seem puzzling that anglers the world over ardently pursue this brand of fly fishing (at great expense, mind you).

To pinpoint sight-fishing's vast appeal is difficult. Visual excitement, mental absorption and challenge immediately come to mind - but it may be more than that. Most game fish we stalk on the flats may be pursued in other ways. Look at the addiction we call bonefishing. Albula vulpes can be easily taken off the flats in deep water with some ground shrimp and a little patience. Even a blind-folded first-timer can catch a trophy bone this way. But very few people do it, and fly-fishers don't even consider it.

Sight-casting to the Silver King [tarpon] is even more confounding. Talk about a low percentage endeavor! Yet, countless tarpon skiffs dot the Florida Key's horizon each spring with anxious anglers vying for the thrill of casting to those magnificent fish.

Sight-fishing appeals to many anglers simply because everything that takes place between you and your quarry is witnessed. Somewhat of a double-edged sword, this can be a euphoric angling triumph, or a frustrating bout of rejection. How easy it is while blind-casting to presume that there are no fish where you are when the strikes do not come. It is indeed the rare angler who remains objective and assumes nothing in these circumstances. Sight-casting, on the other hand, provides the luxury of knowing this part of the puzzle without doubt. It also provides you the knowledge that you've done everything right, or that you have not.

Less obvious is the combination of primordial instincts to fish and hunt, which is so perfectly provided with sight-fishing. Such a combination preoccupies the mind to produce a focused and continuous involvement. Even when the fish are not cruising in your view and your fly is still in hand - you are stalking them, and opportunity may prevail at any moment. Presenting to a mere 10 fish throughout a three-hour span is easily perceived as solid action.

The intensity and excitement of this sport if thrilling. While sight-fishing, anglers encounter their quarry on its terms, and they must perform on cue. This is challenging fishing, and casting skills must be above average. Unlike blind-casting, sight-casting offers little choice as to cast directions, distance, and timing. Consistently successful sight-fishers are above all else, calm and competent fly-casters.

Competent casting is consistently accurate, smooth, long when necessary, immune to adverse wind direction, and is only achieved through practice. Calm fly-casting is the ability to continue casting competently when the fish are in sight. Since the fish usually appear suddenly and are often moving quickly, the excitement can cause many sight-fishers to react frantically and fail to make a good cast. Staying calm with a trophy striper appears in your casting range is not easy, but it is a skill that must be developed to make the most of the opportunities your work to create. As with tarpon and bonefish, calm casting is acquired through experience. Even the veterans get excited with the sight of a great fame fish on the flats. It wouldn't be much fun if you didn't. They stay cool, however, and make the cast that gets the fish. Only saltwater sight-fishing offers this angling intensity and excitement.

Much like bonefishing, consistent success stripers on the flats comes to those who pay attention to detail. There are no "magic dart" flies; there is just doing as many little thing right as often as you can. That is the challenge. The ability to see everything that takes place - the fish's movements, its reaction to the fly, a follow, a refusal, or a take, are not only exciting to witness, but the analysis of these observations and subsequent adjustment on your part are at the heart of the sport. The ultimate solid hookup is thrilling, as it is head-shaking, reel-screaming proof that you have done everything right. You should rightly feel proud of every striper hooked while sight-fishing. Each one is an accomplishment. Most veteran sight-fishers insist they would rather take one bass by sight than 10 or 15 any other way. How do I feel about it? I rarely fish blind for them any more. ~ Alan Caolo

Credits: Excerpt and photo from Sight-Fishing for Striped Bass Fly-Fishing Strategies for Inshore, Offshore and the Surf, by Alan Caolo, Published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

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