Saltwater fly fishing has been an addiction since my first visit to Belize in the 1990s and it’s a passion that has very nearly eclipsed my freshwater fishing activities. It it seems I’m not the only one – saltwater fly fishing has been the growing area of our sport over the last 25 years. Skills learnt fishing around our own coastline translate well and with saltwater fly fishing overseas becoming ever more accessible there’s never been a better time to ‘give salt a go’.
Here are my top ten reasons to go saltwater fly fishing:
1. Value for money
Many Caribbean saltwater destinations offer excellent value. A full 7 night/ 6 day fishing trip can be as little as £4,500 inclusive of international flights.
2. Stunning destinations
The areas fished are some of the most beautiful in the world. There’s little that eclipses the beautiful scenery you’ll find when poling around the white sand flats of the Bahamas and Belize or remote Indian Ocean atolls. If you fancy fishing with the sun on your back in an idyllic tropical paradise then flats fishing is a must.
3. Translation of skills
Many of the techniques required to successfully stalk trout and grayling apply to fishing while wading the flats; accurate casting, patience and stealth will reap rewards in the saltwater arena. Fishermen used to battling large salmon in fast currents will easily adapt to using angles during a fight with saltwater species.
4. Sight fishing
The visual element is one of saltwater fishing’s biggest draws. The angler becomes a hunter, moving quietly in knee-deep warm water searching for well camouflaged tailing fish. From the moment you spot the fish, to the cast and hook up, you will see the fly, the fish, and its reaction to your offering. Watching it give chase, perhaps sticking its tail out of the water as goes for the fly and that moment of connection, is incredibly exciting.
Saltwater species are incredibly powerful. I love to watch the sheer disbelief on the face of a first time bone fisherman as a fish, no more than two-and-a-half pounds, tears line off the reel at an alarming rate, straight into the backing. Although a salmon or trout will swim at approximately six to seven miles per hour, bonefish have been clocked at over 30mph. The larger species like permit, tarpon and trevally reach a new level altogether and will test both your gear and your resolve.
How to catch a bonefish on a fly
6. Species variety
This is one of the most attractive facets of all and some destinations offer over 100 species to target on a fly rod. Each species requires different tactics, and often equipment, for a successful outcome. Environments differ too, ranging from wading ankle deep water for bonefish, to fishing for triggerfish in coral holes, to using a skiff in deeper water for permit and tarpon, to wading the surf line for giant trevally. Variety is definitely the spice of life when fishing the salt. You never know what will swim around the corner next.
7. Gear accumulation
Although few will readily admit it, anglers love kit. 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 and permit, 10# for milkfish, barracuda, snook and small trevally, 11 or 12# for giant trevally and tarpon. Although many operations have loan equipment, most anglers will end up buying their own gear. It won’t be long before strange fly creations will adorn your box, and a whole new wardrobe of saltwater clothing and flats boots will arrive in your cupboard.
8. Big fish
Saltwater has the lot if you are eager to tangle with fish that will give you a serious battle. Metre long giant trevally will amaze with their power, 100lb tarpon leaping clean out of the water provide a serious adrenaline rush, a 20lb permit taking off on its first run is something to behold, a 10lb bonefish in six inches of water will fight as hard as anything, and a 140lb sailfish tail walking away as you try to clear the line will leave a lasting impression. You will be endlessly amazed how hard you can actually fight a fish on a fly rod.
How to fight a big fish on a fly rod
9. New skills to learn
Although freshwater fishing skills translate well, the saltwater environment presents a whole new set of skills to master. How tides affect the flats, what species hunt and eat in what depth, and which types of flat, bay or channel are preferred by which fish. The expert guides will teach you what fly patterns to use, best leader and line set ups, and best knots. Just spotting these fish is a new skill and there are always new casting skills to master to maximise your chances of success.
10. Non-fisher and family friendly destinations
Many of these tropical saltwater fly fishing destinations lend themselves well to non-fishers and families. The Bahamas, Belize, Mexico and Seychelles are all very attractive holiday spots in their own right. Plenty of the saltwater operations can offer a mix fishing with diving, snorkelling, birdwatching, sightseeing and a range of other activities.
Whenever I set foot on a flat or the bow of a skiff I feel a shiver of anticipation. Every day is different in this incredible environment and it’s a real privilege to fish in some of the most untouched corners of the world. We work closely with a whole host of saltwater operations. We know exactly which operation will suit you and your needs, what flats fish best in which tidal phases, where’s best at what time of the year, and what cutting edge kit and techniques you will need to be successful. For more inspiration, here’s a quick video round up of top 10 reasons to go saltwater fly fishing.
Top ten reasons to fly fish in saltwater
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.