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I'm gonna try the spring season on the flats this year for the first time. I just started fly fishing last summer (in Alaska . . . I've been chasing that high ever since!). Anyway, I need a rod/reel that can handle the task. I'm very overwhelmed by all the choices and being that I am more used to conventional fishing, I have little product recognition when it comes to fly equipment. Should I get a 9 or 10wt rod. Will the salinity of the bay affect my choice. I hope to get something that will be adequate all over the bay. Any suggestions as to where to buy? I'm trying to keep the whole combination in the 250 - 300 dollar range. Also, what is the best way to handle the fish on the flats? I am really worried about releasing a fish that I just spent forty minutes fighting(hopefully).
 

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I would recommend an 8 or 9 wt to cover just about anything in the bay. I use both. My 9wt stays loaded full time with a 350 gr sinking line and my 8 wt carries a 9wt floating or 8wt intermediate line. I build my own rods (usually components cost somewhere in the $125 range (total) but I hear good things on this board about TFO's and others. For reels, I've become a fan of the Ross BG series (which they have ceased production as the main line and you can get great deals on). But I also like the Ross Rythm which is a much simpler reel in terms of machining, and has a drag system that will handle anything in the bay and stands up well to salt. The Rythm (around $220) size 3 or 3.5 balances well on an 8 or 9wt rod. Using a gel-spun braid instead of dacron for backing will be more expensive but will allow you to compensate for capacity by the smaller diameter. Don't forget the line will also cost you anyhere from $35 to $80. Most will tell you to buy the best equipment that you can afford or you wil buy more than once. I've learned that to be true. You will get a lot of great suggestions here, but I'd go to a local fly shop and talk to them. They will be able to help you out and may let you try some of the rods and lines to suit your casting style.
 

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You might want to take a look at Temple Fork Outfitters rods, I think they make a rod in the $100 price range that you would be happy with. I used to buy expensive Scott rods but was convinced by so many people who were happy with their TFO rods that was the way to go and save some money too. I just bought a Sage 1800 series reel for my 9wt TFO rod from Cabela's for I think around $140.
 

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A 9wt do most everything you need to do on the flats. Get an extra spool or 2 for the reel so you can use different lines. Most used will be a 350gr sinking line, I like Rio DC Striper line, floating line for surface poppers and maybe an intermediate. You will use the sinking line most of the time. Chartreuse and white half and halfs catch more fish than anything else. If you are in the Baltimore area, go to Tocherman's on a Thursday or Friday, Joe Bruce is working in there now. He will fix you up with what you need to get started. Once you get into it though, one rod isn't enough. It's nice to have 2 or 3 rigged up ready to throw with different lines for the different conditions you will encounter during the day. You might want to consider booking a trip with a fly fishing guide to get you pointed in the right direction. Good luck and have fun.
Mudshark
 

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Also, let me add that it shouldn't take you 40 min. to land a Rockfish. Use a heavy leader (16-20 lb) and put the heat on him. You don't want to completly wear him out, good chance he will die. The heavy leader also allows you to handle the fish at the boat much easier. Leave the knotted, tapered trout leaders at home. I use straight 20lb. mono. Keep the fish in the water and revive him if necessary, holding by the tail and swimming back and forth. You will know when he is ready to go. PM me if you have any more questions.
Mudshark
 

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40 minute battle?

Also, what is the best way to handle the fish on the flats? I am really worried about releasing a fish that I just spent forty minutes fighting(hopefully).
Ricky-

You have gotten some good advice. A nine wt and 350 line will be a good match for the flats and much of the bay. You do not need a 10 wt to land stripers but may want one later to toss really big flies.

I have caught fish on the fly in the flats to 38 pounds and it took less than five minutes to land any of the larger fish with a nine wt. On bigger fish keep your rod at a low angle (10 o'clock) with the drag set at fairly light as he takes his first run. Palm the reel to apply extra pressure. Once you know your reel better, you can tighten it slightly. The fish in the flats will not run very far. If the fish is large and you have a bud on the boat, let him assist with the landing.

There is no need to use light tippet, if not fishing for records. I like to use leader and tippet that is just under the breaking strength of the flyline. 25 pound FC is what I normally use. I would use 30 but if you get hung up and need to pop the fly off, the sinking part of the flyline may break. Heavier leader and tippet make landing much easier and more certain. Just lead the fish to your bud and let him grab the line and lip the fish. Boga grips are OK but strong thumbs are more certain--one thumb for fish up to 20 pounds and two thumbs for bigger ones. I do not like to net fish that are to be released.

If you catch a fish that takes you 40 minutes to land, it would be in the 60 pound range or bigger. I have not heard of fish over about 55 pounds caught up there and they were not on a fly. A fly rod is a much more efficient tool than believed. It amazes me how quickly fish tire with a 9' fly rod.

Good luck.
 
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