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.

Stalking Wild Gar

By Capt. Doug Sinclair

Breaking a World Record on Fly for Gar has been a long time passion of mine. I've found some exceptional locations that harbor gar in the Volusia and Flagler County backwaters. Gar is not as elusive as you might think. Find a warm stretch of fast moving water under trees and brush that line a creeks banks, and you'll find gar. They seem to congregate often near the nests of alligators and eat some of the same small live and dead fish and reptiles. The most common species in Florida include the Alligator Gar (All line class, World Record in LA is 9 feet by Beth who was out fishing for Redfish), Florida Gar, and Long Nose Gar.

Gar Gar, like the sea lamprey and sturgeon, are also remnants from primitive times. Their skeletons are part cartilage and part bone. They have long jaws, the snout extending far forward resembling a beak. Both upper and lower jaws are lined with strong, sharp teeth. Their body shape is long and more or less cylindrical. Gars have modified heterocercal tails and hard, diamond-shaped ganoid scales. Always keep your hands away from a Gar's mouth. They can swing around with lightning speed. Their jaws lock when shut and a finger can become severed with one bite.

They spawn in the spring by broadcasting their adhesive eggs in shallow water where the eggs attach to vegetation. No parental care is given the eggs or young.

In addition to gill breathing, gars have a unique air bladder that permits them to obtain oxygen from the air. This air-breathing ability enables gar to survive in polluted waters where other fish species cannot live.

Except for some of us fools, Gar are seldom caught by fishermen and are generally considered a nuisance. Their scales have sharp edges, so they should be handled with gloves. Gar eggs (roe) are extremely toxic, but their rather dry flesh is edible. They are very difficult to prepare and are seldom eaten.

Long Nose Gar

The key to catching gar on fly is finding the right pattern. Some years ago, with master fly tier and friend Ken Bay, we set out to try a couple of theories on flies. We wanted a fly that could be dislodged with no harm to the fish or ourselves. Ken made me a fly on 100-pound monocore using a split ring. The body was white super hair and white marabou (key ingredient). We found this really effective in catching the gar, relying on its powerful jaws to shut down and hold the marabou and monocore shank. The problem came in bringing the gar to the boat. If you lifted the fish, it would just slide out of the fly, more or less flossing its teeth. We came up with an alternative that worked better but required a #4 hook. This allowed us to catch and boat the gar but he couldn't dislodge the hook.

Last year while experimenting with the Hot Lips fly, we changed the underbody to include a section of brown ice chenille and a big bunch of white marabou on a 3/0 hook. That seemed to work better because now you could remove the hook without injury to either fish or angler. While out one Sunday with a charter, we got lucky.

Bard Livesey with his record Gar

That's a Florida Gar Bard Livesey is carefully holding for the camera. We have filed the paperwork with IGFA and expect this to be registered as a new World Record for Long Nose Gar on Fly. Garfish are an exceptional fighting fish found here on the boundary between fresh and saltwater. The river estuary plays host to a diverse ecosystem of wildlife, aquatic fish, plants and birds.

Brad and I were fishing a mangrove line along the south side of my favorite island hammock. He was doing well catching nice Snook, one of which decided to keep the Green/red ultra hair bug. Luckily I have a box full of these flies. But, for those of you who know me, I like changing flies. If one is working well for a while then try something different. Change is good!

So I picked out an oil-colored Hot Lips fly with a white marabou tail. Brad's casts where picture book perfect. Under a large overhanging cedar tree we noticed some thrashing in the water.

"Baby Tarpon," I thought. OK, it is kind of early but that could work. I really wanted someone to catch a tarpon on that Hot Lips fly.

"Brad, cast half way in under that branch," I whispered.

He placed the fly as softly as if he had placed it on the water with his hands. BAM! The fly was engulfed by a big, ugly, beauty of a gar that managed to drive the hook through the lower jaw and back up into his mouth. He fought hard. Rolling, walking and running, the gar made thrashing moves to get free of the line. Once he dislodged the hook, the gar would not give up the marabou. So we let him have it. He didn't even seem one bit phased by the situation and just swam away.

You can imagine the care we took in de-hooking this fish. Garfish are tough to handle because of their long snout and sharp teeth. Identified, weighed, and measured, the fly line is on its way to IGFA.

Catch/Release: it's the right thing to do. ~ Doug.

About Doug:
Doug is a USCG Licensed Captain and fly-fishing guide from New Smyrna Beach, FL a member of CCA, FFF, AFF, APCA, FOWA, the Action Craft Saltwater Team, and the Orvis and Redington Pro-Guide Program. He can be reached at 386-679-5814.

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