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Pass the Salt

 

Saltwater fly fishing in tropical locations is a version of the sport where starting out properly is very important, and while I am not an expert, hopefully this advice will help you out should you decide to give it a try. As I write this I'm preparing for my third saltwater excursion so while not an expert hopefully I can help you along with a few things that I have learned. One word of caution, saltwater fly fishing is highly addictive. As one friend once put it after his first saltwater experience, "great, another hobby that I love but really can't afford".

A saltwater fly fishing trip is a great way to break up the winter.

A saltwater fly fishing trip is a great way to break up the winter.

Much of the equipment used for freshwater fishing will be fine for the salt but if you can afford it there are some items that will make it more enjoyable. Lines are often looked at as less important than rods and reels but not so, especially in tropical saltwater locations. Saltwater fly lines are built with different cores and coatings that make them perform better in warmer air and water temperatures. Standard fly lines will get very limp and sticky in hot conditions.

There are many reels on the market that are designed specifically for saltwater, anodized aluminium or stainless steel parts and sealed drags make them corrosion resistant. This doesn't mean you can't use your trout reel for the salt, just that you must take care to rinse it thoroughly with fresh water after every use. The main things you need in a reel is a good drag and lots of capacity for backing. Fish in saltwater can strip off an amazing amount of line and backing in a short time, a fish in the ocean is one of three things, they’re either big, they’re fast or they’re food.

Rods are the one item that easily cross over from freshwater to salt and back again. Rods used for fishing large rivers with streamers, or casting large flies for pike will work well. The lodge or guiding company you're going with will have rod weight recommendations, listen to them. If you're going self guided search web sites for lodges/guides in the area for their recommendations.

Leaders and tippet for saltwater will vary with species but a general saltwater leader such as RIO’s "Saltwater Tapered Leader" will cover you for bonefish, permit, stripers and rooster fish. They also make a couple of specialty Tarpon leaders and "Toothy Critter" leaders if Barracuda are your target species. Regardless of whether your equipment is "saltwater" safe or not always give everything a good rinse daily if possible and at the end of your trip for sure.

Even a small bonefish will strip off all of your fly line and many yards of backing in no time flat.

Even a small bonefish will strip off all of your fly line and many yards of backing in no time flat.

You will want to research your destination and target species to know what the best fly patterns you will be using. Most fishing stores will have a selection of the standard patterns, Crazy Charlie's, Gotchas, Bonefish Bitters to imitate shrimp, Merkin Crabs and other crab patterns, Clouser Minnows are all fairly easy to come by. On my first salt water fly fishing trip to Cuba my box was loaded with many patterns in all sizes and colours, out fishing whenever I showed my guide my fly box he always pointed to same fly, Crazy Charlies. Better safe than sorry though.

Make sure you have plenty of the recommended flies for the area you are headed to.

Make sure you have plenty of the recommended flies for the area you are headed to.

Making sure you're properly prepared with the right gear for the conditions you will be faced with can make or break a trip. A trip can be ruined very quickly with a bad sunburn or a cut foot. Protect yourself from the sun, it is intense on the water and while tropical breezes and boat rides from spot to spot will make you feel cool you still need the sun protection. Sunscreen goes without saying for any tropical vacation, fishing or not. Get a high SPF and make sure it's water resistant. Don't forget the back of your hands and if in sandals or bare feet, the tops of your feet. Always use sunscreen when on the water, regardless of the cloud cover and air temperature. There are many clothes on the market now aimed at sun protection, shirts, pants, hoodies, Buffs, hats and gloves that offer hi UV protection are all available. Designed to keep you cool and protect you from the sun at the same time.

If you are wading the flats on your trip you will want a good footwear, your wading boots from fresh water trout fishing will do but are often too heavy to make wading the flats enjoyable. There are many flats boots available, these are light weight yet tough enough to protect your feet from coral. Never assume the bottom will be the same from day to day, or even from hour to hour, one spot may have hard sand bottoms and the next one may be muddy and try to suck your boot off with every step. Usually a fanny pack type bag or a sling pack will do when wade fishing the flats, waterproof models are available and if you plan on doing a lot of saltwater flyfishing they are a good investment.

Wading boots or shoes and lots of sunscreen make wading the flats a very enjoyable experience.

Wading boots or shoes and lots of sunscreen make wading the flats a very enjoyable experience.

Quite often you will be dealing with stiff monofilament, fluorocarbon and even wire so a good set of nippers or pliers with a good quality cutter are necessary. Also make sure to have a hook file along and use it, even on new flies, you're dealing with tough mouths and a sharp hook is necessary. Polarized sunglasses are a must, especially if you are fishing the flats. You will not be searching with your casts but rather spotting fish and then casting for them. Spotting them is all but impossible without sunglasses, even with them you won't see very fish your guide spots. Bonefish aren't called the "Ghosts of the Flats" for nothing.

Bonefish blend right in with the bottom and that’s why they are called the Ghosts of the flats.

Bonefish blend right in with the bottom and that’s why they are called the Ghosts of the flats.

Practice your casting as much as you can before leaving home, you will be faced many different situations including wind, long casts, shorts cast and quick deliveries. Learn to change directions quickly and learn how far 30 ft., 40 ft. etc. is. Let your guide know you limitations right from the start so he can get you in a position that you can handle the casting distance. Once the cast is made and the fish eats is when a lot of trout fishermen have problems. With saltwater fish you have to learn to "strip set". Instead of lifting the rod tip upwards, a trout set, the angler pulls back with the line hand and moves the rod back parallel to the water. Lifting the rod tip will often pull the fly out of the fishes mouth and up out of the water, strip setting will get more hook ups and if the fish misses the fly this style of setting the hook will keep the fly in the water in front of him and often they will strike again.

Once you hook your first saltwater fish you’ll find out why people get addicted, a three pound bonefish will strip your reel of line and a 100 or so yards of backing in seconds flats, and will do this two or three times! Let the drag fight the fish and be prepared to reel or strip like crazy once he stops or starts running back towards you. A rod held at 30 - 45 degrees to the water will tire fish much quicker because their swimming motion pulls against the pressure of the rod. This also discourages jumping which is when a lot of fish are lost.

Using a guide will always pay off as they know the tides and where to be to take advantage of them.

Using a guide will always pay off as they know the tides and where to be to take advantage of them.

If possible always hire a guide for salt water fly fishing excursions, especially for your first few trips. Their knowledge of the tides, location of the best fishing spots and most importantly their ability to spot fish, Bonefish aren't called the "Ghosts of the Flats" for no reason. If you are fishing with a guide, either wading the flats or in a boat, he will use the hands of the clock as reference when he spots a fish, and believe me he will spot many more fish than you will. When he says bonefish, 30 feet at ten o'clock it will help you hopefully spot the fish, even if you can't see the fish at least you can cast in the generally the right direction when he says to.

There is always something to do for the non-angler in most tropical saltwater destinations.

There is always something to do for the non-angler in most tropical saltwater destinations.

While salt water fly fishing excursions aren't cheap they do provide a good excuse to escape from cold winter climates to a tropical destination. If you're spouse doesn't fish but wants to come along there are usually lots of other activities to do and there is always lots of sun and sand for them to relax in. Saltwater fly fishing, give it a try this winter, I bet you will get hooked.



Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Pass the Salt
(2) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(3) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(4) Fall brings the big walleye out
(5) Hoppertunity Time
(6) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(7) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(8) Early Season Fly Fishing
(9) Walleye Logic
(10) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(11) Grammy’s Fish
(12) Top 10 Trout Lures
(13) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(14) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(15) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(16) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(17) There’s No Place Like Home
(18) A Golden Opportunity
(19) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(20) Un-matching the Hatch
(21) Alberta Super Bugs
(22) Glass is Back
(23) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(24) Speed Kills
(25) Entering the Twilight Zone
(26) Old Man River
(27) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(28) Small stream BT fishing
(29) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(30) In The Walleye Zone
(31) Zoo Trout
(32) Fly Selection for Beginners
(33) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(34) New Waters
(35) Big Bad Burbot
(36) Looking Back
(37) Out of Africa
(38) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(39) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(40) The Browns of Autumn
(41) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(42) Walleye Town
(43) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(44) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(45) Going With The Flow
(46) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(47) Swinging The Fences
(48) A View From The Aerie
(49) Dixieland Delight
(50) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(51) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(52) Montana's Cool Missouri
(53) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(54) Toothy Critters
(55) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(56) Top Ten Flies
(57) Northern Exposure
(58) Home Water Lessons
(59) Chicken Of The Sea
(60) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(61) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(62) Keep It Up!
(63) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(64) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood
(65) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(66) Hawg Holes
(67) Saltwater Salmon
(68) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(69) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(70) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(71) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS
(72) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES
(73) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(74) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(75) Fall Walleye
(76) Wet Flies
(77) Versatility the Key to Success
(78) Grayling of the Boreal
(79) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(80) Size Matters
(81) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(82) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(83) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(84) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(85) The Point Of It All
(86) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(87) Fall Fly Fishing
(88) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(89) Big River, Big Fish
(90) Bottom Bonanza
(91) Fishing Small Flies
(92) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(93) Four Seasons of the Bow
(94) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(95) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT
(96) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style
(97) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(98) Edge Walleye
(99) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER
(100) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(101) Four Corners – Four Waters
(102) Chasing Pothole Trout
(103) Springtime Stoneflies
(104) The Torrents of Spring
(105) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(106) Bust Them With Bait
(107) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(108) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(109) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(110) Terrestrials
(111) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(112) Rocky Mountain High
(113) Reading the clues
(114) Where the Trout Are: The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.
(115) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(116) Fly Fishing 101
(117) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(118) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(119) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(120) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(121) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(122) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(123) Trust Your Electronics
(124) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(125) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(126) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(127) Walleye can be Humbling
(128) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(129) Winter Flyfishing
(130) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(131) Hot Fall Pike Action
(132) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(133) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(134) Frequently Asked Questions
(135) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(136) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(137) Deep Water Perch
(138) Post Spawn Brookies
(139) A Fisher's Life
(140) The River's Last Stand
(141) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(142) Coho on the Coast
(143) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(144) Summer in the Mountains
(145) Peak Walleye Season
(146) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(147) Last Ice Rainbows
(148) The Burbot Event
(149) Tackle Matching
(150) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(151) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(152) The Lure of Brook Trout
(153) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(154) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(155) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(156) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(157) The Vesatile Plug
(158) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(159) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(160) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(161) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(162) Daily Fish Migrations
(163) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(164) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(165) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(166) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(167) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(168) The Fun in Ultra Light
(169) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(170) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(171) Never Stop Learning
(172) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(173) Jigging through the Ice
(174) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(175) Rainbows on Ice
(176) The Season of Ice Begins
(177) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(178) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(179) Facts On Cats
(180) West Coast Adventure
(181) June Walleye Frenzy
(182) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(183) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"
(184) "Northern Exposure"
(185) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(186) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(187) Man Overboard