Saltwater Fly Fishing Tips
St. Peter’s Fly Shop: Saltwater Fly Fishing Tips
Simple, but necessary advice from St. Peter's own Jin Choi:
Good communication with your guide is extremely important
Many times this will determine how successful you will be on the water. The quicker you can understand the instructions from your guide the more you can maximize your opportunities.
Let the guide know what you would like to do/see/work on
Be upfront with your experience/casting level (give a casting example)
Giving your guide an honest assessment of your saltwater fishing/casting experience will help your guide put you in the best scenarios for success.
Know your guide's distances (50ft example cast)
After you make a sample cast, ask the guide for the distance of that cast (feet)
This will get you guys on the same page for distance which is important when the guide will be describing locations of fish or when giving casting instructions.
Know the clock system (12 o’clock is straight off the bow)
Point your rod with your line of sight
If your guide says, “fish at 11 o’clock 50ft” point rod slightly left of bow and look straight down the barrel of the rod. Your guide will know where you are looking and be able to direct your eyes to what your guide is seeing.
Listen to instructions carefully (ask to clarify if uncertain)
After a situation that goes less than perfect ask how to improve next time.
Understand what pace to strip fly
Ask your guide to give the ‘strip’ command at the pace at which he would like the strip to be retrieved. Also, ask what length of strip beforehand (different behaviors/species call for different retrievals)
Barefoot on the casting deck (this will allow you to feel the line if you are stepping on it)
Tidy up boat and drop line in base of boat
Make sure the deck and the area behind the deck are clean of anything that can catch the line. When it is windy the extra line will have to sit below the deck so that it does not get blown into the water and under the boat.
Search for fish even when not on the bow
This is part of being a good teammate on the boat and will help calibrate your eyes
Look where other two guys are not looking
Good wading boots. Flats are not flat
Your line of sight will always be out towards the horizon. Flats have all kinds of divots and camo critters (sting rays) that can be hazardous to your trip. Having stiff soles and ankle support will ensure you enjoy your entire saltwater experience.
Walk slowly (Caribbean pace)
This will allow you to spot fish easier and not spook potential targets.
Have ‘honest’ casting amount of line off the reel and hold fly with 10-15' of line out of rod tip
Have guide carry extra rod
If you have potential for different species your extra rod will be rigged appropriately. The guide should be carrying it just in case you run into other species.
Work on distance WITH accuracy WITH efficiency
50’-60’ accurate cast is better than 70’-80’ wildly off course. Also, try to make these distance and targets with 2-3 false casts. The more you false cast the more you will have to lead your moving target and also potentially spook fish.
Work on casting from your ready position in the boat
Before your trip, a good casting exercise is to begin with about 15ft of line out of your rod and your fly in hand. This is a great way to practice a realistic casting situation and find out how many false casts it takes you to cast: 30ft, 40ft, 50ft, etc.
Practice in the wind. Casting in the wind gets you better at casting in the wind.
Aim at waves on a lake or ocean. (moving targets)
Use long leaders on calm days and shorter leaders for windy day
Strip set, strip set, strip set
A strip set is the best way to get hook penetration and allows the fly stays in zone if it is released by the fish. Many fish will see the fly come out of its mouth and grab your fly again. Often a standard ‘trout set’ where you lift the rod in the air will dramatically reduce hook penetration and the fly will be displace way too far for the fish to locate. This lift of the rod can also spook surrounding fish and scatter other potential targets.
Lift rod once fish is on and running.
Once the fish is hooked, you want to lift the rod tip to give some shock absorption to your leader and tippet. Keeping a steady bend in the rod throughout the fight will be critical to landing your fish. If you are reeling in your fish and the ‘bouncing’ the rod as your fight this will eventually wedge the fly out of your fish.
Clear the line away from the reel with non-casting hand to avoid the ‘jumping’ line grabbing the reel handle or the butt of the rod.