Saltwater Fly Fishing Guide


Written by: Isobella Ash

Brought to you by Neville Broad

Back in January, I had the pleasure of sharing my knowledge and experiences of Saltwater Fly Fishing (SWFF) with a packed audience at the flagship Orvis store in Regent Street. It was so good to see old friends and even better to begin making new ones, all through the power of shared fly fishing passions.

I have fly fished around the world, including running trips specialising in bass fishing in the USA and Canada, but my more local passion is SWFF for bass and mullet. As a previous UK Saltwater Fly-Fishing champion (2016 and 2017) I had the tools and experiences in place to deliver and enthuse folks mature and new to this growing sport.

In this guide I hope to share some of the knowledge I have learned along the way. Hopefully, you’ll find some helpful tips to get ready for the Saltwater Fly Fishing, even if you are new to the sport.

Keep in mind that Orvis also offers wonderful 101, 201 and 301 fishing courses that will help you fine-tune your skills.

Neville Broad safely returning a bass caught in January

What You Need For Saltwater Fly Fishing

If you’re just now 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 your target species is – more on that in a moment. Here’s a list of what you might need to pack for a day of saltwater fly fishing.

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 to pack for saltwater fly fishing if you are a beginner.

Saltwater Fly Fishing Tips And Setups

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. Remember, though, that at the end of the day, the key is simplicity in the presentation and narrowing down location marks to improve your chances of catching.

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

Saltwater Fly Fishing Resources

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. These classes will show you exactly how to start saltwater fly fishing and let you practice. Each one is perfect saltwater fly fishing for beginners course! Here are some useful fishing resources from Orvis online that saltwater fly fishers might find useful for stocking up on fly fishing tips and new information in a hurry.

First, there’s a great new email subscription service for fly fishing; ART OF FLY FISHING

I just signed up (my email came through in a matter of minutes) and am enjoying the best practice reminders and information that’s new to me – there’s no such thing as an experienced angler in every department! Pretty good stuff for free I’d say! And the videos starring Orvis fly fishing guide (and all-round great guy) Tom Rosenbauer are superb. To the right side of the video, you can click on supporting information including equipment used, materials and flies, etc.

Next up is the Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center

Where you will find instructional videos and texts on the basics through to species focused articles. I think it’s worth stressing the general techniques used for bass fishing are equally as effective for European Sea Bass. Also, the guidance on Saltwater Flats can be put to great use when fishing crystal clear waters on parts of the UK coast where there is an expanse of sand. In the latter, there’s great instruction on Fine Tuning the Double Haul (instructor: Shawn Coombes). I try to tune into Tom Rosenbauer’s Orvis Podcasts. Again, you can short cut to those relevant to Saltwater via the Fly Fishing Learning Centre and scrolling down the right side – here’s some examples that are helpful whether you’re looking for info on saltwater fly fishing for beginners or new tips and tricks to add to your repertoire:

Tom is also hosting fly tying demonstrations via Orvis YouTube channel. He always gives the viewer the recipe of the materials you will need to tie each fly in advance of the next YouTube live tying session. Of most relevance to the Saltwater flies to date is the Lefty’s Deceiver.

Tom Rosenbauer ties a Lefty’s Deceiver

Put all these tops tips into practice and you’ll be a saltwater fly fishing expert in no time. Tight Lines!

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