saltwater fly fishing gear for beginners

Saltwater Fly Fishing Gear for Beginners

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Are you thinking of booking your first saltwater fly fishing trip? In this article, I will go through all the gear a beginner needs to start fly fishing in saltwater. Most saltwater specific gear is relatively expensive compared to freshwater equipment. For this reason, its important to make sure you spend money on the right things.

I have fished, guided, and traveled to many saltwater destinations in the world. Most of these exotic places are remote and quite hard on tackle. Finding replacement gear in the event of gear failure is near impossible. I’ve seen a client’s reel catastrophically fail while fighting a giant trevally and another’s cheap hiking boots come apart in the middle of a coral flat.

Please follow along as I discuss what gear is important for the beginner saltwater fly angler and what to look out for when choosing a specific item.

Image Product Details  
flyfisherpro-table__imageSage Maverick
  • Lifetime warranty
  • 6 - 14-weight
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flyfisherpro-table__imageRedington Behemoth
  • Value for money
  • Many weight variations
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flyfisherpro-table__imageScientific Anglers Amplitude
  • Smooth casting
  • Many different tapers
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Rods

The saltwater fly rod forms the foundation of your fishing setup. The weight used will be determined by your quarry and the area you’re fishing. For more information on which rod weight to select, head over to our article about the best saltwater fly rod. The article will also take you through 5 of the best saltwater fly rods available today.

When I took up saltwater fly fishing, I didn’t want to (or actually couldn’t) afford $1000 for a premium rod. However, this shouldn’t discourage you. There are many capable rods that would be a perfect match for the beginner.

Recommended medium-priced saltwater rods:

(1) Sage Maverick

Sage Maverick

Available at: Amazon, Trident Fly Fishing

  •       Price: $550
  •       Pros: , available in weights from 6 – 14-weight
  •       Cons: Material (Konnetic) is one generation old. This might be a negative to some anglers knowing they’re not fishing with latest and greatest

(2) Thomas & Thomas Zone

Thomas & Thomas Zone

Available at: Amazon

  •       Price: $549
  •       Pros: Lifetime warranty
  •       Cons: Only available in saltwater weights of 8 – 10-weight

(3) Orvis Recon

Orvis Recon

Available at: Bass Pro Shop

  •       Price: $549
  •       Pros: 25-year warranty, available in 7 – 12-weight renditions (unfortunately not 11-weight)
  •       Cons: Not much, this is a great rod for the beginner saltwater fly angler

(4) Echo Boost Salt

Echo Boost Salt

Available at: Amazon

  •       Price: $249
  •       Pros: Lifetime warranty to the original owner, available in 6 – 12-weight rods
  •       Cons: Slightly heavy

Reels

Saltwater fly reels have to deal with a lot more than freshwater reels. For most applications, a freshwater reel is merely a line and backing holder offering enough drag to prevent an overwind. At worst, these reels will be exposed to freshwater when they are submerged during a fish release. This is not the case for a saltwater reel.

Drag

Saltwater fly reels need to offer a considerable amount fo drag enabling the angler to stop fish. This drag needs to operate as smoothly as possible, still offering protection for the chosen leader or tippet. The most important factor of the drag is that it needs to be dependable. When using the reel for some time, you should be able to become comfortable with the drag knowing that it should work at all times.

Saltwater fly reels make use of either a stacked disc drag or a cork drag. Both make for excellent saltwater drags, the choice will mainly depend on your needs, intended use, and budget.

Cork drags are generally very dependable and serviceable. The reel can be dumped into the sand and quickly rinsed off with water. The technology is relatively old and the systems are not as smooth as modern disc-type drags.

Disc-type drags are very smooth and, depending on the brand, offer a great amount of stopping power. The disc stack is sealed to prevent the ingress of water and sand. However, the level and quality of sealing will depend on the brand you buy.

Recommend saltwater fly reels:

1) Redington Behemoth

Redington Behemoth

Available at: Trident Fly Fishing

  •       Price: from $119.99
  •       Drag system: Stacked carbon fiber discs
  •       Pros: Value for money, many weight variations means there’s one suited to your needs, lifetime warranty
  •       Cons: 12-weight reel only has 250 yards of 30lb backing capacity, die-cast construction

2) Shilton SR

Shilton SR

  •       Price: from $695
  •       Drag system: Cork
  •       Pros: Value for money, lifetime warranty, incredibly dependable
  •       Cons: Some anglers feel that cork drags are outdated

3) Mako

Mako Reels

  •       Price: From $1260
  •       Drag system: Stacked carbon fiber
  •       Pros: Strong and reliable drag, lifetime warranty
  •       Cons: Expensive

4) Nautilus CCF-X2

Nautilus CCF-X2

Available at: Trident Fly Fishing

  •       Price: From $545
  •       Drag system: Stacked carbon fiber
  •       Pros: Super smooth drag, lifetime warranty
  •       Cons: Drag not strong enough for the like of serious big game fish like tuna and giant trevally

Lines

Saltwater fly lines come in many different tapers and are designed to be used in either cold or warm water. The lines range from full floating lines to sinking lines with different combinations of sink rates. With so many options out there, it’s hard for the beginner saltwater fly angler to choose the best one.

I always encourage beginner anglers to buy the best fly line thy can. In saltwater fly fishing, this remains true. Here’s a short list of some of my favorite saltwater fly lines on the market:

1) Scientific Anglers Amplitude

Scientific Anglers Amplitude

The Amplitude range of lines features Scientific Angler’s AST PLUS slickness additive. Regardless of the taper, or specific line within the range, you’re casting, the line shoots easily. The lines are designed specifically for cold, medium, or hot water, so choose the correct one for where you’re planning to fish.

Available at: Trident Fly Fishing

  •       Price: $129
  •       Pros: Smooth casting, many different tapers available, durable
  •       Cons: Expensive

2) Rio InTouch Outbound Short

Rio InTouch Outbound Short

The InTouch OutBound Short is an aggressive weight forward fly line that will load fast action rods with a minimal amount of line out of the tip. The line is designed to carry big flies far. The range features 6 different floating and sinking combinations, from full floating to an intermediate with a 30ft S6 sinking head.

Available at: Trident Fly Fishing

  •       Price: $99
  •       Pros: Features Rio’s low stretch ConnectCore technology, delivers big flies fast
  •       Cons: Not ideal for delicate presentations to spooky fish

3) Cortland Saltwater Liquid Crystal

Cortland Saltwater Liquid Crystal

There are 5 lines in Cortland’s Saltwater Liquid Crystal series. These lines are super smooth and offer very low stretch. Two of the lines on offer are completely translucent floating lines. Although this would make it hard for you (and your guide) to see the line in the water, it’s an excellent solution for spooky fish.

Available at: Trident Fly Fishing

  •       Price: $99.95
  •       Pros: Low stretch, smooth casting
  •       Cons: No sinking line options available
  •       Available at: Amazon, Trident

4) Airflo

Airflo

Airflo makes some excellent quality fly lines at really competitive prices. They have a range of lines suited from tropical flats fishing to catching coldwater fish from the beach. Their GT (giant trevally) fly line still has one of the strongest cores on the market.

Apparel

Now that we have the fly casting system out of the way, let’s have a look at what the beginner saltwater fly angler needs in terms of apparel. This topic very often gets overlooked, but I can assure you it plays just as an important role than selecting the best fly rod.

As a tropical flats guide, I will be going through the apparel you’ll need in this environment. I’ve spent months wading and poling around these areas and have seen what works and what doesn’t.

Boots

Boots

If you spend all your time fishing from a boat you probably won’t need a pair of saltwater wading boots. In fact, I prefer the angler standing on my skiff’s bow not to wear boots as they often step on the fly line and can’t feel it. Fishing from the foot will, inevitably, become necessary. Either the water is too skinny or you’re fishing in the surf zone where a boat would be impossible to keep stable.

Saltwater wading boots are durable and offer your feet protection from coral and sharp shells. one of the toughest places I’ve ever fished was in the Red Sea in Sudan. The coral here is so hard and sharp, that even my Simms Flats Sneakers took a beating in less than two weeks. Can you imagine doing that barefoot?

Note: Your hiking boots or sandals will not last

Some of the best boots currently available are:

Wading Socks and Gravel Guards

Wading Socks and Gravel Guards

If you’re fishing with boots, wadings socks and gravel guards are a must. The gravel guards prevent debris from entering the boots and the socks will keep your feet comfortable. If you’re going on a saltwater fishing trip, I recommend taking at least two pairs of wading socks with you. In that way, you can allow a pair to dry thoroughly every second day.

The following wading socks and gravel guards will serve you well:

Shorts, Trousers, and Tights

 

Out on the flats, you’ll spend most of the day in the sun. Your legs get wet frequently which washes off sunscreen quickly. This means you’ll need to protect your legs in one way or another. The two best ways, in my opinion, is wearing trousers over a tight (long or short) or a pair of shorts over long tights. This means your legs are never exposed and the tights prevent inevitable chafing.

Whatever you choose, make sure that your clothes fit well before leaving on a trip. You don’t want a pair of tights that are too big as this will defeat their purpose.

Shirts

Shirt

As with the previous section, choosing the right shirt is a personal preference. Some anglers prefer buttoned shirts with some storage pockets where others want a more comfortable shirt with a hoodie. Whatever you choose, I encourage you to stick to long-sleeve shirts. If the sun stings you on a trip it will most certainly keep you off the water. Protect yourself against well against the elements and you’ll spend more time on the water.

Some of my favorite saltwater fishing shirts are:

Jackets

Jackets

Even when going to a tropical island, having a proper jacket is a necessary piece of kit. It will keep you dry when it’s raining and when making a fast dash home to beat a squall. A jacket acts as a windbreaker keeping you comfortable when the weather turns sour.

Here are some good options for tropical saltwater conditions:

Neck Protection

Neck Protection

It’s essential to keep your neck and face protected from the sun and elements. A neck gator, or buff, will do just that. It will also give you a good tool to prevent your cap from blowing off by positioning it over your face and cap.

Some good options out there include:

Hats

Hats

No matter if you’re doing fresh or saltwater fly fishing, a hat is an indispensable piece of gear. It will protect your head, face, and ears from the sun. From the shadow of a hat, your eyes see better. As with pants and shirts, hat types are personal preference.

I do recommend a hat that can be “fixed” to your head to ensure it doesn’t blow off easily. If you’re wearing a cap, this can be done by pulling your buff over it.

Sunglasses and Retainers

Sunglasses And Retainers

Sunglasses protect your eyes and, if using polaroids, make it easier to spot fish. If you’re buying a good pair of sunnies, buy a cheap spare as well. You’ll thank yourself if you, by accident, damage or lose a pair. Always wear a retainer on your sunglasses.

Sunglasses come in a wide variety of brands, sizes, styles, and lens colors. I prefer glass lenses as they are harder offering the best resistance against scratches. Some of the best brands out there include:

  •       Costa del Mar
  •       Mako
  •       Smith
  •       Maui Jim

Accessories

To be honest, many of the small accessories aren’t completely necessary for saltwater fly fishing. More “things” means there’s more that can get in the way when fishing and more “things” to carry around. Here is a list of accessories I believe are critical on the water.

Pliers

Pliers

The plier is to the saltwater fly fisherman what the nipper and forceps are to the freshwater fly fisherman. You’ll need it to tighten knots, cut tippet tag ends, and remove flies from toothy critters. The plier is stored in a sheat and attached to your belt or bag. My recommendation here is go really cheap or to buy the best.

If you’re going to spend one week in the salt, buy a cheap pair of pliers (see my list below). However, if you are a regular saltwater fly fisherman, buy the best.

Recommended pliers are:

Waterproof Bag

Waterproof Bags

If you’re planning on doing any wading, a saltwater bag is essential. This will keep any electronic equipment, clothing, or food items dry and safe. Not all bags are created equal. I have used the following bags extensively and feel comfortable recommending them:

Conclusion

So there you have it. The complete guide to some of our favourite saltwater fly fishing gear. Remember you don’t need to spend a fortune in the beginning. Let your kit evolve and improve as you do.

Have you found a piece of gear that is fantastic and we didn’t mention? Then drop us a comment below and we’ll be sure to add it to the list.

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