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.

Stripping Baskets and the Surf

By Ed Mercado

Fishing the surf is a great way to catch fish on fly. It can be very productive and for some species it is the preferred method. As some of you may be fully aware of, it can also be a real hassle when you don't have the right equipment. Letting out the amount of line needed for fishing will almost invariably lead to an impromptu dance as you hop around your line in an attempt to keep from getting tangled up. It usually ends up either wrapped around your foot or leg, or wrapped around some debris on the beach. To top it off, if you're not paying attention, your first backcast will bring that fly racing towards your waiting legs where it will make its home half an inch under your skin. It has happened to me quite a few times already.

Taking heed of the learned folks on this website I set out to get my hands on a stripping basket. For those of you that don't know, a stripping basket is a container that is attached to a belt and is worn around the waist. This is used as a holding receptacle for all your loose fly line. Some are made of solid plastic while others are made of nylon mesh. When you're ready to cast the line feeds out of the basket allowing a hang-up free experience.

My local fly shop has just about everything you could want for saltwater fly-fishing. The basket I was shown was large, light-weight, collapsible and easily deployed from a fully stored position within the belt itself. Fancy. The price however was pretty high. No surprise there.

My next stop was EBay. Not very many baskets there, but a few were worth considering. After looking over my options I purchased one that was priced very reasonably. Even with shipping it was less than half the price I would have paid at the fly-shop. I always recommend supporting your local fly-shop, but when the price of a simple object is almost the same as a weeks groceries I shop around. After all, all I wanted was a simple basket. Not one with so many fancy extras, although an automatic fly dispenser might make me pony up the dough.

I waited about a week for delivery. When it arrived I was a little surprised by its small size. Scarcely larger than a modern thermal lunch bag I thought it might not be roomy enough to use easily. However, after trying it on and moving around a bit in it I realized that anything bigger would probably have felt cumbersome. It was made of some sort of reinforced nylon mesh with a stiffer nylon rim supported by two plastic arms that can be unattached to collapse the bag. It came attached to a substantial looking belt with an easy to release clip buckle. Not bad at all. There was no 'label name' on the basket, I suspect the person I bought it from made it.

Trying it out at home can only tell you so much so I packed up and headed to the beach. There are benefits to living this close the water although there is a price to pay as well. This year's hurricane season hit us pretty hard. The beach has been a mess ever since, but, to the city's credit, restoration works started almost immediately after the storms where over. The fish, however, didn't seem to notice any of this. The mullet where running and the predators where gunning.

I admit to being a complete novice to the art of surf fishing, fly or otherwise, but it wasn't hard to see that there was action along the entire beach for as far as the eye could see. It just wasn't happening at any one spot consistently. This expedition proved to be more workout than leisure. Walking along the surf, I'd spot a school of mullet fleeing the water about fifty feet away. I'd run to the area and quickly cast only to find that the blitz was over and the fish had moved on. Then I'd see another commotion and the process would repeat itself. This was not what I had in mind, but the basket was definitely helping me move around mostly unhindered.

I tired of running up and down the beach and decided to switch tactics. I went up to the jetty and found a spot that I knew would be holding fish. Sure enough they where there, rounding up the baitfish and picking them off at will. Again, the basket really helped me by keeping my line off the rocks. It was here that I experimented with the position of the basket for easier use. Originally I had set it directly in front of me. This proved awkward to strip into. I found myself focusing on hitting the basket more than catching a fish. Not good. I rotated it to my left and wore it on my hip. I found that this worked very well for me. The natural motion of my strip led my hand right into the basket. It wasn't long before I was barely aware of it at all. That's how I had hoped this would go.

The fishing was not very productive for me, but that was due to my using the wrong type of fly. I was trying to take them on top with a crease fly, but with so much mullet stacked in the water they where feeding below without having to exert themselves too much. After tying on a good 'ole Clouser minnow I immediately hooked up on a snook. Unfortunately it broke my line after a couple of fantastic jumps and made off with the last Clouser I had. Lesson learned; never leave the home without a fist full of Clousers. Oh well, it's basket testing I had come for and tested it was.

If you plan on heading for the surf there are a few things that you should have with you:

  • An 8wt rod or higher to toss heavy flies and hopefully deal with heavy fish.

  • Protective Polorized glasses, footwear, preferably wading specific boots.

  • And if you want to make your experience more enjoyable, a decent stripping basket.

    Store bought or home made, a basket could make the difference between catching a big one and catching your leg.

    Tight lines, ~ Ed Mercado

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