My first ever salt water fly fishing was actually in Scotland for mackerel, fun little blighters on a 6 weight but whilst they're brilliant fish they don't teach you much about how to go finding the big boys in warm water. I remember doing my research, starting with flies, a clouser - that's what the websites say, check. Then onto where to find the fish, structure, structure, structure and current. Sounds simple, what next? Tides - of course the tides swell in and out flooding lagoons and pushing baitfish around but my word when you read information on fishing and the tides you get every possible variation on contradictory stories you can imagine! After reading all of the above I felt armed and ready to go but on arrival on that first beach things went horribly wrong for so many reasons. I can’t pretend to have learned everything and solved all my problems nor do I wish to be preaching any gospel but here’s a few hurdles I came across and how I learned to deal with them.
Waves are a nightmare. There, it’s out there now. You cast out and next thing you know your line is every which way apart from where you wanted it. Of course an intermediate or sinker solves this problem but the surf still washes the running line at your feet around every single piece of coral, around your legs and ties the most exquisite knots in the process. First tip – GET A BLOODY STRIPPING BASKET. It’s doesn’t need to be fancy as this clearly shows.
Next thing goes without saying but always try and appropriately lead a moving fish. The amount of fish I squandered chances on by smacking a fly down too close to them was silly – you’d think I’d have learned right? Some fish respond to commotion like that but others give them a solid 10-15’. And try and make your fly swim away from them, not towards them or back towards your boat. Both are sure fire ways to eventually spook the fish.
Finding fish is difficult too. At first I looked at the ocean as a barren expanse of nothing, just wave after wave rolling in but now I can appreciate the harmonic chaos of it all. The bottom isn’t flat, there are plenty channels running through the sand, any corals, weed and rocks provide shelter for baitfish but also current turbulence that pushes those baitfish around. Tides create current and current flows differently in different areas of lagoons and beaches, look for the rips and any narrows. The baitfish have to get pulled through there. Or crabs get uncovered on rising tides for other predators. Approach with an inquisitive mind willing to learn and it’s amazing how nothing turns into incredible detail. Don’t forget to look for birds too, there’s a sure fire way to find predators. I’ve seen birds diving 4m off the shore – there’s always fish where the birds are!
For trout fishers – DON’T STRIKE! Strip striking is the best tactic, pull with the line hand and lean into the fish with the rod hand rather than whipping the rod up.
Stripping guards are a godsend – get some, your fingers will thank you.
Knots. Learn some good ones. Bimini twists are your best friend. I used Uni knots for everything else.
Get a solid pair of pliers, unhooking a toothy creature with warm water salty fish strength isn’t that much fun.
Blue is an amazing lens colour option for open ocean but I’ve found browns and coppers to be great just about anywhere. For maximum adaptability brown is the way forward.
Make sure your casting is up to scratch. It surprised me how long my standard cast in the salt is and bear in mind casting heavy gear all day is taxing on the body.
I’ve mentioned it a few times in past weeks but writing this is making me want a saltwater trip so so badly. The exhilaration of warm water species is just superb. The whole package of standing somewhere in tropical weather, sight fishing, hooking a bullet and then whatever happens next whether, landed, sharked or lost. It’s just great. Have a good week all!