An Introduction To Saltwater Fly Fishing (SWFF)


Written by: Neville Broad

During these wet winter days one can’t help but remember what it’s like to be fishing in the saltwater, waiting for the savage take of a bass or mullet.

The great attendance at my recent presentation in Orvis Regent Street store was no fluke – the popularity of Saltwater fly fishing in the UK/ Ireland is rising.  There are a number of reasons why – for example, once you have the equipment, you don’t need to spend money on bait, the fishing is free (no fishing license required), and the species including bass and mullet provide great sport.

Neville Broad safely releasing a bass

Where to start?

If you’re considering getting into SWFF, look no further than Orvis’ complete range of 9 foot rods, with the 8 weight being a popular choice for saltwater anglers.  Pair your rod with a saltwater fly line loaded onto a premium or mid-range reel, try the Mirage or Hydros range with at least 100 yards of backing.  For terminal tackle, I would suggest using Mirage tapered leaders to throw a clouser minnow and/or a diawl bach pattern, depending on what you’re target species is – more on that in a moment.

Sensible SW kit choices include:

  • Breathable waders with a belt
  • Wading boots (1 size larger than your regular shoe/boot size)
  • Adequate breathable layers (check out the Orvis Pro range)
  • Waterproof breathable jacket
  • Hat (eg a baseball style cap)

And accessorize with:

  • Sunglasses – with polarised lenses
  • Nippers
  • Forceps (to remove flies)
  • Bag for your accessories (consider a shoulder or sling bag)
  • Fly box(es)
  • A net (decent sized – not the small wooden river type, but ideally a minimum 25 inch diameter version with extendable handle)
  • Stripping basket
  • Water bottle
  • Headlamp
  • Waterproof pocket/protection for a mobile phone

Depending on certain situations you may prefer the luxury of a tippet bar, floatant, sinkant, etc but they are not necessary for your first soirees into SWFF.

Anything Else?

It’s advantageous to also have an intermediate and/or a sink tip line on hand.  Just match the line to the rod rating.  There will be times when the wind is against you and an intermediate line is great in these conditions.  A sinking or a sink tip line gets the fly down quicker/ deeper to the fish.  Therefore a couple of spare spools loaded with each line type offer an easy option to facilitate a rapid change over.

The following Table has a general species specific set up recommendation

Note: *<6wt can be used however there are not many dedicated saltwater rods in 5wt or lower

Getting advice – have a chat with your local Orvis Fishing Associate

If you are new to fly fishing, I highly recommend that you book a Learn to Fly Fish ‘FF101’ or an improvers ‘FF201’ class at your nearest Orvis store.  Classes are free and provide a lot of information that you just can’t get online, including basic setup, knot tying and importantly paring rods to fly lines for best performance.  

If you are fortunate enough to know a fly fisherman, get as much hands-on advice from them as possible.  They don’t have to be a saltwater angler – the key thing is to improve your confidence and casting ability.  Regarding fly casting, it is not essential to be the world’s best caster since most fish are closer than you think.  However, it always a good idea to improve your technique.

Early Saltwater Experiences

It goes without saying that you don’t want to be fly casting into dirty, coloured water.  Finding relatively shallow, clear water marks holding school bass (for example) are great places to start.  This year’s Orvis Saltwater Festival UK will be based around the Chichester/ Hayling area. The venues offer easy access with shallow, clear water, and fish within casting distance.  Orvis’ aim is to encourage all newcomers and perhaps those struggling to catch their first fish in the salt and return the fish safely.  

Finally, a top tip – make sure you wash all of your equipment thoroughly with fresh water after each use (rod, reel, waders, boots, flies, etc.).

We will go into much more detail in forthcoming saltwater blog series to help prepare you for 2020 – until then tight lines – oh and send us pictures of your SWFF exploits please!

The new Orvis Recon rod – one of the many prizes at this year’s Orvis Saltwater Fly Fishing Festival UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *