Your first several saltwater fly fishing trips will most likely happen under the supervision of a seasoned fishing guide who carries all of the gear that you need to catch fish on the flats. That said, there are still several pieces of equipment to make your saltwater angling experience more comfortable and productive. These common-sense investments are easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and can even save an entire saltwater fly fishing trip from disaster.
On my first saltwater fly fishing trip, it did not take long for me to realize that the ocean can be an unfriendly place for visitors from the mountains. Wearing only my standard summer trout fishing outfit, (shorts, flip flops, and short sleeved t-shirt) I was totally unprepared for the demanding conditions that I encountered on my first fly fishing trip into the Florida backcountry. The blazing sun, tropical heat, and relentless mosquito attacks penetrated my weak defenses. This taught me a valuable clothing lesson that I will never forget. From here on out, I will always bring long pants like the new Simms Guide Pants, a light weight, long sleeved shirt like the Patagonia Sunshade Crew, powerful sunglasses, and a full supply of high SPF sunscreen.
These simple things will protect you from both bugs and bright sun. That way you can save energy, stay hydrated, and do not get burnt. For trips where you plan on wade fishing, it is important to bring some lightweight foot protection like the Simms Flats Sneakers or Simms Zipit Booties. These apparel suggestions might seem like a no-brainer, but for me they were not, and I got fried.
Tackle and Tools
Many of the greatest saltwater fly fishing destinations are far away from fly shops and gear suppliers. This means that it is a good idea to come prepared with extra flies and tackle. This way you do not have to quit fishing if something gets broken, lost, or stolen. I always take a single fly box. This box includes an assortment of saltwater flies, extra fly line, and a few spools of saltwater tippet. Another tool that you may want to pick up for your first saltwater trip is a pair of strong saltwater angling pliers like the Abel #2 Pliers or the Hatch Nomad Pliers. They will most likely stay in the sheath while you fish with a guide. However it will become very useful once you step out onto the flats on your own.
Rod and Reel
Your guide will most likely have a big selection of saltwater fly rods for you to use. However, it is still wise to pack your own. There are numerous benefits to supplying your own rod and reel. Probably the most important benefit is that it allows you to practice your casting all year long. You can practice with the same setup that you will be using to fish.
The best way to become a good fly caster is to practice. The only way to get regular practice is to own your own saltwater setup. I recommend choosing a 9 or 10 weight rod with a corresponding reel. This is beneficial because you can fish for a wide range of game species so matter where you travel. A few of my favorite setups are the Sage SALT rod with Hatch Finatic 9 Plus reel, and the more affordable Scott Tidal rod with 8/10 Nautilus CCF-X2 reel.
It is not cheap to load up on gear for your first saltwater fly fishing trip. However, if you do it right early on, you will save time, money, and hassle down the road. It only takes a these few things to open the door to a whole new world of fly fishing trips and opportunities. As always, remember to visit Vail Valley Anglers’ online store to pick up everything you need to begin your saltwater fly fishing journey.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer