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.

Martha's Vineyard

By Cooper Gilkes

Martha's Vineyard lies along the southern coast of Massachusetts and Cape Cod. The Vineyard is a large island, some 20 miles long as the crow flies from the tip of Cape Poge on the eastern end of Chappaquidick to the cliffs of Gay Head on the western tip, and almost 10 miles wide. The Island is large enough to have distinct regions, the most populated being "down island" where the towns on Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown lie in close proximity. It is here that the majority of inns, hotels and restaurants are located and offer every type of accommodation to suit all tastes. All three towns are distinctly different experiences; from the stately wealth of Edgartown to the freewheeling nightlife in Oak Bluffs. The Vineyard is accessable by ferry or air. The ferry runs regularly from Woods Hole in Falmouth, Massachusetts for both cars and walk-on passengers. Walking on is easy. Bringing a car across requires advanced reservations.

Martha's Vineyard map From the map, it is easy to see why Martha's Vineyard is such a magnificent fishery. The island is riddled with estuarial ponds that feed the sea and serve as great nurseries for baitfish. As the tides move in and out of these ponds in the spring, they bring with them great numbers of young sand eels, herring, silversides and other freshly spawned baitfish. The accompanying chart summarizes the Vineyard's primary prey species, their times of greatest availability, and some productive matching fly patterns. The migrating predators who move up and down this coast during the year are fully aware of the feeding opportunities around the Vineyard and haunt the island's waters. The other factor is the Vineyard's proximity to the esturaries of the mainland and Cape Cod, in particular the Elizabeth Islands that create the southern wall of Buzzard's Bay and the northern wall of Vineyard Sound. These rock-strewn islands and rocky shores of the Vineyard combine with bountiful bait sources to provide a rich fishery that lasts from late April until well into November.

Prey Availability

Perhaps one of the Vineyard's strongest assets is the variety of fishing opportunities that exist. As an island, the Vineyard can offer fishing in almost any weather condition, since there is generally always a protected area on some side of the island. Remarkably, you can be as successful from shore as you can from a boat, since the topography of the island and the estuarial nature of the island create an inshore fishery that is easily accessed by wading anglers. Wading anglers fish very successfully from a number of easily accessible beaches such as Lobsterville Beach in the town of Aquinnah and East Beach out on Chappaquidick. Rocky shorelines such as the north shore can be reached by hiking from Menemsha, Poge or Tashmoo offer excellent wade and jetty fishing.

Fishing from boats is also excellent since the nature of the island and its waters combine to create rips, currents, tidal flows and heavy structure that provide numerous areas to find fish. Wasque rip off the southeast corner is renowned for its productivity as is Middle Ground on Vineyard Sound and Devil's Bridge off Gay Head. Fly-fishing guides on the Vineyard are all familiar with these areas . . .

If you bring your own boat, there are boat-launching ramps in Vineyard Haven, Katama and Aquinnah. You will have to ferry the boat across on a trailer, which will add significantly to the cost of the ferry ticket.

The fishing season on the Vineyard begins in late April to early May with the arrival of the first small striped bass and bluefish. As May rolls on, the blues and striped bass increase in size and number and by June the traditional bass and blues season is in full swing with fish being taken from all quarters. Billions of sand eels are spewing forth from the estuaries and the fish are on them hard. In late July, the first of the bonito show up, soon followed by the false albacore. Fishing them changes from slugging it out with freight trains to handing on to speed merchants who have the ability to run at 40 miles per hour and to quickly empty your fly reel. Unquestionably, September and early October is the prime time for fishing the Vineyard, with excellent weather and excellent fishing to go with it. The accompanying chart shows the best time of the year for each of these species. It is also during this time of year that the Vineyard puts on its annual fishing derby, a month-long celebration of the island fishing which has been going on now for more than 50 years and is an island institution.

Fish Availability

The standard rod for fly-fishing these waters is a 9 foot, 9 weight and it will perform admirably on all four major species; striped bass, bluefish, bonito and false albacore. Some fly-fishers prefer to go lighter, but rarely lighter than an 8 weight. Others may use 10 or even 11 weight outfits, particularly when fishing singing lines for larger bass in heavy rips and currents. Varying conditions require varying lines and it is a good idea to have a floating or intermediate-sensity line for beaches and a good sinking line for heavy currents, jetty fishing and boat fishing. A sinking shooting head or the newer sinking heads with attached running lines work well, at weights from 250 to 500 grains, depending of the depth and current. Reels with good drag system are important when fishing for bonito and false albacore. They can truly stress a reel's drag system. The new large arbor reels are gaining significant popularity because of the speed of their retrieve, which is important if one of these fish turns and runs back toward you. These reels should carry at least 200 yards or more of 30-pound Dacron or 35-pound gel spun backing are recommended. 35 pound gel spun is stronger than Dacron, but significantly thinner and offers much more backing capacity. Both nylon and fluorocarbon leaders are used in the IGFA tippet sizes 12 through 20 pounds. Generally, a 16 pound tippet is standard, but a 20-pound tippet with a 40-60 pound shock leader is recommended for larger bass. Bluefish have very sharp teeth and know how to use them. A wire bite guard between tippet and fly is a must with bluefish. ~ Cooper Gilkes

About Cooper

Cooper Gilkes
Cooper Gilkes has spent his life on Vineyard waters fishing both commercially and recreationally and he now operates Coop's Bait and Tackle in Edgartown, and Orvis-endorsed outfitter. Coop was Orvis Northeast Guide of the Year in 1998, the only wading guide to achieve that distinction, and he is widely regarded as one of the best striped bass anglers in New England. Coop's shop is well-known as the gathering place for anglers on the island and is an excellent source of information for visiting anglers. His guides offer both wade and boat fishing for all four major species.

Saltwater Fly Fishing


This article is an excerpt from Saltwater Fly Fishing, From Maine to Texas, Edited by Don Phillips and published by Frank Amato Publications. Check out the Review section for a complete review.

Previous Fly Fishing The Salt Articles

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice