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.


Dawnchasers

By Jason Tinling, Lancaster, PA

I had read email list reports of flyfishing the New Jersey salt and was always intrigued by them. Flyfishing is something I took up of my own accord, and my fishing roots are grounded in the jetties, harbors and beaches of Southern California. My earliest fishing memories are catching queenfish and perch of the Oceanside jetty in the early gray of morning. My fishing practices grew as I did, learning to use conventional casting gear, developing a preference for fishing artificials, gaining an appetite for ultra-light fishing. Flyfishing has been the latest step in that progression, and I was headed towards a culmination of past and present, fishing the salt water I had started on, using the tools of my newest skill. I couldn't wait.

The day started early. Or maybe it just ended late, as procrastination tying kept me up until 10 p.m., only to rouse myself 4 minutes before the 2 a.m. alarm blared a wake-up call to the whole house. I loaded up the last of the gear, and climbed into the pickup. I was off to Philly to meet up with Jerry, and then head down to the shore. After some adventures in poor direction reading (my fault) and Philly street parking, we were off and running.

We hit the expressway, headed East, and the strains of "Asleep at the Wheel" slid out of the sound system. After a half-hour or so of driving, something struck my senses. A tang in the air. A sharp combination of scents that I hadn't smelled in almost three years - the ocean.

We headed off the expressway, south to Corson's Inlet State Park. We pulled into the parking area, with a couple of other cars filling alternating parking slots. One gentleman stood at his car, slipping out of his waders after an early morning's exploration. We chatted with him briefly, getting the impression that the bait was scarce, the fish scarcer. There was talk of a nice weakfish taken from the bridge earlier in the morning, but that was all. We thanked him for the info, he wished us good luck, and we headed into the dunes of the beach.

Sunrise Corson's State Park

We wound our way down the path to the water's edge, flashlights piercing the lingering darkness. As we moved further away from the parking lot towards the mouth of the inlet, we began to see more and more small fish, milling in the beam of our lights. Our hiking along the edge would be interrupted by a splash and roll in the darkness. Trying to target by sound, we'd ply the water (and the brush behind us) with our flies, to no positive results.

Jerry was dismayed to see a large dredging operation in place in the inlet, several tugs and at least two large barges sat in the water, waiting the coming of the morning light. The sunrise began to filter through the air as we fished the outflowing surge of water on the inside tip of the inlet's northern point. I had never fished anything larger than a 6wt before then, and had never thrown a shooting head system. Both interesting experiences. The rod that Jerry had loaned me was light and handled nicely, even in my clumsy hands. The shooting head amplified my lack of casting skill, as several casts collapsed in mid-air as I mistakenly let the running line drift out into the cast. I finally managed enough control to make reasonable casts, but the fish weren't interested.

We worked out to the middle of the point, and saw appreciable numbers of silversides working in the outgoing tide. Around 7:30 am, random snapper blues began working the silversides, but they were few and far between. We made an executive decision to cut our losses and head down the coast to Wildwood. We trekked back into the parking area, seeing a few schools of finger mullet on the way back.

We pulled into the parking lot at Hereford's Inlet about a half-hour later and headed down to the shore. We took a quick look at the 'pond' abutting the parking lot, but didn't see anything of interest. We crossed over the outflow cut from the tidal waters trapped above us and walked down to the water's edge. After 30 minutes or so of "same ol', same ol,'" the silversides began to break and shower from the water, in larger numbers and more frequently than they were back at Corson's.

Jerry struck first, picking up a 7-8 pound snapper blue while retrieving the back end of the swinging tide. I watched in frustration, as small pods of 3-6 blues would come running in towards my bait, only to pull away, or take a smack at it and shoot off again. I finally flipped the fly into the midst of a school of silversides, just as the blues broke into it. I lifted the rod quickly, and an 8 pound blue smacked the fly. He made a quick, strong run into the deeper water, and then thrashed and splashed in the shallow water near me, as several of his associates milled around, looking for a free hand out.

I "attempted" to wrap my hand around the fish and unhook it, only to find that blues carry a reserve of energy specifically for avoiding peoples hands. No matter how tiredly they lay in the water, the presence of a hand sends them into a flipping, flopping fury of slimy sides and pointed dorsal spikes. I finally latched my forceps onto the hook bend, turned the fish upside down, and flipped him back into the water.

I put a couple more fish to tally, one matching the first fish caught, the other an aggressive 5-6 pound fish with an attitude. I missed numerous strikes, and even my #4 fly dwarfed the small silversides crowded in the shallows. The fly of the day, for me, was a light #4 2XL streamer hook, with a tail of white marabou and pearl Flash-a-bou, a tapered body of wrapped pearl mylar "Canvas Needlepoint Thread," with a small pair of silver dumbbell eyes. The body material is thin and ribbony, almost like a small mylar tube body that has been pressed flat. I think I would have had more luck with a #6 or even #8 fly.

I had a hard time reconciling blues with any fish that I had ever had experience with on the west coast, and the closest match that came to mind was Sierra Mackerel. The blues have the slimy, slender body that mackerel have, and the teeth to go along with an eager set of jaws. I did notice that the silversides tolerated my fly, and remained fairly non-reactive to it. Until there was a bluefish or two in hot pursuit, that is. I had several retrieves where the silversides would suddenly start dancing away from where my fly should be, and I knew that the wolves were on the scent.

Dawn

Time came to head back, as the bite died on the flattening of the tide. We loaded up our gear and headed out to the Garden State Expressway, a lunch of soda and "South Philly" subs to tame the hunger of several hours of fishing. As the miles slipped past beneath the tires of the car, the lack of sleep and weight of the food in my stomach pushed me into unconsciousness. A return to the waters that started and shaped my fishing life, and a look at them in a way that I had never had before. The thrill of new memories danced in my unconscious mind, the flash of the fish, the feel of sand beneath the feet, and the joy of being out fishing with a good friend. I may not get a chance to do it often, but I already want to go out and chase the dawn into the sky again. ~ Jason


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