This blog was written by Neville Broad, a previous Salt Champion (2016 and 2017) and Orvis UK Saltwater Fly Fishing Festival Guide. Here he interviews Orvis-Endorsed Guide, Salty Dog Fishing’s Paul Haldenwang about saltwater fly fishing for bass, the Salty Dog experience, & more!
Meet the Orvis-Endorsed Guide – Salty Dog Fishing’s Paul Haldenwang.
I have started fishing with Paul this year, he’s top-notch when it comes to guided saltwater fly fishing for bass. He took time out from his busy schedule to help us better understand his guiding and success story….
Q: When does your bass fishing season start and end?
The Season is from 1st April to 31st October and builds to big numbers of fish mid-summer and larger fish to the end of the season. We catch bass every month, however!
Q: Why did you start guiding in the UK 10 years ago?
I love fishing and the outdoors so this is the best way to share it with my friends and clients. I set business up in 2010 but was fishing Chichester from about mid-2005 exploring all the marks and fishing the harbour during bass fishing season and al other times of the year.
Q: Why choose Chichester Harbour as your guiding base?
I have always fished coastal estuary systems and fascinated with the crossover of wildlife and fish species that these environments produce. I’m always amazed at the conveyor belt of food these waters produce to all the way from West Africa down to the southern tip of Africa and beyond. It’s also a safe environment as you are close to safety and sheltered from the big seas when winds get up.
Q: What are the details/ descriptors of your boat – and why is it so good for fly fishing?
Salty Dog Fishing operates a 23ft purpose-built Wilson Flyer “Salty Dog” with centre console and Yamaha 50 on the back. The boat’s a very stable casting platform with centre console set mid ship so that you can comfortably fish one angler on bow and one on stern on the fly. And if you like, a third angler can join with light spinning gear in front of the console midship. The draft is very shallow and allows us to get into shallow areas and flow the fish up as the tide builds on the mud and sand bars.
Q: What equipment do you have on the boat for safety?
All crew will get an Automatic life jacket for the day’s fishing use and will on arrival be shown all the safety drills on board and locations of all other safety equipment before we head out. The boat’s also equipped with two VHF radios; one fixed boat VHF /DSC and one handheld. Both have the crucial DSC function as well as GPS coordinates displayed on screens. We are also licensed and coded to fish Cat C water with all safety protocols in place.
Q: What is your basic safety drill and how has Covid also affected things on board?
We always start with the basic safety drill – which will include a demonstration of how to wear the life jacket and its operation, the locations of firefighting equipment, first aid, flares, basic boat operations to stop the boat in motion, and of course, the location of the throw line and life ring. Covid has affected all charter boats but fishermen are always adapting so we’re resilient and will keep on adjusting so that the sport we love stays alive and safe. Most Anglers have Buffs or face coverings and we also supply clients masks if they do not have any. The boat and gear are sanitized before and after each trip, and we ensure social distancing always so people can still enjoy this year’s bass fishing season.
Q: Last time we were saltwater fly fishing for bass together we caught and released almost a bass per cast – what were the decisive conditions that helped us?
We had a westerly wind on our backs and just before a low pressure blew in so fish were switched on, the tide was starting to flood and water temperatures were perfect especially with the long drifts. Wind and tide in the same direction on the mark we fished made it a great place to fish topwater. There being very little waves also added to the great surface fishing.
With controlled drifting and following the birds around as they were a dead giveaway where the bait was being pushed together and up to the surface, the Bass have an easy meal in those conditions.
Obviously having you onboard Neville, as a very competent fly fisherman, made things easier – that said, I cater to all fly and lure fishing abilities at Salty Dog Fishing.
Q: What are your fly set-ups for clients to use (including line and leader)?
I have many Orvis fly set-ups to account for all conditions (eg for topwater, mid-levels, and down deep). I particularly like to use the Orvis Helios 3D 8wt, with the Rio Coastal Shooter WF/Intermediate or the Orvis Hydros Cold Saltwater, the leader is about 9ft two pieces but section 18lb step down to 14lb with a perfection loop to connect but a section to fly line loop.
Again I use a perfection loop to connect on to fly, this is crucial to create a free movement of the fly in the water and helps with erratic swim action especially on stop-start retrieves as the fly rises and falls. Sometimes with a baitfish pattern, you must play around with speed but as fast, as you can sometimes get the fish a bit more aggressive if they do not take on the first couple of strips.
Q: What fly rod/ reel/ lines do you recommend for fishing Chichester? When would you go to a sinking line? Favourite fly lines?
I set up as per Helios H3 (this is my all-round go to set up) and we don’t need to fish very deep a lot of the time, which is ideal for comfortable fly fishing.
Q: What do you think distinguishes Salty Dog Fishing maybe from other charters/ guides?
Hmmm, as I do it my way, I don’t focus on what other charter boats do too much!
That said we all learn from each other as it’s a small industry, every boat and crew is different. How you as an individual connect to your client is most important and it’s at the end of the day a fishing trip and you have to make sure they enjoy it as much as I enjoy guiding for them. Every day is a new experience; conditions and the ocean keep on changing and so you as a guide and captain should grow and change but keep it real and always make the fishing trip a fun trip it’s after all the sport we love and live for.
Thanks, Salty Dog Paul – bass fishing season with you sure is a blast!
By Neville Broad