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.

Santa Rose Sound and the Gulf Islands Florida

By Dave Settoon

Welcome to the Emerald Coast, a piece of heaven between Destin and Pensacola, Florida. There are approximately 70 miles of white sand beaches, anchored by Choctawhatchee and Pensacola bays. Between the two bays is Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island, and Santa Rosa Sound. Destin, known as the "luckiest fishing village," has one of the largest fleets in Florida and is nestled in the mouth of Choctawhatchee Bay. There are two jetties at the East Pass. The East Jetty is the longest and is known for its great fishing. Along the sandy beaches are miles of wadable water, with opportunities to catch ladyfish, bluefish, covia, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, pompano and redfish. When fishing Choctawhatchee Bay, it is best to hire a guide, because most of the bay is too soft for wading. Destine is a full-service resort community with many restaurants and accommodations ranging from campgrounds and RV parks to high-rise condos. Destin also has facilities available for boat, canoe and kyak rentals.

Emerald Coast map

About a 45-minute drive to the west from Destin lies Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf Island National Seashore area, my favorite place to fly-fish. The sound side is a great place for the wading fly-fisher; it has miles of grass flats, channels, coves and sandbars. Spotted seatrout, redfish, ladyfish and jack cravelle are readily available in the sound. Across the road, there are many miles of beaches where ladyfish, pompano, Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle roam from spring to late fall. Further west is Fort Pickens, at the junction of Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound. The West Pass is larger than its counterpart at Destin. Fort Pickens has miles of beaches for fishing, but also sand dunes to explore, museums, civil war forts, bicycle paths, picnic facilities, camping areas, etc.

Fishing in the Santa Rosa Sound area is quite seasonal, with the best fishing times between March and late November. A 9-foot, 8-weight fly rod is ideal for the back bays, together with a matched weight-forward floating line and a nine-foot leader. I prefer a 12-pound tippet for seatrout. Nine- and 10-weight outfits will often we need on the beach to permit casting into the wind, and a weight-forward intermediate-density line is preferred to get below the wave action. Shorter leaders are practical on the beach, but at least a foot of 25- to 30-pound shock tippet is required bacause of the abrasive mouths of many of our gamefish. A good saltwater fly reel with a capacity for about 200 yards of 30-pound backing is appropriate for most of our fame fish off the beach or in the backbay.

There are many different species of prey in this region, with finger mullet, pinfish, menhaden, pilchards, shrimp, crabs and sandlfeas being the most important. The two flies that I use most often are the Seminole Clouser fish along the shorelines. These two "showy" forms of behavior are most and the Ballyhoo Clouser. The Seminole Clouser most productive for the back bay; the spotted seatrout and redfish can't seem to get enough of the gold flash. The Ballyhoo Clouser is great off the beach for ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, bonito and small jack crevalle. Both Clousers are usually tied on a size 2 long shank hook. Larger jack crevalle like a mouthful; thus, Deceivers 4-6 inches long on 1/0 and 2/0 hooks and large poppers and divers are needed for these formidable game fish. These same flies will often work very well during our spring cobia run. In late spring, the pompano run is in full swing and these schooling fish can usually be found in the breaking waves off the beach. Any small bonefish pattern, on a size 4 to 6 hook, should work well. The Absolute Flea pattern is a good choice for pompano. ~ Dave Settoon

Publishers Note: One of the recommended guides in the book for this region is a FAOL regular, Captain Paul Darby in Shalimar, FL. You can reach him at: (850)-651-2991 or by email at: fishnlady1@aolcom.

Dave Settoon

About Dave

Dave Settoon has been living and fishing in northwest Florida for 19 years. Dave has been a fly-fishing guide specializing in wade fishing and teaching fly-fishing for three years. He is a founding member of the Panhandle Fly Fishing Club and provides a weekly fishing report to the Northwest Florida Daily News.

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.

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