Saltwater Fly Fishing Basicsby Capt. Terry Rand
Sounds like a big undertaking, huh? Not really. A lot of information has been published about saltwater fly fishing and its accessories that it is often times quite overwhelming to someone who has never picked up a fly rod. Like any type of fishing, fly fishing can be as simple or as complex as one would like to make it. But, to get yourself started you do not need excessive amounts of knowledge or equipment. Nor, do you need to spend your life savings on the equipment that will put fish in your boat. Let’s run down through the necessary equipment that will get you started.
Saltwater flyfishing can be done from shore by wading, or by boat ... both are effective methods.
First of all, you need a decent fly rod. Saltwater fly anglers seldom use anything lighter than a 7 weight rod. An 8 or 9 weight is a great place to start for your average saltwater fish in the Northeast like bluefish and striped bass. A rod length of 9 feet is about standard these days. It gives you the leverage you need to cast your line with minimal effort without becoming hard to handle. You can find a good quality rod fitting this description for somewhere around $100 at most tackle shops.
Next, you need a reel to match your rod. Reels are rated the same as rods. For example, an 8 weight reel matches up with an 8 weight rod. For saltwater applications the choice of using a large arbor reel is often prudent. Large arbor reels have wider and deeper spools allowing room for the fly line plus a couple hundred yards of fly line backing. This will give you the line length needed if you hook into a large fish that makes excessively long runs. A fly reel with a good drag system can be purchased well under $100.
You will also need fly line and backing. Stick with the inexpensive lines to start out with. Choose a line weight that matches your rod and reel and go with a floating weight forward line. Sinking lines can be tackled later. Before your fly line can be wound on to the reel you need to fill the majority of the spool with fly line backing. This is usually a Dacron fishing line rated for 20-30 pound test. Any tackle shop with a line winding machine will be able to put the appropriate amount of backing on to your reel and then attach the fly line to the backing.
The last piece of tackle that you will need, besides the flies themselves, are leaders. Leaders are made of either monofilament line or fluorocarbon line. A section about the same length of your rod should be attached to the end of your fly line before tying on your fly. Talk to your local retailer about recommendations for leader sizes for the type of fish you are going after. Leaders are typically tapered to allow the leader to unfurl at the end of the cast.
An assortment of streamers, and topwater saltwater flies is always good to have.
Besides that, all you really need to get out there is a small selection of flies. Local knowledge is the best bet for making a decision of which flies to use. A small selection of streamers and surface flies in different sizes and patterns will do the trick. Talk to your local tackle shop guys and they will surely get you pointed in the right direction. And, after a few outings, you will start to put together the pieces of the puzzle yourself.