Fly Fishing vs. Deep Sea Fishing: 6 Differences

If you have an opportunity to be on the water fishing, there are amazingly few things more enjoyable than that. It’s not uncommon to rent a boat and go out on the ocean with friends and catch a few fish, or go down to a river by yourself and catch some freshwater trout.

The most significant difference between fly fishing and deep sea fishing is that you’re opening yourself up to catching a whole host of new species when fishing in the ocean. Many of these species are not present in shallower areas where fly fishing takes place. Additionally, you’d be using different tackle, a boat, and heavier equipment usually used to fish the bottom or troll behind the boat.

Life is full of challenges, and part of the fun is that you’re always learning. Even if you’re been fishing for years, there’s always more vast bodies of water where you can fish for even more unique species. In this article, I’ll go over the differences between fly fishing and deep-sea fishing. 

deep sea fishing gives you access to newer creatures

1. Fly Fishing and Deep Sea Ecosystems Are Different

Fly fishing and deep sea fishing are two different types of fishing that provide different experiences. One of the most significant differences between fly fishing and deep sea fishing entails that fly fishing, for the majority, takes place in freshwater, while deep sea fishing takes place in salt water. You can certainly fly fish in the ocean or even deep sea, however the techniques employed are significantly different then traditional fly fishing.

Fly fishing is typically done in shallow water and targets fish in rivers, lakes, saltwater flats, or passes. Most fly-fishing set ups will not reach the depths needed to catch bottom fish in the ocean. Therefore fly-fishing in saltwater is designed to target fish that swim shallow or near the surface.

In addition, the species that inhabit these ecosystems are different as well. For example, deep sea saltwater fish include tuna, mackerel, marlin, and sailfish, while typical fly fishing species include trout, bass, redfish, and tarpon.

When fishing in freshwater, you usually cast your fly into waters where you know what you’re fishing for. In the ocean, sea creatures live in much greater numbers, meaning there are many more species available to catch than in freshwater. 

There is also more diversity among fish living in the sea, and you’re not always aware of what you’ll catch.

2. Fish of the Deep Are Bigger and Stronger

The type of fishing that you do will depend on the environment. 

In freshwater areas (like a lake or river), the fish are smaller and, therefore, easier to catch because the environment is much more confined.

In saltwater environments (the ocean), fish can grow much bigger and stronger than those limited to the pond or lake, so you might need to bring out some heavy artillery (i.e., equipment).

Bigger and stronger fish in saltwater environments means you need more extensive and robust equipment. When fishing in saltwater environments, you’ll want to use gear made specifically for the deep sea. Your standard rod and reel set-up won’t be nearly heavy-duty enough to stand up to big game fish like marlin or tuna.

You’ll need a boat and tackle line explicitly made for saltwater. This tackle line should be strong enough to reel in even the largest of beasts! 

It’s a good idea to enlist the help of an experienced guide or tackle shop member to help teach you how to properly handle these larger species when pulling them in. 

deep sea fishing is over 100ft

3. Deep Sea Fishing Requires a Boat

One of the very first things an angler should know is that deep sea fishing requires a boat, while fly fishing can be done on land. 

Since ocean water is much deeper than any river or lake, deep sea fishing is designed to catch fish where the water’s depth is over 100 feet (30.5 m).

They’re not just for pleasure cruises; fishermen use them to catch all kinds of fish, including tuna. Deep sea fishing also requires special equipment like fish finders. Some are even equipped with seats called a fighting chair to help you haul even the biggest fish. 

4. Saltwater Anglers Use Different Lines

The difference between saltwater and freshwater anglers is not just the location they fish in. It’s also the type of line they use.

Both saltwater conventional and fly fishing require anglers to use a more aggressive line and leader that can stand up to sharp teeth and the stronger pull of large species..

Saltwater anglers utilize monofilament fishing lines for their strength, resistance, and durability. These lines are manufactured to endure weather damage because of their abrasive resistance.

Due to the water depth they fish, most saltwater anglers intend to select a more invisible line that sinks quickly and can handle a lot of weight

While fly fishing anglers generally utilize a line weight of around 4 grains (0.26 g), deep sea fishermen primarily use a line weight of approximately 40 pounds and 100 pounds  for deep sea bottom fishing. 

Typically a fly fishing line is considerably lightweight and unsuitable for deep sea fishing. 

5. Different Techniques

Fly fishing relies on the fly being cast to the exact location where a fish is swimming, often requiring an experienced and skillful fisherman.

There are several techniques to do this, but it usually involves standing on dry land over a stream or body of water and throwing your line out into the water. It is also possible to fly-cast into bodies of water from a boat, pier, or while wading in shallow water.

Deep sea fishing relies on the fisherman dropping or casting his line off a boat in a particular area populated by many fish and hoping for a bite. Additionally, deep sea fishermen may troll

6. Different Baits and Lures

Fly and deep sea fishing are very different types of fishing with different strategies and bait.

While fly fishing utilizes lures such as flies (obviously), artificial flies made to look like insects or crustaceans are the most common choice for fly fishermen. Fly fishermen also imitate bait – the type of bait used in fly fishing is almost always bait fish because they are easy to catch and fish rely heavily on them in their diet. 

However, the bait used in deep sea fishing usually consists of things like squid tentacles and sardines. Deep sea fishermen do not use flies unless trolling for sailfish or marlin.

Bait for deep sea fishing can be live bait, cut bait, or artificial lure. Live bait, like fish, squid, shrimp, and mackerel, are the most popular choice for deep-sea fishing. Cut bait is dead fish that has been cut into smaller pieces to attract larger fish. 

Artificial lures are designed to look like real fish and squid. They are made in different shapes and colors to attract larger fish. 


Fly fishing is a relatively leisurely pursuit, with its practitioners casting from the shore or a small vessel, whereas deep sea fishing usually involves a charter out on the open ocean.

Deep sea fishermen can also get a wider variety of species because they can fish anywhere in the ocean, while fly fishermen usually stick to shallower locations.

Many people enjoy the relaxing nature of fly fishing, while others prefer the excitement associated with deep sea fishing. Whichever activity you choose, there are great reasons to enjoy both!

deep sea fishing requires more equipment and commitment