Our Full Surf Fly Fishing Guide (from the Beach)

Fly Fishing in the Surf from the Beach

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There’s nothing quite like the thrill of casting your fly while strolling along the beach, whether you’re on a planned fishing trip or simply enjoying a laid-back holiday with the family. But as idyllic as it may seem, saltwater fly fishing from the shore can come with its fair share of challenges.

Having a good understanding of things like tide differences, wave patterns, and the surf environment can make a significant difference in your success rate. As a fly angler, it’s also crucial to familiarize yourself with the various surf species you’re likely to encounter during your saltwater fishing adventure.

Unlocking the Mystery of the Water

reading the water

One of the most critical skills to master in any form of fishing is the ability to read the water. This becomes especially important in fly fishing, where casting your fly with precision can make all the difference. When you’re surf fishing with a fly rod, understanding the water is absolutely crucial.

Generally, the best time to fly fish is during an incoming tide. This is when the previously shallow reefs and sandbanks fill with water, and predators move into these zones to feed.

Identifying the ‘rips’ or undercurrents in the surf zone can be a bit trickier, but it’s an essential skill to master. You can usually spot them by observing the outgoing wave wash. These rips often form a ripple as they cut across the outgoing water.

While these areas can be great for fly fishing, they can also be quite risky. The water can become overpowering, especially during an incoming tide when the waves are growing larger. As tempting as it may be, it’s best to focus on safer areas, like the gullies.

Reading the waves is another key aspect of surf fishing. Waves usually come in sets of seven, with the seventh one being the largest. As the tide comes in or goes out, the waves will increase or decrease in size accordingly. Knowing the day’s tide chart and timings is crucial for successful surf fly fishing.

Identifying the Feeding Zones

identifying the feeding zones

Gullies or holes where the sand bottom dips slightly deeper can be excellent feeding areas for smaller fish. In turn, these spots can attract larger fish looking for a meal. These areas can be incredibly productive, and casting a floating line with a shooting head system and heavier flies can yield the best results.

The surf zone can be a highly productive area for beach fly anglers. This is where food gets washed around, attracting smaller fish and their predators like surf perch, false albacore, or striped bass. Be sure to carry some striped bass fly patterns when you head out.

The ‘backline’ is the area just behind the swell where the wave begins to form. This area is typically deeper and may be out of reach when fishing from the beach. To reach this zone, you may need to cast a long line. Using surf candies or a Clouser minnow can add extra weight for casting and ensure a good sink rate.

Top Tips for Surf Fly Fishing from the Beach

Top Tips for fly fishing the surf from the beach

Watch for Signals

Keep an eye on the birds – they’re your best signal and a fisherman’s best friend. If you see birds diving or hovering within your casting range, chances are you’re in for a good catch.

Look for Structure

While it might sound strange to talk about ‘structure’ in surf fishing, things like boulders, rocky under banks, dips, or holes in the sandbank can be prime fishing spots. It’s also worth researching the area you’re planning to fish in, as there may be hidden structures like sunken boats or rocks beneath the surface.

Move Around

move around

One of the keys to becoming an effective surf fly fisher is having the desire to explore and move around. If nothing’s happening in your current spot, don’t be afraid to move on to a new area. But remember to keep a watchful eye on the water as you move.

Change Your Approach

Being flexible in your approach is important. Adapting your tactics to the conditions and water can be the key to finding fish and getting them to bite. You may encounter deep holes, river mouths, tidal creeks, and salt ponds, all of which require a different approach.

Use What You Know

Use the lay of the land to help figure out what lies beneath the surface of the water. Generally, sloping terrain leads to a hole or deeper water sections. If these areas are within casting range from the beach, you could be in for some excellent fishing.

Timing is Key

Choosing the right time to fish is crucial. The incoming tide is a great time to fish, as this is when fish come to feed. Clouser minnows are ideal for this type of fishing, as these fly patterns sink fast enough to get into the zone.

Work with the Current

Tides and currents are your best friends when fishing in the surf. The strength of the tide influences the currents, whether it’s coming in or going out. Be flexible and adaptable to all changes.

go with what is happening

Practice Your Casting

As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect.’ This couldn’t be truer when it comes to casting fly rods. When fishing the surf, there is generally going to be at least a breeze, and it’s not going to stop.

Use the Wind

While most anglers despise the wind, it can actually be an ally. An onshore wind brings baitfish closer to the shoreline, which in turn brings the predatory fish in closer as well.

Be Prepared for Anything

Safety is always the first concern. Take it slow on the water, keep your eyes peeled for fish as well as potentially hazardous obstacles and scenarios.

The Best Gear for Surf Fly Fishing

best gear to use when fly fishing in the surf

Choosing the right gear is crucial for a successful surf fly fishing trip. A 7 to 12 weight fly rod, a saltwater conditioned reel, and a variety of fly lines are all must-haves. In terms of flies, keep it simple with a few Clouser minnows, surf candies, deceivers, and a few surface flies.


In conclusion, surf fishing is an exciting and accessible hobby for any eager fly fishers. Cover the basics well and use what you know from other fishing formats to make better choices. With the right knowledge, equipment, and approach, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing the thrill of screaming reels and big smiles!

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