by Brandon White
I always look forward to Fall in the Chesapeake Bay region so that I can hunt the big Stripers that swim through out the Chesapeake and Mid Atlantic with the fly rod. Often times when I talk to anglers and mention the big striped bass that we catch this time of year they always appear amazed when they ask how we caught them and I explain that we caught them on the fly rod. When I tell them they can do it too and show them the flies they shake their head and say, “There is no way I can do that”. The fact is you can do it and when you do let me tell you that it will only take one big Striped Bass caught on the fly rod and you’ll be addicted for life! This is the best time of year to start your saltwater fly fishing adventure because of the prevalence of good size breaking fish which will make it easier to hook up and have some success on the long rod.
I think some fly anglers have made and kept fly fishing a mysterious fishing technique that they for some reason want others to believe only “specially gifted” anglers can be successful. I like to keep my fly fishing simple and hopefully can provide you a quick and simple guide to what you need to get started. I like to keep things simple and some may dismiss my simplistic approach as not being “true” to the sport, but to me saltwater fly fishing is and should be kept simple. Do not get me wrong as you expand your fly fishing into hunting Bonefish, Permit and other shallow water fish, things can get a little more complicated with more precise casting abilities, leaders, different flies and general techniques, but breaking Striped Bass here in the Chesapeake and Mid Atlantic are a great way to cut your teeth on the sport with catching success.
To get started chasing Stripers I suggest that anglers start with a 9wt nine foot fly rod and reel. There are many brands out on the market that have price points in the $100 to $250 range that will allow you to get started with a quality outfit. Some starter brands that offer a rod and reel combination to look into are: Temple Fork, St. Croix, Scientific Anglers, Bass Pro, and Cabeleas. The rods will generally be classified as slow, medium and fast action. I generally suggest fly angler start with a medium action rod. Saltwater fly reels in the last several years have moved to large arbor reels which allow the reel to hold a few hundred yards of backing along with the fly line. Do not worry about this either at this point. If your reel can hold 125 yards of backing and your fly line you are in perfect shape. Your main target here will be Striped Bass, not a Blue Fin Tuna, Stripers run, but generally not for very long distances. A good drag is important, but generally these beginner outfits will have enough to get you started.
I suggest starting off buying two lines, one floating line to practice your casting and and also a sinking line, both of which will allow you to fish for breaking and deeper located fish. My “go to” sinking line that I use throughout the Chesapeake and Mid Atlantic is a Rio Striper 250 sinking line.
A floating line does just what it says, it floats on top of the water keeping your fly in the upper portion of the water column, a sinking line does as it suggests, it sinks allowing you to get your fly into deeper depths. Sinking lines are rated by how many inches a second they sink. In general you will see lines in classified as 150, 250, 350, 450, 550, 650 and then lead core likes such as T-14 that are very heavy and sink like a rock.
For a leader I suggest you keep it simple with 2-3 feet of 30lb leader attached to your fly line joined to a 15lb or 20lb 3-4 foot piece which you will tie directly to your fly. I generally use a blood knot to join the two pieces of leader, it’s a quick strong knot.
Your fly selection can be kept simple with a selection of 2/0 Clouser Minnows type patterns and Lefty Deceiver patterns. My favorite colors are all chartreuse, all white, and chartreuse over white, all black and olive over white. Get a few of each of these and you will be set. About 85% of the time I use a Polomar knot to join the fly to the leader, it’s as close to a 100% knot as you can get if tied correctly.
When starting fly fishing learning casting can be a frustrating experience and is often the reason people stop picking up the fly rod. My suggestion is to look up a local expert and take a few lessons and then practice, practice and practice. Once you get it the knack it will become natural. While you are learning the casting take your fly rod with you on all trips and go find some breaking fish, if you can not get the line out cast as far as you can and mooch the line out into the tide. I often have beginners do this and they catch fish and once they do they only want to learn how to cast even more.
Do not get me wrong, all types of fishing are great, I grew up as a largemouth bass fishermen throwing and pitching jerk baits to weed bed lines with light tackle and still to this day love light tackle, but pick up the fly rod and give it a try, I think you will be surprised at how quickly you find yourself addicted.
Next in these series of articles we will dive into each of the aspects of fly fishing. We'll cover in more detail, rods, reels, lines, leaders, flies and casting.
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