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Overview of Saltwater Fly Fishing

Overview of Saltwater Fly Fishing

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Published by uptownangler
An introduction to saltwater fly fishing that covers history, locations and gear involved in the sport.
An introduction to saltwater fly fishing that covers history, locations and gear involved in the sport.

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Published by: uptownangler on Jan 16, 2009
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09/15/2012

 
Saltwater Fly FishingOverview:
Saltwater fly fishing is the art and science of using a fly rod and reel withvery light, usually hand tied, flies (or lures), to catch a saltwater species of fish.This usually occurs in coastal areas of the various oceans, gulfs, bays, sounds andriver estuaries. The saltwater fly fisherman generally fish to species that areclearly visible before making a cast, a process called sight casting.There are two main groups of fish to be fished to: 1) flats fish (fish thatmove through and feed in very shallow sandy, coral or mud under terrain) whichincludes bonefish, redfish, tarpon and stripers and 2) top water feeding fish, whichcan include tuna, jack, bonito, and bluefish. There are also those fish which do notnormally feed on the surface, but which must be baited or "chummed" to thesurface before a fly rod can be used to toss a fly (lure) to the fish. These fish caninclude sharks, snapper and grouper. Another saltwater fish susceptible to the flyrod is the ling (orcobia or lemon fish). These fish are brought to the surface withsound and are sometimes swim near the surface while not necessarily feeding.
History:
There is much debate surrounding the exact origin and development of saltwaterfly fishing. Most sources locate the first mention of fly fishing in saltwater in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans sometime around 200 A.D.Some point to the Greek Oppian in A.D. 176 who discussed fly fishing for the fishScarus(unknown today) in salt water (Samson). Other sources credit the RomanAelianwith the first mention of fishing in the ocean using a fly (Herd). After beingabsent from literature for hundreds of years saltwater fly fishing re-emerges in thehistorical record around the 1800s, where fly fishing along the coast of England ismentioned briefly in Blaine's 1840
 Encyclopaedia of Rural Sports
(Herd), as wellas of the coasts of Australia and in estuaries of South Africa (Samson).While, as these accounts demonstrate, the sport has been practiced for manycenturies, saltwater fly fishing as it is known today truly developed in the UnitedStates. Many of the earliest accounts of the sport in the U.S. come from the EastCoast, with mention being made of fishing for saltwater fish along the shorelinewith flies, including striped bass, as early as the 1875. In Florida, more oftencredited as the birthplace of saltwater fly fishing, there are reports of fishing for 
 
tarpon, redfish and bonefish with flies from around the turn of the 19
th
century. Yet,it was not until after the mid 1900s that saltwater fly fishing really took off,especially in New England and the Florida Keys (Samson).
Locations:
Saltwater fly fishing is practiced in anumber of varied locations worldwide.Locations where the sport is practiced are generally costal in nature and can be ineither cold or warmwater. In the United States alone, saltwater fly fishing is practiced in New England and along the East Coast, in Florida and the Gulf Coastand in some locations along the West Coast of the country. Saltwater fly fishing isalso practiced in Mexico, Central and South America and in many locations in theCaribbean and the Bahamas. Popular locations for saltwater fly fishing outside of the Americas include Australia and areas of Africa.Different species of fish are found at these various locations. To name onlya small few, species such as striped bass are fished from Nova Scotia through theMid-Atlantic states. Bonefish are fished in the Florida Keys and in most tropicalocean and inland saltwaterflats throughout the world. These include the Bahamas,the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and a number of Pacific Islands.Redfish or Red Drum range from the mid-Atlantic, often in coastal outflow,through the Gulf of Mexico to Texas. This fish ranges from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico to the saltwater marshes from Florida to Texas. In Louisiana, theredfish is the predominant saltwater fish to be caught and some of the largestredfish have been caught near the Mississippi River delta, including the majority of the world record redfish caught on a fly.Fly fishing for Tarpon, Jack and Bonito also occurs in the open ocean allover the world, often of the coasts of the eastern and western United States,Mexico, Jamaica, and other Caribbean Islands.
Species:
There are hundreds of saltwater species that can be fished using a fly. Someof the most well known fish in saltwater fly fishing include tarpon, redfish, bonefish, tuna and barracuda. Yet, lesser known specifies, often specific to certainlocations, are also frequently pursued by salt water fly fishermen. These include,
 
 but are certainly not limited to, bonito, jack, roosterfish, bluefish, dolphin or mahimahi, groupers, shark, billfish, marlin, stripers, roosterfish, ling, trout, permit andstriped bass.
Tackle:
The essential gear required for saltwater fly fishing includes a fly rod, flyreel, fly line, tippet and fly. Two major issues to be kept in mind that differentiatesalt from fresh water tackle include the often larger, more powerfulsalt water species and the corrosive effects of saltwater on fishing gear (Samson).These two issues are very important in the selection of the fly rod and reel.In saltwater fly fishing, the strength of the rod and the reel, as well as the reel’sresistance to corrosion and smoothness of operation or ‘drag’ are essentialcharacteristics of these pieces of tackle. It is also important that the rod and reelare appropriate for the specific fish that will be pursued, which is reflected in thewide range of these products that are available. For example, fishing for Tarponrequires a 10 to 12 weight rod and a reel with a friction drag capable of stoppingfish which range from 20 to 200 pounds, while fishing for bonefish requires a 6 – 9weightrod and a reel with friction drag for fish which range from 1 to 10 pounds.Like bonefish, Redfish are fished with a 6 to 9 weight rods and they require a reelwith a friction drag for fishing ranging from 2 to 40 pounds (Uptown Angler).As in all fly fishing, there are a great number and variety of flies used insaltwater fly fishing, with many new types being created all the time. While manyflies are designed to mimic common food of the species being fished for, others donot mimic specific fishand are instead designed to attract the fish usingcharacteristics like color and shape (Pfeiffer). Common flies include those thatimitate small crabs, shrimp and minnows and others, in the second category, calledwobblers and poppers (Uptown Angler).
Sources:
Herd, Andrew.
 A Fly Fishing History.
 Fly Fishing Saltwater Basics
. Stackpole Books: Harrisburg PA (1999)Rosenbauer, Tom (2007).
The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide
. Connecticut: The Lyons Press.ISBN978-1-59228-818-2.

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