Targeting fluke (or summer flounder as they are also called) on a fly rod has never been a big thing and catching fluke while fly fishing generally only happened when fly fishers target other species such as speckled seatrout or striped bass around places like Ocean City.
There is a lot to be said for catching flounders on a fly as they are a healthy compromise for fly anglers during the summer when other species run into deeper water.
Flounder will always sit in shallow water, sometimes right at the water’s edge, no matter how warm it gets, and will readily eat a well-presented fly. You can reliably fish for them throughout the summer months.
Join me as we take a look at fly fishing for flounder and discuss everything you need to know from tactics, to fly selection and gear.
Flounder, as I’m sure you know, are flatfish. They lie on the bottom and hide in any nook they can find waiting to attack any morsel unfortunate to swim by.
Since they are always looking up, flounder love shallower water as the smaller the water column, the closer they are to their prey. They will sit on shallow flats in a water depth of just a couple feet, making them a perfect target for fly fishermen.
Flounder aren’t as huge as other fish and the standing World Record is 22lbs 7 oz caught by Captain Charles Nappi, while the fly rod record is 8lbs 4 oz on a 12lb tippet. But a big flounder will pull hard as they use their flat bottom to put up quite a fight.
Flounder Fly Fishing Tactics
Before we get into the fly tackle and flies you’ll want for flounder let’s first discuss where, when, and how to catch them as the gear will make a lot more sense after you have read this.
If you were fishing for flounder with conventional tackle, you’d be in around 80 feet of water dropping larger baits with a 1lb of lead on depth changes you have marked with a fish finder. This isn’t the case when using a fly rod for them as you’ll be in 2-12 feet of water all of the time.
The most productive stretches for flounder will be closer to the shore or around inlets that have a lot of small depth changes, even a 1ft peanut bunker is a solid holding spot for flounder on a shallow flat. These will seem like relatively featureless sand and mud bottom areas but they aren’t for flounder.
Other good areas, especially if you’re after the largest fluke are rocky bottoms around jetties and groins, as this is where the larger fish tend to hang out.
Tides & Summer Flounder
You can fish for flounder on any period of the tide and the key is to understand how the bait, such as sand eels, behaves as the tides change.
At the very peak stages of the tide, in water rapidly sweeping across a flat, the bait stays low in the pinch point of the resultant current break at the bottom and this is where the flounder will be too.
During slack tide, the bait rises to the surface and this will be where the flounder are feeding too.
Once you have found some productive ground, you’ll need to use a weighted fly (most of the time) so that it sits as close to the bottom as possible when the tide is moving and passes right over the head of any lurking fish.
To do this, your not only going to need weighted flies but also a range of sinking lines from a full sinking line to a sink tip, especially when managing windy days and tide. During slack water, a switch to a floating line and an unweighted fly is best.
Casting & Retrieving
When you’re on a flat, make sure you cast in a fan pattern to cover a large area with your fly. Flounder won’t move to strike and you are fishing blind so make sure you’re hitting each part of the bottom you can.
You should always cast down tide side too and let your fly drift back to you. This is because the current will drive the thicker fly line upward stopping your fly from being on the bottom if you cast the other direction. Then it’s about a slow retrieve, keeping in contact while keeping your fly on the bottom.
You can fish wading or from a boat. When on a boat, be sure to use a drift sock to slow your drift to around 1 knot so your fly stays in the zone.
See also our post here on How To Cast A Fly Rod for a more in-depth guide on fly casting.
Flounder Fly Tackle
Flounder don’t pull hard but they can be tricky to get off the bottom and since it’s saltwater fishing, you still need a rod that can punch into the wind.
Any 7 or 8 weight rod will do just make sure it’s made for the salt and has a rod tip that can handle a serious bend so you can lift the flounder off the bottom.
Or you can also check out our Best Saltwater Fly Rods post where we breakdown the best fly rods in the market today!
Flounder aren’t going to take you into your backing but having a good sealed drag reel that is made for saltwater is always a good idea. It will survive in the salt and you can use it for other species. Make sure you have at least 2-3 spare spools for it too.
Check out our post here on the Best Saltwater Fly Reels so you can choose what’s best for you.
You are going to need a range of lines to target flounder effectively. Make sure you have a few spare spools loaded with each of them below.
- Floating line
- Intermediate lines
- Full sink lines
- Sink tip line
Here’s our Best Saltwater Fly Line post for more selection of the best in the market!
You will need to switch your line plenty of times in a given day moving from a sinking line to a floating depending on the tide and the depths you’re fishing in.
Flies & Tippet
Throwing squid patterns or a clouser minnow on a leader length of around 12 feet with a 10lb tippet is ideal for flounder.
Most fish caught are on clouser minnows and they don’t need bigger baits either, nothing larger than a 1/0 fly is required.