Saltwater fly fishing has become my newest obsession. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending long days in Colorado on my local rivers casting to big, beautiful trout. But, the demanding, exciting saltwater experience keeps drawing me back to the ocean. This past year, I have gotten to saltwater fish in Mexico’s Ascension Bay, Belize’s Caribbean, and Louisiana’s Gulf of Mexico. I have made many mistakes in preparing for and what I bring on these trips. I am finally figuring it out and feeling super prepared for my May trip to Christmas Island to really put what I have learned to the test. Here are five things that I did not bring/do before that I have really regretted. If you follow these, you are guaranteed to have a much better saltwater experience.
- Strip guards or tape: Protect against fly line burns. I highly recommend purchasing strip guards or buying sport tape before your saltwater trip. A giant tarpon takes your fly and speeds off, you are guaranteed to get a terrible fly line burn if you do not have strip guards or tape. You are, also, stripping all day long. I like wearing strip guards or tape even if I am not fishing for a fish that would necessarily cause burns. If you do get fly line burns, it can ruin your trip and be so painful. You can also lose your fish! If it burns so bad, you can drop the line or lose tension.
- Bug spray, calamine, hydrocortisone cream: There are some places that you go saltwater fly fishing where you will incur a massive amount of bug bites. When we went to Belize, we got eaten alive by sand flies. We did not have bug spray, calamine or hydrocortisone cream. When we did get bug spray, it did not repel against these annoying creatures. I had to wear the one pair of long pants I had every day at night, because the bugs were so bad. We had so many bug bites that our ankles swelled up and we were up all night itching. The first thing I bought in the airport was hydrocortisone cream and calamine. I wish that I had those things during my trip. I would have been a lot more comfortable.
- Fully covering sun clothes: Not only do you want long sleeve sun shirts and pants for fishing all day in the hot sun, you want them at night for the bugs. But sunscreen is not enough for multiple days on the water saltwater fly fishing. I wore a bathing suit the first day out and put on a lot of sunscreen frequently. I still got a bad sunburn and coupled with my bug bites, caused me to get a really bad heat rash that was painful. I will never go on a saltwater fly fishing trip without multiple long sleeve sun shirts, long pants and buffs. I learned my lesson the hard way wearing a bathing suit all day, even with ample sunscreen.
- Practicing beforehand with a heavier weight rod and in a real salt scenario: Everyone knows that you need to practice your cast before a saltwater trip. You need to be able to cast far accurately. A lot of times in fresh water fishing, we do not need to do a full on cast. So, we suck at this. On top of that, you are casting in the wind with a much heavier weight rod than you are used to. Get a salt water set up and practice with it beforehand. Get used to casting the heavier rod. And don’t just practice your cast, practice the real world scenario. Get a bunch of line out to your side and put your fly in your hand. Imagine yourself standing on the bow of that boat and choose a stick or target of some sort in the grass pretty far from you. Imagine that is your fish. Imagine you sight that fish. Toss that fly in the air and take only a few false casts to try and land that fly on your target. Practice doing this with your heavier rod and moving your target around. You will be ready! Also, I highly recommend doing this on a windy day. Learn how tight you have to make your loops or do a side arm cast to battle the wind.
- Energy goo or bars: Saltwater fly fishing is exhausting. You are up at the crack of dawn and fish all day non-stop in the beating sun. You are working your butt off to cast a heavy rod many times. You are going to be so tired. I recommend bringing energy goo or bars with you so that you can power through the day and keep making good casts and not feel too tired to keep casting. You don’t want to go in early or miss fish because you are too tired.
Do yourself a favor and plan a saltwater fly fishing trip. Are you vacationing with the family in Mexico? Sneak away for a day trip. It does not have to be a full on week, expensive thing. You will be so happy you did. Make sure you are prepared, though. VVA has a great selection of saltwater flies, leader, tippet, gear, etc. They are all super knowledgeable about salt fly fishing, too. Make sure that you practice and have all of the things that I mentioned above. It has bitten me too many times before.
Enjoy casting huge flies super far to massive fish. Enjoy watching these fish chase your fly. It is the most exhilarating thing that you can do! It will definitely get your heart rate up and blood pumping. You literally feel like you are performing on a stage at the front of that boat. And the pressure is insane. You waited an hour for a school and it is finally approaching. You have a couple seconds to get ready and make the cast. You have to make the perfect cast, you have to strip perfectly and then set perfectly. For those of us who do mostly freshwater fishing, the set can be the hardest part. Every instinct tells you to trout set, but you have to strip set.
Saltwater fly fishing has made me a better angler. Not only has it improved my casting ability, it has helped me develop a patience and focus that I never knew that I had. Be prepared and you are guaranteed to have the time of your life.
Author: Kinsey Ann Durham