I have been addicted to saltwater fly fishing since my first trip to Belize in the 1990s. Since then the addiction has grown into a passion that has very nearly eclipsed my freshwater fishing. Although we are from a nation of predominantly freshwater fishing for trout and salmon, saltwater fly fishing has been the growing area of our sport for the last 20 years. Although there is an ever increasing domestic saltwater movement around our coastline, from an international travel perspective saltwater fly fishing is more accessible to many and many skills that translate well from one to the other. If you have been looking at your normal yearly salmon trip and are perhaps thinking of making a change then I would urge you to consider venturing into the saltwater environment as I am sure you will find it as captivating as I do. I would like to give you a rundown of my top ten reasons you should try it.
1. Value for money
Most saltwater trips across the Caribbean are approximately half the price of a salmon fishing trip, some of them considerably cheaper. With current exchange rates not so much in our favour at present a move into the saltwater arena will give you excellent value for money. A full 7 night/ 6 day fishing trip can be as little as £3,500 inclusive of international flights, less than three days salmon fishing in some countries.
2. Stunning destinations
The areas around the world that we wade the flats of are some of the most beautiful in the world. From poling around the white sand flats of the Bahamas or Belize to the atolls of the Indian Ocean if you would like to swap your waders, wading jacket and woolly hat for a pair of shorts, T-shirt and sunglasses in some of the world’s tropical paradises then flats fishing is a must for you. Perhaps you might like to feel the sun on your back through the dark cold days of spring after the shooting season has finished.
3. Translation of skills
For those who spend their time stalking trout or grayling and like making accurate casts to fish they can see then you will be using the same skill set while wading the flats. For those used to battling large salmon in fast currents the ability to use the angles during a fight will come naturally.
4. Sight fishing
One of the biggest draws to saltwater fishing is the visual element. The angler becomes a hunter, moving quietly in knee deep warm water in search of tailing fish that are often well camouflaged. From the moment you spot the fish to the cast to the hook up you will see the fly, the fish and its reaction to your offering. You will see it give chase, perhaps stick its tail out of the water as it attempts to eat your fly and that moment of connection. It is highly exciting.
Saltwater species are incredibly powerful and I love to watch someone’s face as they hook into their first bonefish. The look of sheer disbelief as a fish of no more than 2 ½ lbs tears line of their reel at an alarming rate and straight into the backing. As for the larges species such as permit, tarpon or trevally then we have reached a new level. Although a salmon or trout will swim at approximately 6 -7 mph bonefish have been clocked at over 30 mph. The larges species will test your gear and your resolve.
6. Species variation
This perhaps is one of the most attractive facets of all. Some destinations have the ability to catch over 100 species on a fly rod which in itself is a challenge. Each species requires different tactics, often equipment and environments to chase them in. From wading the ankle depth water for bonefish to fishing to triggerfish in the coral holes to skiff in deeper water of permit and tarpon to wading the surf line for trevally nowhere is it more true that that variety is the spice of life then when fishing the salt. You never know what will swim around the corner next.
7. Gear accumulation
Although none of us will admit it, especially to our other halves, we are all tackle gear heads when it comes down to it. Many of us live by the moto “He who dies with the most toys wins” and the saltwater flats require an array of new toys. Different species require different line weights; 7 or 8# for bonefish, 9# for triggers, permit, 10# for milkfish, barracuda, snook and small trevally, 11 or 12# for trevally and tarpon. Although many operations have loan equipment for those not wishing to make a huge investment no knowing if they will love it or not, most will want their own toys. Strange fly creations will adorn your box or pack, back packs, flats boots, saltwater clothing, caps, polaroids, boat bags and spray jackets are all tools of the trade.
8. Big fish
If you like to tangle with large fish that will give you a serious battle and the odds are pretty even then you will find the largest and meanest fish in the sea. Giant trevally will amaze you with their power, 100 lbs tarpon coming clean out of the water, a 20 lbs permit that gives you line burn as it takes off on its first run, a 10 lbs bonefish in 6 inches of water or a 140 lbs sailfish tail walking away from you as you try and clear the line. All will leave you with a lasting impression. You will be amazed how hard you can actually fight a fish on a fly rod.
9. New skills to learn
As fly fishermen we are all constantly trying to improve our skills and learn new techniques, tactics and about the environment our quarry inhabits. Although our casting and fishing skills translate well the saltwater environment presents a whole new set of skills to master; how do tides effect the flats, what species hunt in what depths and types of flats, bays or channels. What do they eat, what new fly patterns to use and why, leader and line set ups, new knots and new casting skills or even just spotting fish. All can be taught by the expert guides you will fish with how are just as excited as you are.
10. Non-fisher and family friendly destinations
Many of these tropical destinations that are saltwater fly fishing destinations also lend themselves well to taking a non – fisher or your family with you. The Bahamas, Belize, Mexico and the Seychelles are all destinations that are very attractive holiday spots in their own right. Many saltwater operations can do both.
Every time I set foot on a flat or the bow of a skiff I feel a shiver of anticipation. I know it is likely I am going to experience something new every day in the ever changing saltwater environment. Every day is a school day and every day I am on the flats I will have the opportunity to witness fish and wildlife in some of the most untouched corners of the world. There are a huge host of saltwater operations across the globe that we know intimately. We know exactly which operation will suit you and your needs, what flats fish best in which tidal phases, what times of year you should be at specific destinations and what cutting edge kit and techniques you will need to be successful.
If you think this might be the year that you step into the salt then please contact Peter McLeod or Alex Jardine or call our office on +44(0)1980 847389.