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:
Part Six: Four Flies, All You Need

By Capt. Douglas Sinclair

Congratulation Doug - You Made It!

Preparation for a fly fishing trip in saltwater or anywhere else takes a certain amount of planning. I see people come fishing with me and they've got a box of every fly known to mankind. This is worse with guys who tie their own flies. Why do people always want to use the prettiest flies? Because they do. Granted, you need to consider a number of things like weather conditions including wind, water temperature, water clarity, flats habitat in terms of grass or mud bottom (do you need a weed guard), etc. I figure it's better to spend more time fishing than sitting and pondering over which of 25 different flies to use. There are really only three major bait groups to worry about: mullet, shrimp or crabs, and sand worms or eels. A good friend and fellow guide, Capt. Kent Gibbens, said, "If you believe in the afterlife, don't come back as a shrimp."

Fishing the saltwater flats you'll find there are probably 4 flies that will work for almost any situation. Actually a fifth would be a crab imitation like Bay's dime/nickel Crab, Lou's Blue Crab, Del's Merkin Crab, and others. These can be carried in your pocket, on your hat, and hopefully if you have one rod, one will be already tied on the tippet. Always have your gear ready at launch time, so that you aren't wasting time fiddling with running your line up through the guides, out on the water. Try to be ready so that when you spot your quarry you will be set to cast.

I'm sure other guides can recommend their favorite flies. These are some of mine:

  • Half/Half Clouser white, white/chartreuse - clear water
  • Deceiver white, white/chartreuse - clear water
  • Muddler Minnow red-head, brown-head, white-head - clear or dark
  • Catches Reds orange, green - dark water
The use and selection is important. I use water color as the single most important gauge for my selection.

Half/Half:  This is a Clouser/deceiver combination with a weighted dumbell eye which is heavily epoxy'd, and tied to ride inverted. You will need a weed guard on this. In the grass flats, it is essential to move the fly through the grass with out getting it snagged. So, who get's the credit for the half and half? Probably, Lefty Kreh. But, maybe this is a shared thing between Lefty and Bob Clouser (e.g., Clouser Minnow).

The Half/Half is the all time winner for the gin clear water in the flats. On bright sunny day and super clear water I like an all white fly or white and tan back. There is an old school of thought that the fly should match the surroundings - sometimes that works and sometimes not. Remember that flats fish feed all the time. So when they are hungry, they will be looking for the imitation of their favorite food or an easy snack.

The Half/Half works well. You need a minimum 9wt rod to throw a half/half. This is a heavy, sinking fly and resembles a shrimp on the bottom. The retrieve is a slow, slow, fast action. Think of a shrimp swimming in short, darting motions.

Lefty's Deceiver Deceiver:   Lefty's Deceiver or imitations, in all white is my all time favorite fly. It is by far the best fly made to look like a silversides, herring, pilchard, or small mullet. You could stretch this a bit to include pin and pig fish. The best one I've seen tied uses white marabou. It is an awesome fly that fools a lot of game fish. The deceiver is an upper water column fly and swims nicely on a slow, slow, consistent retrieve, varied at times to resemble small bait fishing swimming along the edge.

Muddler Minnow Muddler Minnow:  This is a classic fly. If I had only one fly in box, this would be it. Don Gapen made one for Joe Brooks and is credited with the first Muddler designed to resemble a Cocatouse minnow (Sculpin species). The muddler is tied in a number of ways and is the most universally copied fly in the World.

It resembles so many things that fish feed on and is good in any type of water in any situation. Brown trout, rainbows, brookies, cutthroats all go for it. Landlocked salmon like it. European sea trout love it. It is a fly that can be tied large for saltwater like the woolhead mullet, or smaller like the Borski Fur Shrimp or Borski Slider, or a Redfish Ultra Hair Bug, or as a dry fly. This is a fly that is well known and used throughout Europe, the British Isles and the warm water flats of the east and west coasts.

Tam's Inverted Muddler

I have had success with this fly and have caught virtually every kind of inshore game fish on it including redfish, snook, tarpon, trout, jacks (they love this fly), small hammerhead sharks, sail catfish, blue fish, spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper. People in the flats swear that the Borski Slider is the best imitation of a shrimp and others will swear that the white or redhead muddler is great for everything else. Tammy DiGristine ties a very successful version of the Inverted Muddler.

I use an all black muddler fishing for jacks, blues, and reds at night. There are more successful hook-ups using Muddlers than any other fly used. Most saltwater Muddlers are tied on 1/0 to 3/0 Mustad 34007 hooks.

Red Assassin Catches Reds:  Forgive me for tooting my own horn. This is my Red Assassin fly. When I designed it, I asked a guide friend what we should call it. He said, "catches reds." Anyway we had this little contest. He used a light tackle rod with shrimp-tipped white bucktail jigs and I used the fly rod with this new fly. Guess who caught the bigger and more fish. It was my lucky day. After I caught a few reds with it tied like an orange needle fish (favorite of local Barracuda), I changed to a variation that uses black buck tail. That was a success too. The reason is that depending on the type of retrieve: (a) slow, pause, slow, fast, pause; or (b) sink, fast, sink, slow, sink, fast, sink. The fly is supposed to imitate a jerk worm. Light tackle anglers use jerk worms and they are very effective in inshore saltwater estuaries. Typical jerk worms are the Bass Assassin, Charlie's Wiggler, and Crazy Charlie Worms. The action is similar to what I described with a slow, but constant retrieve with jerking motions resembling a wounded baitfish or a baitfish swimming. I've seen a number of other types of flies like this including Capt. Denny's Jerk Worm Fly. But they've never worked for me because the flies never got down. Capt. Denny ties his with dear hair and it sits up in the water column. It is a big bulky fly and it think it can scare the fish. I know that sounds silly. But some big flies can really spook fish. The fly has to look like what they eat in a normal size range or they won't attack the fly.

The "catches reds" or "Red Assassin" works best in dark water and back country fishing. I find this fly very good in brackish creeks like Hunter's Creek or Tomoka River. The water is dark primarily because there are rotting vegetation on the bottom made up of old logs, leaves and other stuff. The backwaters hold an enormous amount of bait and game fish, including bull sharks. There are also mudfish (bowfin) and long-nose gar. These are fish that are found on the edges of where fresh and salt water meet. In the bait mix are also found sand eels, black eels, and sea worms. I've also caught black drum on this fly and have started finding results of this fly tied in green and black super hair. I'm sure there are many other applications for the Red Assassin. Make up your own and try it out. I think you'll be surprised by the results.

Del Merkin

I haven't spent anytime talking about the crab fly imitations. They are pretty standard. I've used Bay's Crab, Del Merkin, and Lou's Blue Crab. They all work well for reds and the reds have to be eating crabs for this to work. It's best thrown into a school of fish, or sight fishing it must be cast accurately to the red your are stalking. Down in the keys this is an effective fly for Permit. That's all they eat: crabs, crabs, and crabs.

'Till next time, keep your fly selection simple. Take a half & half, a white deceiver, muddler minnow (combination of your choice), and make yourself an orange Red Assassin. I guarantee you'll spend more time catching fish and having a great time. ~ Doug

Next time: Reading the Flats!

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.

Previous Fly Fishing The Salt Articles

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice