Inshore Saltwater Fly Fishing - How To


welcome to the Orvis guide to

fly-fishing I am your host Tom

Rosenbauer and in this episode I want to

share something with you that I really

love and that's saltwater fly fishing in

shallow water it's mostly site fishing

which nearly every fly Fisher loves its

hunting the fish you see the fish you

sneak up on them you present a fly to

them and then you're off to the races

it's great fun hope you enjoy the show

stay with us


because this is the way you can


this show has been brought to you by

Orvis rod and tackle ontario yours to

discover Ontario's Algoma region where

Huron and superior meet some water fly

fishing can be long bouts of drifting

looking waiting anticipating when you

finally get on to the fish that's when

everything explodes it's a big ocean out

here the first thing you have to do is

find the kind of habitat that both the

fish and their prey like in saltwater

shallow areas predator fish like bone

fish red fish and stripers will

congregate to search for prey but like

in a freshwater lake not all shallow

water areas hold fish what's critical of

locating fish is finding the right

structure habitat that the prey prefers

shallow water holds much more of the

important food sources such as crabs

shrimp and bait fish that deep water

this is what draws the game fish we seek

additionally some species of game fish

come into the shallows to escape larger

predators such as sharks anything that

juts into the water and provides a haven

for prey like baitfish or crabs is a

likely place jetties rocky shorelines

and even docks can be places to find

saltwater fish and even a seemingly

monotonous and barren beach can be read

like a trout stream they're clues that

indicate fish holding structure both on

land and in the water not on beaches

look for points sandbars or little Bay's

where bigger fish can pen in bait fish

in an otherwise featureless shoreline

that's at least a good place to start of

course you always look first for fish

feeding on baitfish near the surface but

you don't always see that in places we

call flats or large expanses of shallow

water first look for signs that fish

have been feeding bone fish leave

depressions in the mud or sand when they

root for crabs and shrimp and because

the layer underneath oxidizes really

quickly from dark to light the darker

the marks the more recently bone fish

have been in the area also look for

patches of weeds or depressions on the

flats that hold crabs shrimp and

baitfish mangroves always hide food for

bone fish tarpon Barracuda sharks and

redfish so always search out places with

lots of mangroves in the tropics or at

least patches of them

besides structure there are other ways

of locating game fish in the shallows

Birds diving on baitfish is one of the

best it's amazing how quickly birds will

find feeding fish and dive on the bait

fish they push to the surface look for

baitfish jumping from the water fish

rising to the surface just like trout in

the stream or tails or fins sticking out

of the water these are the quickest ways

to locate feeding game fish intertidal

zones are some of the most productive

ecosystems in the world they're packed

with shrimp and crabs and baitfish and

all other kinds of life they're often

too dry or the waters too shallow for

game fish at low tide as the tide rises

on an incoming tide the game

fish then come in in search of these

prey items game fish respond to the

tides and follow a rising tide into the

shells to get at creatures they can't

get at low tide the shallow water of low

tide also makes it harder for prey to

escape because crabs shrimp and bait

fish have little room to maneuver in the

shallows outgoing tides also flush prey

from marshes and creeks bringing these

food sources to game fish that weighed

in slightly deeper water in general any

amount of water movement produces good

fishing and what are the outgoing or the

incoming tide is better really varies

from location to location okay now that

we understand what attracts game fish in

a shallow water let's examine how we fly

fish for them if you've done any

saltwater fishing you may have caught

fish with a lure like I'm doing here fly

fishing in salt water is just another

way of fishing it's just another way of

getting a lure to the fish in spin

fishing you have a weighted lure this is

a lead jig and you have skinny

monofilament line the weight of the lure

pulls this skinny line off the reel and

takes it out there in fly fishing it's

not that much different

you've got a lure attached to a piece of

monofilament line except I can't get

this lure very far by itself it won't

pull line off a reel so instead I cast

this thick fly line it has mass and this

is actually what I cast I cast the line

not the fly so the term casting a fly is

really a misnomer you're casting the

line the fly just goes along for the

ride you can cast farther and cover more

water with a lure on a spin rod but we

can imitate the same prey on a fly rod

because you can't get as much distance

with a fly rod it's more of a stalking

game where you try to get close to the

fish and make short accurate casts

that's part of the excitement of fly

fishing it's a more intimate and

challenging way of catching fish in

saltwater in shallow water fly fishing

the fish almost always move so cast need

to be quick and accurate

you often have only one shot at a

feeding fish so you have to make it

count look at all those fish coming at

us there's both fish everywhere

everywhere everywhere everywhere and

they're all around us and it's very very

frustrating when you have this there's a

shark in there too that fish got off


salt water rods are beefier in the butt

so that you can fight big fish and they

also throw a bigger size line you need

that heavier line size to cast into the

wind and throw the bigger flies that

you're throwing in salt water for

smaller bone fish small striped bass

redfish and speckled trout fish up to

about 10 pounds an eighth weight rod is

about right the same rod you might use

for freshwater bass when you get into

heavier winds bigger flies and bigger

fish like big striped bass small tarpon

Barracuda sharks and permit from ten to

fifty pounds a nine weight or ten weight

rod is a better choice for most shallow

water fishing a floating line is all you

need but there are times when you'll

need an intermediate or fast sinking

line especially in deep channels with

lots of current or when fishing deep

drop-offs leaders for shallow water

saltwater fly fishing are pretty simple

for most of the fishing you do a nine

foot 12 pound knotless liter is all you


reels are a lot more critical in

saltwater fly-fishing than they are in

freshwater fishing you need a reel

that'll handle at least 150 to 200 yards

of backing so it's going to be a bigger

reel it needs to have a stronger drag to

tire those bigger fish down a large

arbor can take inline quicker if you

have a fish that runs a long way and

then runs back at you you want to be

able to gather that line really quickly


once you find what habitat the fish are

on then it's a matter of stocking them

and that's the fun part

whether you're stocking fish on foot or

from a boat there are things you can do

to avoid scaring fish and to present the

fly in the proper manner even large game

fish are spooked by boats and by fly

lines landing near them so always try to

position yourself on the outside of a

school and if you can tell which

direction the fish are moving I always

try to have them moving toward you so

Jim we've got a bunch of fish working in

here in a fairly tight area so what's

the strategy and fishing like this well

you've got fish that are probably taking

worms that are right in this in this

region here we're gonna come in and try

to have good casts in here but I don't

want to get right in the middle of it I

just want to stand on just on the

outside understand the edge you're right

school that's feeding right not run

right in the mouth right because if we

drive through the middle we're gonna put

these fish down sometimes you'll see

signs on the surface like fish waking or

sticking their tails and dorsal fins in

the air when in shallow water but often

you have to spot them below the surface

polarized sunglasses with Amber copper

or rose tints are best and it's

essential to wear a hat to keep bright

light off your eyes most fish at you

stock will be moving so pay attention to

any movement below the surface look for

these things

nervous water wear a riffle runs

contrary to the wind shapes in the water

that move the flash of a fish turning on

its side to feed or the glint of a fin

sticking above the water learn to

recognize the shape and color of the

fish you're looking for bone fish can

range from almost white to bluish gray

to almost black permit and Barracuda are

the same shade with a black tail red

fish look rusty colored and striped bass

and tarpon are typically blueish gray or

green fish are easiest to spot on bright

sunny days over light bottoms and

difficult to spot over mix bottoms or

grass beds it sometimes helps to watch

the light spots in-between darker

patches for fish

passing through one of the things you

want to do when you're stocking fish in

shallow flat water like this is to move

carefully move slowly shuffle your feet

and try not to push awake in front of

you fish can sense that wake in the

water and they know you're coming you

don't want to just stride right out into

the flat because you will scare the fish

what you hope for is to have the fish

coming at you that's the best shot

because you throw the fly in front of

them and then the fly it looks like it's

escaping from the fish if you don't get

that shot if you get a crossing shot

that's not quite as good but it's still

decent the worst shot of all is a going

away shot where the fish are going away

from you because you have to pretty much

throw over their back and then the fly

comes back at them once in a while

they'll take it that way you take the

shot anyway poling a flat's boat is a

superb skill and the best guides can

sneak up on a fish with barely a sound

but fishing with a guide is a team


you have to do your part not only with

casting and presenting the fly but also

by keeping noise to a minimum and if

you're fishing with a buddy

make sure you not only help look for

fish but keep track of his or her line

to make sure there are no tangles if a

big fish decides to take line



when you're fishing in a boat with a

guide whether it's a flat boat or a big

offshore boat you always want to be able

to communicate both distance and

direction so direction you use the

points of the clock straight off the bow

is always 12 o'clock this way is always

9 o'clock this way is always 3 o'clock

with the other points in between so you

both can communicate you've got a

relative frame of reference the other

thing you need to be able to communicate

with your guide is distance so what you

do is you make a cast how long was that

cast 35 feet okay it looks like 35 feet

to me so we're both in agreement now

when Greg says bone fish at 11 o'clock

35 feet I know it's going to be that

length aligned in that direction one of

the problems some anglers have is they

forget the boats moving the fly won't

move until all the slack and the line

has been removed so make sure that if

the boats moving toward the fish when

you present the fly that you immediately

take up all the slack in the line now

that you're in position let's talk about

ways that you on your own or you and

your guide can work together as a team

to place the fly as naturally as

possible once you see a moving fish

where should you put the fly in relation

to that fish in shallow water you want

to lead it by just a little bit you

sometimes even want to put the fly right

on the fish's head or right in front of

his head the fly is going to sink

quickly to the fish's level when you get

in deeper water it's more like a game of

chess where you're strategic or it's

more like shooting a bird in that you've

got to let that fly sink to the fishes

level it's going to take longer so you

have to lead that fish try to figure out

where it's gonna be let the fly sink to

the fish so that you can begin stripping

right when the flies at the fish's level

once you get to fly close to the fish

your next decision is how to retrieve it

some fish will rush right over and grab

the fly when it lands which makes your

job simple but most times that doesn't

happen where you present the fly and how

you retrieve it is usually a lot more

important than the fly pattern you have

on so you need to experiment with

retrieves sometimes a little bit of

Oh steady bump bump bump sometimes a

very slow retreat sometimes a very fast

aggressive strip works better you never

know what's gonna work so you have to

keep experimenting until you crack the

code in salt water instead of imitating

insects we imitate prey like crustaceans

and baitfish they might range from tiny

shrimp invitations for bone fish permit

and redfish to large baitfish flies that

imitate such fishes herring and mullet

crab flies are especially effective in

shallow waters as most game fish find it

very hard to resist a crab when we

return we'll learn some of the basic

cast you need to get to the fish and how

to handle them once they take the fly


casting in saltwater is so important

it's more important than in any other

kind of fishing not only does the double

haul help you with distance it also

helps you cast into the wind let's go to

my friend Pete cut sir for some solid

tips on the double haul there are times

when we do have to gain a little bit

more line speed let's say we're dealing

with windy conditions casting larger

flies may be a little bit more distance

and that's when the double haul is gonna

come and play and a lot of people think

it's just a saltwater cast believe it or

not I use the double haul whenever I

cast say over 30 feet it actually takes

a lot of strain off of our casting hand

it makes that cast easier when you're

dealing with those longer distances

before you start the double haul you

want to make sure that you can get that

pick up and lay down cast consistently

nice smooth tight loops and your

shooting line consistently as well once

you start to shoot line then we can

think about that double haul but first

we need to understand how this cast

works when we make a basic back cast

we're starting with that form forearm

bringing that rod back then applying

that little pop to a stop or that little

flick then when we come forward doing

the same thing just in the opposite

direction think pop to a stop pop to a

stop with a smooth acceleration in

between when I start to haul the haul

actually does the same thing as that

flick to a stop

I'm gonna lock out my wrist and just tug

on the line and you're gonna notice that

that line starts to jump behind me and

in front of me there's one key part

though we have to think about with this

double haul and that's the reposition

after we tug on this line we have to

drift back to set up for that haul in

the forward cast so we come back haul

and then drift set up you know maybe a

haul of 18 to 24 inches then haul and

drift on the forward cast haul and drift

come forward haul and drip when

practicing hauling I like to practice

one side at a time I like to make that

haul in that reposition and let that

line set on the ground then haul and

reposition in front of me working with

that same consistent length of line when

you're casting or actually fishing

you're gonna do the same thing just

you're not going to let it touch you

might make a couple hauls and false cast

in between it's a little bit more of an

recip all not too much more so we halt

reposition halt reposition then when I

deliver that cast I'm gonna make that

nice halt down by my pocket remember to

feather that line back up underneath

that finger closing that bale and then

we can start to strip that line back in

once you've learned the basics of the

double halt now we have to begin to try

and fine tune that double halt remember

when we're saltwater fishing speed and

accuracy is of the essence we want to

get that fly to that fish right away so

we don't want to false cast a lot so

there's a couple things that we can do

halt shoot a little bit of line halt

shoot that line now back underneath that

finger closing that Bale that's going to

help get that long cast quickly remember

get that fly to the fish okay don't have

it up in the air as we progress with

this double haul let's say we're dealing

with windy conditions and we got to make

that nice tight loop and deal with that

win what we want to start to do is make

this haul a nice smooth transition from

one halt to the next and our hauling

hand actually starts to move in a little

bit of a circle we're gonna haul

reposition halt reposition halt

reposition we're gonna keep that hand

moving so nice and smooth reposition

nice and smooth reposition keeping that

hand continuously moving and that can

help us deliver that fly how quickly to

that fish when dealing with quick moving

fish we want to get that fly in front of

that fish as soon as possible if that

fish is let's say at a 90 degree angle

directly off my right hand shoulder and

I was just casting straight out in front

of me I can cut that angle in half maybe

make a cast at a 45 then quickly to that

ninety so I'd pick this line up cut that

angle in half then turn and deliver that

fly out to that fish as quickly as

possible if that fish was let's say

beyond 90 degrees what I could do is

make a false cast in front of me and

make a back cast delivering that fly to

that fish pick it up cast a misdirection

then deliver that fly out behind me to

that fish and that's how you can get

that fly quickly in front of those


in saltwater it's important to avoid

raising the rod tip to strike this gives

you a bad hooking angle plus if the fish

misses the fly you don't want to launch

your fly into the air instead try to

always strip strike which is basically

just making a long strip if you miss the

fish it might jump on the fly again and

if you hook the fish once it's tight to

the fly then you can raise your rod tip

a good rule of thumb is to never strike

until you feel the weight of the fish

give it a long strip then raise the rod

tip let's hear our my friend veteran

bone fish guy Jason Franklin of h2o

Outfitters describes it one of the key

things with presenting to saltwater fish

specifically mone fish is that when you

strip what a lot of people do and in

saltwater we call this routing is that

when they feel the fish they lift in

salt water you don't want to do that

it's pretty much guarantees that you're

not going to catch the fish what you

need to do in salt water is what we call

a strip strike so you presented the fish

strip strip notice the rod tips in the


strip fill the fish once you fill the

fish then you lift and by the strip

you're normally setting the hook


fly fishing in saltwater inshore

shallows is a lot of fun

you have to stock the game fish you have

to make precise cast so you don't spook

the fish and you have to fight the fish

properly so you don't lose them best of

all this type of fishing is very visual

you'll usually see the fish take your

fly for most anglers that's the ultimate

thrill and challenge of this kind of fly

fishing inshore fly-fishing can be found

almost anywhere in the world usually you

do it from a boat but in many places you

can do it from shore waiting it's

relatively inexpensive to get started

and it's really easy to do I hope you've

enjoyed this week's show on shallow

water fly fishing in saltwater thanks

very much for letting me share my

passion with you hope you enjoyed it and

if you've never treated yourself to

shallow water fly fishing in salt water

you really should try it because it's a

lot of fun this show has been brought to

you by Orvis rod and tackle ontario

yours to discover Ontario's alkmaar

region where huron and superior me