Beyond Trout: Details to Consider for Your First Saltwater Fly Fishing Trip
I was pretty much ruined after my first true saltwater trip to Belize. On our first morning in the country, I landed a couple of bonefish near our hotel wading on my own and followed that up with a few guided trips that gave up a Grand Slam including bonefish, tarpon and permit along with some bonus species like snook and jack crevalle. My first giant tarpon left me wanting to spend as much time as possible chasing the silver king. My first permit erased any doubts that saltwater fly fishing in exotic locations is something I needed to do as often as my budget would allow. Trout were still fun but sight fishing in crystal clear, shallow water to fish that required precise presentations and rewarded the perfect cast by burning into your backing was so much more intense. I had saltwater fever and still have it to this day.
Many trips and species later, I have come to understand that while the fishing isn’t always as incredible as it was on that first journey to Belize, every saltwater angling vacation offers possibilities that simply cannot be found when fly fishing for trout. From sharks and cobia to bluefish and mackerel, my species list keeps growing with each new destination. I always appreciate the comfort and familiarity of trout rising on my home rivers, but there is something about the anticipation and mystery of an early morning sunrise hovering over the ocean.
Most anglers, after reaching a certain level of success with trout, start to look beyond trout and to the many species willing to chase a fly in saltwater. From the famous flats species like bonefish, tarpon, permit and redfish, to false albacore and striped bass to bluewater species like sailfish and dorado, the possibilities for fly fishing in the salt are mind boggling. Trout are often a springboard to angling adventures for exotic species around the globe.
Anglers looking towards chasing new species for the first time need to consider many factors before committing to a trip. Trout gear will rarely suffice for saltwater species, trout reels will explode and trout rods will splinter. Fly rods and reels, flies and terminal tackle will all be different and specific to the types of fish being targeted and other specialty gear may also be necessary.
While do-it-yourself saltwater fly fishing is possible in some locations for a beginner, it is almost always advisable to hire a guide, and in many places this is the only option. Most saltwater angling is so unlike trout fishing in a river that without an experienced guide, beginners would stand little chance of attaining their goals. The expenditure is well worth it when your vacation is based around fly fishing.
If all you have ever done is fly fish for trout, you must improve your casting range and accuracy. The need for long precise casts is common. Missed opportunities will also be common if all an angler can mange is a thirty foot cast.
Keep in mind that while landing a couple dozen trout is not all that uncommon, expectations must be adjusted when saltwater fly fishing. While for some species it may be a numbers game such as with schools of small, mudding bonefish, for others like large permit, a single fish is a victory for even the most experienced fly fisherman. If you choose a difficult species to land on fly for your first trip, such as a 100 pound Floriday Keys tarpon, be prepared to be humbled.
Finally, a species or group of species must be chosen which will lead the novice saltwater angler towards picking a destination. It is often possible to combine a vacation with non-angling family or friends in many locations that offer great fly fishing as well as other activities, beaches and nightlife. Other remote fly fishing lodges are spartan affairs that are geared strictly towards fishing. The food is almost always great and there will be cold beer at the end of a long day but besides fishing there may be little else to do at some exotic locales.
In tomorrow's Part 2 we’ll discuss these details that need to be considered before wading a sandy flat in the Bahamas or casting into a pod of blitzing stripers becomes a reality.
Brody Henderson, Senior Guide and Web Content Writer