Finding The Best Saltwater Fly At The Beginners’ Saltwater Weekend


Written by: Emma Sandham

After the success of the inaugural Orvis Saltwater Fly Fishing Festival in September 2020, Orvis UK launched a new event for 2021 aimed at complete beginners – The Beginners’ Saltwater Weekend. The aim of this event was to give new anglers a taste of saltwater fly fishing, and offer them some professional tips including advice on finding the best saltwater fly.

The sell-out event took place on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th of June in Chichester Harbour, celebrating the fantastic saltwater fly fishing on offer across the UK’s coastlines. Because of this, saltwater fly fishing is accessible to amateur and professional anglers alike.

Expertly guided and looked after by our team of saltwater fly fishing guides, Michael Rescorle, Neville Broad, Philip Spratt and Tom Barclay, the sessions focused on the basics of fly fishing and fly casting. This was followed by beach workshops, where the anglers applied what they’d learnt to saltwater fly fishing. The sun shone, friendships were forged and some wonderful fish were landed on the fly including a brilliant bass and even a golden grey mullet.

Advice For Finding The Best Saltwater Fly

Fulling Mill were our valued partners on the event. Recognised as global leaders in the manufacture of high quality flies and market leaders in innovation, they offer some of the best saltwater fly fishing tackle on the market. Their range includes fantastic tried and tested designs, as well as new and innovative patterns.

All the attendees were given a Fulling Mill saltwater fly for their first foray into coastal fishing. To help you find the right Fulling Mill saltwater fly for your next seaside angling expedition, our trusted guides have given us an insight into their favourite Fulling Mill saltwater fly.

Michael Rescorle, Orvis Beginner’s Saltwater Weekend and Saltwater Festival Guide and Coach

Choosing a favourite fly is a difficult one because so many of Fulling Mill saltwater flies are great. However, when looking at my all-time favourite, I have, naturally, been influenced by the type of saltwater fly fishing I do and what works best.

Most of my fly fishing is carried out while wading in shallow water and casting into 5 or 6 feet of water but often little more than 2 or 3 feet. So, I want a light fly that stays mid or upper water, and one that I can cast well with either an overhead or roll cast out to 25 yards with no more than 2 false casts. Given that the wind strength and direction can be a major inhibitor, I also need to be able to cast over my left shoulder if the wind changes direction. The best saltwater fly for me is light, easy to cast and does not dredge the bottom.

There are other criteria to be considered; durability, castability and tangle-ability. 

Durability: some flies, such as Clousers, damage easily upon hitting rocks or shingle banks. Others can have the bucktail or other material pulled off by fish coming up short resulting in a ‘thin’ looking fly or one that looks messed up, especially having been chomped by a hungry bass a few times. With a good saltwater fly, I often catch several dozen bass before I need to even think about changing it.   

Castability to me not only means how a fly goes through the air with the minimum of wind resistance, but also the differing weight of rod and style of casting I can employ. My go-to outfit is a 6 weight Orvis Recon Saltwater rod and a floating-line – my fly works well with that. Likewise, it works well with the Orvis Helios 8 weight and intermediate line if I need to step up to heavier tackle in high winds and/or difficult conditions.  

Tangle-ability is primarily about tail wrap. Some flies are prone to it and while accepting that casting errors can be the cause, it still irritates the pants off me! Checking for tangles, especially at night with a torch, is time consuming and frustrating. A torch beam probably scares the fish away. The best saltwater flies never tangle. They just keep swimming the way they’re intended.

Given that I catch hundreds of bass every year on the fly, without doubt the most successful, durable, castable and least prone to tangles is the Softy Sandeel. I don’t really mind which colour it is – providing it’s chartreuse.

Philip Spratt, Orvis Beginner’s Saltwater Weekend and Saltwater Festival Guide

When considering my favourite Fulling Mill fly, I needed to first consider my preferred fly fishing location. I grew up near the sea in Sussex and have always had an affinity with the sea, so I am looking at saltwater fly fishing.  Although I have been lucky enough to go on three tropical saltwater fly fishing trips, my bread and butter saltwater fly fishing is done in the UK, and almost entirely from the shore.

The first question I have to ask myself is whether to choose a weighted or unweighted fly.  Most of my bass fishing is with a 6# or 8# rod. The selection is principally determined by the wind. In still conditions, my go to rod is the 6#. If it’s windy, I use an 8#. Generally, the bass caught from the shore are not large and any fish in the 2-3lb range upwards is a good result.  The weight of the rod determines the fly that can be used. This is where the weighted or unweighted is decided. For me, the answer is unweighted, as weighted flies don’t cast as well with a 6# rod. I use both floating and intermediate lines.

So, we have an unweighted fly. What prey are we trying to imitate? The answer is a bait fish pattern. So what we need is a good saltwater fly with lots of movement, as we will be stripping the fly to create the impression of a bait fish.  An unweighted fly is easier to cast, and I speak as someone who is a competent but not qualified or expert caster, so it’s a matter of using every advantage I can get. A choice of colours is good, too.

In my opinion, the best saltwater fly is the blue & white deceiver.  The deceiver was invented by the late and great Lefty Kreh, a legendary and pioneering saltwater fly fisherman, and someone to whom all saltwater fly fisherman owe a debt of gratitude.

Neville Broad, Orvis Beginner’s Saltwater Weekend Guide, Sea Angler Magazine Contributor

If I had to have just one fly in my box, it would be Fulling Mill’s Clouser Non-Tangle 9612.

Taken directly from living legend Bob Clouser’s pattern, this sandeel fly does what it says on the tin. It doesn’t tangle after many casts, and remains effective whether you’re fishing shallow reefs for bass on a floating line, or at the end of a short length of leader on a sinking line combination.

I have caught a diverse range of species on this fly, including bass, bream, flounder, pollock and wrasse, as well as bonefish.  

The chartreuse/white colour combination is classic and I mainly prefer using it in bright conditions, using as light a set-up as I can get away with (typically a 7 weight Recon outfit).

Try varying your retrieve when using this fly. For example, start with short strips, or long sharp strips with a deliberate pause in-between, remembering to employ a cast and move or recast strategy until you locate the target species. Bites can be subtle or savage, so maintain direct line contact with your fly – you may miss a take on the drop otherwise!

Tight lines and hope to see you out there on the salt. Be safe!

Tom Barclay, Orvis Beginner’s Saltwater Weekend Guide

Having fished with Neville many times, I wasn’t surprised to see we had chosen the same best saltwater fly. Fulling Mill’s Clouser Non-Tangle 9612 is my absolute confidence fly, as it is for Neville. 

Some saltwater anglers will tell you “if it ain’t chartreuse, you lose!” While this may be just a bit of an exaggeration, given that a multitude of colours and patterns will take fish in UK waters, chartreuse patterns still seem to dominate my fly box. The profile and flash of a chartreuse Clouser being stripped through the water is very comparable to the real-life sandeels you will see swimming in our waters, which are a staple food source for bass and other fish.

Particularly when using weighted patterns like a Clouser, I like to tie these onto my leader with an open loop rather than a conventional tucked blood knot, which is tied tight onto the eye of the hook. This allows the fly to have more natural movement, and can be effective for provoking takes even on the drop, as the fly will sink more naturally through the water. 

Bass are one of my favourite fish to target with a fly rod and I do put in the miles on foot in search of them. My typical set-up is an 8wt rod when using larger patterns or in windy conditions, although I do scale it down in calmer conditions and will opt for a 6wt or 7wt. Always be sure to check the tides before heading out and let someone know when you go out fishing and wading in the sea. It is all too easy to be caught out by the tides. Or even better, get yourself a buddy like Neville and fish as a pair!

Learn More About Saltwater Fly Fishing

Whether you’re already a serious saltwater angler, or you fancy giving coastal fly fishing a go for the first time, read more about what to expect at an Orvis saltwater fly fishing event in our blog.

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