Welcome to Salt Water Fly Fishing

Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.


Saltwater Fly Fishing For Inshore Game Fish:

Down East

By Capt. Douglas Sinclair

Congratulation Doug - You Made It!

I thought catching redfish was everything. Stalking reds. Sneaking up on a pod, a pair, a single or a tailing red takes patience and stealth. They are easy targets in contrast to their surroundings. Molten cooper forms against muted green and blue grass. Hooking a redfish is an angler's dream-come true. On the first explosive run your heart pounds as he spools into your backing. Out 60 yards then straight back at you. When he sees the boat he will angle off, spooling more line. The redfish makes another run. Just when you think you have him, he turns and makes another. This can go on for 30 minutes or longer. Even an 18-inch red will rate a high-five. Holding and keeping that rod tip high, watching and feeling the rod bend, reeling and slacking off, you can feel his strength and power, and it is a great feeling. You'll feel exhausted and swear that life can't get any better. But, it can.

Portland Head

I met Captain John Ford of Portland Guide Service (Maine) on a clear cool August morning. Everything changed when I hooked up my first striper. Stripers are an awesome fighting fish. They even look like redfish, but much stronger. By comparison, they crash flies like snook or jacks, pull like baby tarpon, run and line you like bones and redfish. Their mouths are like reds and bones with crusher plates nestled in their throats. But unlike reds they have no lip teeth, so you can hold them with a thumb in their mouth. Muster all your strength to hold the rod when they dive. They rise and run like torpedoes slicing and dicing the waves, making erratic moves to shake the hook. You have not really fished until you've hooked a striper on a fly.

Portland Wharf He looked at me and just shook his head. I had on two shirts, a blue fleece sweater under a heavy green slicker, hat, long pants and wool socks. Best ingredients for floating in water we use in Florida to make ice-cubes. I couldn't believe how cold it was mid-fifty's. I'm from Florida where the average temperature on a summer morning is 78 degrees. (Even at 4:45 am.) I had a little adjusting to do. Capt. John had the coffee and it did help.
The Double Haul The floating dock was five-feet below the street. There were stairs leading to, and ending in the water. A side step put you on the dock. Here the tide runs from 9 to 11 feet. This makes getting to your boat a challenge. Figure these tides would cover about 40% of Florida. We set out armed with two fly rods: an 8wt Loomis with 9wt Fly Line and a 9wt Sage RPLXi with Lead-Core Shooting Taper, each rig with fluorocarbon shock tippet. Our flies consisted of your typical grocery flies (large bunkers and sand lance) and a few of my favorites for Reds and Snook.

Portland Harbor Portland harbor is a busy place in the early morning. Commercial traffic from trawlers, shrimpers, long-liners, ferry boats, lobster boats and tugs making way in the quiet of the morning. Cruise liners, container ships and oil tankers are lined up in Fore River near Commercial Street. The 90-horse Honda 4-stroke quietly purred. I hunkered down and drank my coffee - thankful for the day at hand.

St. George

We pushed ahead into Casco Bay. The 17-foot center console Mako gave us a solid, dry ride in a moderate chop as we inched our way to the outer boundary of the no-wake zone. In the low light I could just make out the movement of seals swimming among thousands of lobster markers. Seal love lobsters and will go to great lengths including raiding traps to get them. Stripers like them to. Sometimes lobster fisherman will find stripers in their traps. Stripers will eat almost anything when they are hungry, which is most of the time.

Stripers migrate to Maine during the summer from Chesapeake Bay, then return south in the fall. They migrate north along the Atlantic seaboard making their way to the Casco Bay in search of food consisting of Pollock, mackerel, anchovies, pilchards, menhaden, crabs, lobster and grass shrimp. As long as they have cool, fast moving water and plenty of bait, stripers will be ravenous and plentiful. They are found outside along the ledges where drops of twenty feet or more are common, or in the river flats where fast dropping tide traps baitfish for easy pickings.

Cove

John pointed out landmarks as we motored past Fish Point and Halfway Rock, past Mackworth Island and The Brothers to a quiet area near Yarmouth. John's boat, The Double Haul, rounded a bell buoy as we headed north to a beautiful cove. The cove is flanked by huge ledges on the north and south and by tall pines that break the wind. Water depth is five feet with a grassy bottom that holds all types of bait and grass shrimp.

Local Moose

High tide gives good cover for these marauding predators. Stripers are known to strike pray as the tide starts to fall. We positioned ourselves parallel to the grass line about 75 feet out on a drift past a large boulder. You can see the distinctive tail swirl as stripers patrol along the grass edge. Even in the deeper water they move about a foot below the surface. Their unmistakable horizontal black stripes are easy to spot as they accelerate past us, about fifty feet away. One. Three. More stripers run past oblivious to our presence, even when Capt John started the engine to reposition Double Haul.

I cast a yellow Hot Lips imitation on 9wt Slime Line. Out sixty feet and 11-o'clock the sinking line pulls the fly down and I start the strip. The retrieve is fast, since stripers like moving baitfish. But, the cast is also blind, since it is too dark to sight fish. On the third cast, a striper and four of his pals follow the fly to within ten feet of Double Haul. What an awesome sight. A fourth cast brings another striper who repeatedly strikes the fly with its tail. "He's trying to kill the fly," says John. Three or four successive slaps with his tail and the striper backs off. I've never seen a game fish do this. But this is common for stripers hitting baitfish near the surface.

So I stopped stripping. The line slackened and as I started to mend the line the striper came back and gobbled down the fly. Now he makes an explosive run for the boulder.

"We've got to turn him or he'll wrap the line around the rock."

Keeping the rod low, I pulled hard, turned the fish and reeled him back towards the boat. In a short time the 21-inch 'schoolie' is boated, photographed and released. Compared to a redfish, and one of almost any size, it would take a lot more to get him to the boat. Stripers don't seem as paranoid as redfish. Once to the boat, they seem relatively easy to handle. They seem almost docile, as Capt John demonstrated by putting his thumb in the stripers mouth.

Striper

We had a ball catching and releasing schoolies and we could have spent many more hours there. But it was time to move on and try a few of Capt. John's other favorite areas. Heading southeast, we passed Cow Island on our way into Hussy Sound. I noticed the swells as we passed more lobster buoys. These buoys are everywhere. Lobsters are prolific breeders and grow quickly in the cool ocean water. With the tide going out and the wind blowing up from the south, it made for some interesting seas.

Lobster Boats The waves came in sets of four. There was a lull between the sets. Rising up and then falling,it felt like we were suspended, by magical straps, holding us in place while the ocean passed beneath us. This rolling water is prominent outside the protection of the harbor. I've been in water like this but only in storms out of Ponce Inlet. It's an uneasy feeling if you aren't used to it. As John mentioned a few times, "my brother loves to stand on the bow and cast flies into the froth after a wave passes to the ledges." It takes a little getting used to. Figure you're on a hydraulic elevator that is hoisting you up and then letting you back down. Coastline You can see the wave recede and the ledges exposed about forty feet below. It is unbelievable. That's where the stripers are lurking and hiding in cover around the rock ledges. Even with these conditions, stripers are prolific in the rolling water. We worked an area along the cliffs. Out only 100 yards from the rocks, Captain John cut the engine. "We'll be ok. With the tide and the wind, we'll just bob here in place." I noticed a blue and white lobster buoy near by. John was right we didn't really move much. He did start the engine a few times to position us better. All in all, we just stayed where he put us. John landed a nice striper as we bobbed up and down in the eight-foot swells.

Time to move on. Off to the races, I mean flats. I love fishing flats. Maine has really beautiful flats. They can be found anywhere that rivers empty into the bay or island creeks edged with tall grass. As you can imagine it's crystal clear even in eight feet of water. You can see the bottom, the shells and sand. As we motored southwest towards Long Island and Luckse Sound, the sun was just coming up. We moved across rolling water heading for Whitehead Passage, past Trotts Rock, north again to Little Diamond and to the secret flats known only to Captain John.

Maine Flats Rays of sunlight spread out across the sea forming a wide triangle from a narrow slit on the horizon. The bell buoy glistened in the morning sun. I felt the rays penetrate my jacket. My body picked up its warmth and I forgot where I was. It's hard to believe that you can fish a shoreline edged by sheer cliffs and out-croppings of rocks and ledge. Houses line the tops of the rocky ledges. In some areas the tall pines seem to rise out of the sea. This coastline's beauty is overwhelming. We fished the south side of Portland Head Light and caught many stripers there.

Maine Creek

Above the dark blue water, the buoy appeared like a big chunk of gold, like the sun had recast its massive structure. I came back to reality quickly as a touch of cold over spray hit my face.

We fished a small channel into a flat where the tide was falling fast. You could see tailing and swirling fish everywhere. I threw an ultra hair bug and on the second strip hooked up a nice striper. We were getting a striper for each cast.
Mud Flat Striper I was absolutely blown away by the action. One striper sucked the fly all the way down so only the hook eye was sticking out of his mouth. Removing the hook was easy with the barbs pinched off. The tide was falling so fast that in ten minutes you could see the mussel beds. In sixty minutes there was almost enough time for us to catch four more fish before we had to back out of the channel.

Capt. John knows these waters well. That's real important with nine to ten foot tides. Talk about someone pulling the plug. There just isn't any comparison to our Florida flats with our drops of less than two feet. But this fast moving water moves baitfish and attracts these formidable game fish, including big blues in 20-pound sizes and up.

Casco Bay is one of the Atlantic's best-kept secrets. A combination of estuary systems, beautiful rocky coastline and hundreds of uninhabited islands make up the ideal environment for Striped Bass. Droves of bait summer here and depending on the time of year you could be sight fishing shallow flats, throwing six-inch grocery flies (mackerel and bunker patterns) into crashing surf or tossing top-water flies into a pod of feeding stripers along an island beach. All of this within a short boat ride of Portland Harbor.

Capt. Doug!

If you want to fish away from the tourist crowds let Capt. John show you why the locals keep this gem all to themselves. He has been fishing since he was old enough to hold a fishing rod. He grew up fishing many saltwater species but at age 31 is obsessed with chasing "Big Striped Bass" in Maine's most prolific area - Casco Bay. And now I know why. It is contagious.

Practice catch and release and enjoy our great outdoors. ~ Doug

About Doug:
Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters. Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental. Catch him on the web at www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500. Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.


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