Saltwater fly fishing is an exciting and challenging way to fish. If you’re new to the sport, you may be wondering how saltwater flies work.
Saltwater flies work by imitating small fish or crustaceans in order to entice saltwater predators. There are two main types of saltwater flies: baitfish patterns and crustacean patterns. Crustacean patterns imitate small shrimp or crabs that make up a large part of many saltwater fish diets.
In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about saltwater flies, from the different types of flies to how they’re used in fishing. Let’s dive in!
Saltwater Flies vs. Freshwater Flies: Differences and Similarities
One of the first things you’ll notice about saltwater flies is that they’re usually larger than freshwater flies. This is because saltwater fish are generally larger than their freshwater counterparts.
Another difference between saltwater and freshwater flies is that saltwater flies can be brighter and more colorful. This is because some baitfish and shrimp in saltwater environments are often very brightly colored. In most cases however, saltwater flies will be natural colors such as tan or white.
Finally, freshwater flies typically imitate insects, which are not present in saltwater environments. Rarely will you see saltwater species feeding in bugs of any kind.
Despite these differences, there are also many similarities between saltwater and freshwater flies. For example, both types of flies are designed to imitate the natural movements of their target prey. They’re also both tied onto hooks in a specific way that makes them swim with lifelike movement.
So, now that you know the basics of how saltwater flies differ from freshwater flies, let’s take a closer look at the different types of saltwater flies.
The Different Types of Saltwater Flies
As we mentioned earlier, there are two main types of saltwater flies: baitfish patterns and crustacean patterns. Let’s take a closer look at each type of fly.
Baitfish patterns are engineered to look like small fish that are common prey for saltwater predators. The most common baitfish patterns include:
Shrimp patterns are created to move like the tiny crustaceans that make up a large part of many saltwater fish diets. The most common shrimp patterns include:
Crab patterns are created to move like the tiny crabs fleeing from prey. Crabs make up a large part of many saltwater fish diets. The most common crab patterns include:
- Merkin Crab Fly
- Redfish Crack.
- Strong-arm Crab
The Features of Saltwater Flies
Saltwater flies have a few key features that help them imitate the natural movements of their target prey. These features include:
- Hackle. These are the feathers that are used to tie the fly to the hook. The hackle on a saltwater fly is usually longer and more pronounced than on a freshwater fly. This helps the fly move in a lifelike way when it’s in the water.
- Weight. Saltwater flies often have weight added to them, usually in the form of lead eyes. This helps them sink down into the water, where fish are more likely to see them.
- Flash. Flash is a shiny material that’s used to tie flies. It’s often used in saltwater flies to imitate the shine of a fish’s scales.
How To Choose the Best Saltwater Fly for Your Trip
Now that you know the basics of how saltwater flies work, it’s time to start choosing the best flies for your trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The type of fish you’re targeting. Make sure to choose flies that will mimic the type of prey that your target fish is most likely to eat.
- The time of year. The time of year can have a big impact on what type of fly is most effective. For example, shrimp patterns are often more effective in the spring and fall, when shrimp are more active.
- The water conditions. The clarity of the water and the amount of wave action can also impact what type of fly is most effective. For example, in murky water, a darker fly will be seen more easily. Use bright flies on bright days and dark flies on dark days.
How To Use Saltwater Flies in Fishing
Now that you know the basics of how saltwater flies work let’s take a look at how they’re used in fishing.
Saltwater fly fishing is usually done from a boat, using a specialized saltwater fly rod and reel. The boat is used to position the angler near likely feeding areas, such as drop-offs, flats, or schools of baitfish.
Once the angler is in position, they will use their saltwater fly rod to cast their fly into the water. The fly should land near the fish and then be retrieved in a way that imitates the natural swimming action of the prey.
If done correctly, the fish will strike at the fly, and the angler stripe strikes the line to set the hook in the fish.
Best Practices for Saltwater Fly Fishing
Now that you know the basics of how to use saltwater flies let’s take a look at some best practices for saltwater fly fishing.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when saltwater fly fishing is to be mindful of your surroundings. This means being aware of things like the tide, the wind, and any potential hazards in the water.
It’s also important to choose the right type of fly for the situation. As we mentioned earlier, there are two main types of saltwater flies: baitfish patterns and crustacean patterns. Baitfish patterns are typically used when fishing for predators like tarpon or snook, while shrimp crustaceans are typically used when fishing for bottom-dwelling fish like bonefish or permit.
Finally, it’s important to be patient when saltwater fly fishing. Saltwater fish can be much harder to catch than freshwater fish, so it’s important to be patient and wait for the perfect opportunity to make a cast.
With these best practices in mind, you’re ready to start saltwater fly fishing!
The Bottom Line
Overall, the major features of saltwater flies are material, weight, and flash. These features help the fly move in a lifelike way and sink down into the water, where fish are more likely to see them.
When choosing saltwater flies, it’s important to consider the type of fish you’re targeting, the time of year, and the water conditions.
Now you’re ready to go fishing. Grab your rod and your flies, and head to the water!