SaltWater FlyFishing Have you tried it Yet?

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SaltWater FlyFishing Have you tried it Yet?

Post by MJB » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:14 am

I haven't fished with a bait for 4 years now. I have found the fly a cracking method in the salt. Last year I had over 100 Bass to 6lb 8oz and shedloads of Mackerel, Scad, Pollock, Garfish and Mullet. The beauty of the fly is even the bread and butter species like Mackerel and Scad will put a good bend in your rod and scrap like hell. You do have to work hard for your fishing though. It's not just a case of walking up to the beach and catching your fish. You need to study the venue, understand when and why the fish are there, pay attention to the tides, look for rips and eddys.

As Seanny noticed the gear needed is minimal. My rod and reel weigh no more than a couple of 6oz sinkers. Add a few flies and a couple of other bits and bobs and you are away. The lightweight of the gear and the nature of the technique means you can cover lots of ground in a session. There's no bait worries either, so you can go fishing when the mood takes you.

Seanny asked via PM about what tackle you need to start out, but I expect others may be interested so I will post it here. Bear in mind this is for U.K. use.


Most of the SWFFers I know would favour a single handed rod about 9' - 9'6" long with a line rating of #8 or #9. You can pay anywhere from £65 to £650 but it is important to find a rod that suits your casting style.


I would favour a reel with a large arbour (LA) and it should be able to hold your fly line + 100 yds of backing line. Again the price range is huge and you can spend £400+ on something from Abel, but there are some cracking reels in the sub £100 price range which are all capable of doing what you need. I'm a big fan of the Okuma Airframe 7/9 which costs £30, or if your budget can stretch a bit further there are some great machined aluminium reels like the Okuma Helios and the Vosseler DC4 for about £100.

Fly Lines:

The line should be of the same line rating as your rod. You will hear about overlining and underlining a flyrod, but as a beginner stick to the same rating. Lines come in 3 main styles: Double Taper (DT), Weight Forward (WF) and Shooting Heads (SH). My recommendation for a beginner would be a WF.

Flylines come in different densities from floating (F), through intermediate (I), to fast sinking (S). Most people will do the bulk of their fishing with a floating or intermediate line, although sinking lines would be the line of choice at deep water Pollock marks. Just to make things more confusing I use a 'ghost-tip' line for 95% of my fishing which is a floating line with the first 15' being a clear intermediate.

For a beginner assuming an 8 or 9 weight rod was being used I would recommend a weight forward floating or intermediate line. The line would be labelled as WF8F or WF8I. Do not buy a specific saltwater line unless it specifies coldwater use. Tropic lines will be too stiff for U.K. use. Cortland,
Snowbee and Scientic Anglers all do good floating lines (Avoid Airflo floaters!). Cortland, Rio and Airflo do reasonable intermediates. Try and buy the best you can afford, particularly floaters.

Backing Line:

Flylines are typically 30metres long, so you need some line attached behind the flyline for when you catch that fish of a lifetime that goes screaming off into the sunset. There are allsorts of types of backing. I would suggest 20lb-30lb b.s. Dacron as a minimum but you can use a variety of specialist backing including braided mono and gel-spun line.


Attached to the business end of your fly line will be a loop of some kind. If there isn't then you will need to add one. By far the simplist way is a braided loop that just slips on the end and is secured by a sleeve (Instructions are in the packets.). To this you need to attach a length of line to connect your fly to. I would suggest 6'-9' is a managable length. You can buy specialist tapered leaders or make your own stepped leaders, but to be honest a single length of line straight through is fine. Clear nylon mono or flourocarbon is fine and breaking strains between 12lb and 20lb for general use although you may need to step down to 8lb or 10lb in bright conditions for fussy fish.


Rather than go into great discussions about fly patterns ( I tie my own ), I'll suggest s few patterns that are available retail. I would recommend the following patterns for the predatory species like Bass, Pollock, Mackerel and the like:

Clouser Minnows, size 1 and 2 in chartruese and white, yellow and white, black and orange.

Sparse Clouser Minnows, size 4 in chartruese and white, orange and white, pink and white.

Decievers, size 1/0 in all white, chartruese and white, blue and white.

Surface patterns like Gurglers, Bobs Bangers or Fag Ash Lil. You can get popper flies, but these can be a bitch to cast.

The above selection will cover you for all situations in my opinion, but you can add flies like Surf Candies and various other baitfish patterns. There are a lot of flies on the market that I feel are dressed to heavily and would recommend talking to Austen at or Richard at about your needs.

Other Kit:

Chest waders: I wouldn't be without my breathables. Chesties will give you the option of getting closer to the fish or getting a better casting angle.

Hat and sunglasses: A wide brimmed hat or baseball cap combined with a set of polarising sunglasses will help with glare on the water and stop you getting a fly in your face from a wayward cast. I would suggest a pair of safety glasses for night use for the same reason.

Line tray: Various line trays are available to buy, but a washing up bowl with a bungee belt will do the same job. An essential piece of kit which stops your line getting snagged round your feet of being washed around in the tide.

Forceps and line snips: For obvious reasons.

Torch: The best SWFFing is dawn and dusk. You will need a small 'Mini Maglite' style torch or small headlamp for changing flies etc. Do NOT use one of these awful super bright headlamps that produce more illumination than the Eddystone light. You will spook every fish within 100yards!

I've bound to have forgotten something, but this over the years I have found to be essential.




Post by MJB » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:30 am

Should have added that casting lessons with a qualified instructor are a damn good idea. I went down the self taught route and spent a year before I became even remotly competant.

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Post by Tim » Wed Mar 08, 2006 4:11 pm


I'd like to echo Seannylong's comment and thank you for taking the time to share all this information with us. Were it not for the fact that I found my slight wrist disability meant I couldn't cast a fly properly (I've tried...sigh) I would be giving this a go at my earliest opportunity - it looks terrific sport to me.

Cheers again

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Post by hauller » Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:58 pm

I would also like to thankyou for a great post,
I have been salt water fly fishing for sea trout for some years now and decided to try roll casting a firetail jelly worm and have caught just about every species (barr a sea trout!) using this method,

have you tried it?

A small swivel from flyline to 10lb cast to a 2/0 hook (threaded through jelly) to a smaller hook. (through tail of jelly)

It is a bit crude but does the trick!

i find that the different colour jellies work i.e dark over sand /light sparkly over kelp etc.

either from a boat or wading with an intermediate-sinking line and fast retreive.


Post by MJB » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:24 pm

I say! That just isn't cricket old boy. :lol:

Eddystone Eels are good too, but you haven't heard that from me :wink:

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Location: Southend on Sea

Post by Big-G » Mon Mar 27, 2006 5:17 pm

Fantasic to hear so many people trying salt water fly fishing.
I have been trying it for a couple of months now from southend beaches ( my favourite place if youve seen my other posts). Had no luck yet, but still a beginnner.

Any hints for Bass or Garfish?

Can i use a small spoon or stick with flies?


Post by MJB » Tue Mar 28, 2006 10:36 am


It's still a bit early in the year yet. I'll start someone in the middle of April at my Dorset and Hants marks, but don't expect any consistant sport until the end of May.

Stick with the flies. What flies are you using? I would start the season using mainly small flies like a 2" long sparse clouser minnow as the baifish tend to be small. As the baitfish get bigger so do my flies. By Autumn I'll be using heavier dreesings on my flies and my 'go to' patterns will be 3.5" to 5" long.

Garfish are a nightmare on the fly. Lots of nips and plucks with few hook ups. You could try using a fly with some form of yarn in the dressing to snag their teeth.

Tips for Bass: Fish dawn or dusk. My preferred method is to drift the fly with the current towards fish holding features.

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Post by Big-G » Tue Mar 28, 2006 1:12 pm

Thanks for the tips.
I am using mustly some freshwater flies that came with the rod, but have had a go at making a couple of shiny ones about 2" long with foil and a size 2 hook with a bit of epoxy resin to hold it together and give some weight.

I am quite often out at night 'cause it fits in with work and tides, but will take your advice and save my energy for next month. Looks like its back to worms and breakaways for now!


Post by MJB » Tue Mar 28, 2006 3:05 pm

Just to give you an idea of the flies I use:

Sparse Clouser Minnow [size4, 2"long]


Standard Clouser Minnow [size2, 3"long]


Tutti-Frutti Rays Fly [size2, 5"long]


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Post by Big-G » Tue Mar 28, 2006 4:07 pm

Thanks again, I will have a go at getting some of these or even try tying my own.

I look forward to my first catch on a saltwater fly. Everyone in southend thinks i'm mad so it would be nice to prove them wrong!!

Again your help is much appreciated.


Post by seannylong » Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:06 pm

Last edited by seannylong on Wed Jun 14, 2006 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.


Post by MJB » Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:47 pm


Look back to my original post in this thread and you will see I recommended a couple of places. Both offer quality flies and an excellent service. I have no connection with either - Just a very satisfied customer.

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Post by SNOWKIWI » Sat Apr 01, 2006 8:17 pm

:lol: A possible reason for your flies not lasting and getting shorter, might be that they are hitting the ground, or whatever is behind you! When I first started castng flies, I tended to drop the rod too far on the back cast, causing the fly to ground on rocks, trees, or whatever was behind me! If you turn your head when you are at the backcast stage, you can see just how far youre rod drops, its easy to correct your cast once you see whats happenning, not trying to "teach my grandmother to suck eggs"! but its a common cause of wrecked flies. :wink:
Kind regards, Snowkiwi

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Post by gollomish » Tue May 09, 2006 4:00 pm

Hi Guys,

Am kinda new to his fly fishing in saltwater lark. Have been doing it for trout for 10yrs or so and pike for 3 or so. bloody good fun! i have now moved from the north of england to the south coast with work. all the hard work has to begin again! learning marks etc. but i do agree this is part of it, you are activley going and doing the ground work yourself. but a few question to anyone who can help. does the tide really alter what the bass are upto? dawn and dusk are best times or does this coincide with the high tide for best chances? We all go out when we can anyway, no change warm in bed!! MJB you mentioned drifting flies around, would this be the same as flies in a river?

Do i go for the roughest churning water and the place on the edge of it, do bass sit in the tide similar to pike. on the edge of rough and smooth? grabbing what passes or are they right in there?

No doubt shall see some of you guys around if i see some one lure fishing or fly fishing i always say hi. i also get some mad looks. especilly if when using surface lures for mackerel!



Post by MJB » Wed May 10, 2006 9:22 am

First the easy bit to answer. Yes, just like fishing a river with the fly. The sea is a moving body of water so your river experience will be a godsend.

High tide is not necessarily the best time. All marks will vary. One mark I fish, fishes best on the last of the flood, another fishes best on the start of the flood. Another is useless on the flood, but kicks off big time on the ebb. Potentially you can catch the fish at anytime, but certain times wil outfish others in a big way. Get the tide time at dawn or dusk and it's even better.

If you haven't already done so read "Hooked on Bass", by Mike Ladle and Alan Vaughan and "Bass Fishing" by John Darling. Whilst not specifically flyfishing, you will learn much about the Basses habits. Another good read is "Inshore Fly-Fishing" by Lou Tabory. It's based on the U.S. east coast, but very relevant to our waters.

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