Fly Fishing the Surf


Posted on June 18, 192001 at 07:53:01:

Fly Fishing the Surf

If you enjoy fly fishing you'll probably enjoy the challenges presented by casting flies into the surf for stripers and bluefish. Reading the water, matching the naturals, presentation, and drift are all variables that need to be considered to be successful in this game. The surf provides a unique habitat full of surprises and rewards. Mastering the skills of flyrodding in the surf could easily take a lifetime. I will point out some techniques that you may use to get started.

Stripers have a body form that is well adapted to turbulent water and strong currents. Their ability to stage in the heaviest of surf while feeding on sand eels, sand worms, and disoriented baitfish is well known. This allows the fly flinger to work a shoreline picking up these staging fish.

Bluefish have a tendency to be more conspicuous as they often drive bait out of the water in their rapid pursuit for a meal. They are built for speed and never tire of eating! If you are fortunate enough to have a school of blues move along your section of beach you will not soon forget it.

For fly fishing the surf I prefer a nine weight fly rod. This rod is a nice compromise between weight and ability to handle wind. A rod of too much mass is exhausting to cast all day and a rod of lighter line weight does not combat the wind often encountered in an inshore fly fishing environment. The nine weight seems to cover the lines and fly sizes that I use most often in the surf.

Intermediate fly lines are most commonly used in the surf. These lines allow the fly to stay just below the surface instead of dragging along the surface as waves break. The gradually sloping shoreline creating surf does not often facilitate the need for heavy high density shooting heads although the heavy heads can greatly assist in getting the fly down quickly. Heavy heads can assist in dragging under large feathery patterns or in areas where the surf is extreme enough not to allow the fly to get down on a standard intermediate line. Your intermediate line will be your workhorse but a high density sinking shooting head is nice to have when needed. A stripping basket is a must to keep the running line from making a mess of your casts while wading into the surf.

The best time to fish the surf is in the low light conditions of dusk and dawn and all throughout the night. Stripers will come amazingly close to shore and stage in the surf in low light. The best tides are those that produce longshore currents that will carry your fly parallel to the shoreline. I seldom do well when the water is slack (nearly free from current) or when the sun is high. Learn the skills of fishing at night. It is a real sensory awareness activity that will pay off if you put time into learning .

My choice of flies include patterns such as clouser�s minnows, deceivers, surf candies, and a few larger patterns that imitate tinker mackeral. These patterns imitate natural baits such as sand eels, silversides, sand worms, and mackeral all of which make up a large part of a striper�s diet. When fishing at night I have found that black or dark patterns produce the best results.

When wading out into the surf be especially aware of what the tide and current patterns are like in a particular area. Wading new and unfamiliar water at night is a bad choice. Once you have waded out to a safe distance begin casting in such a way that you are allowing the fly to fall as far behind the large crests as possible. Currents should allow the fly to gradually swing along the shoreline. Throughout the drift you may try different techniques for stripping in the fly but often a complete dead drift can produce results. It is best to experiment until you find a formula that works. Long casts will allow you to cover more water than shorter ones and increase your chances of hooking up.

This article is designed to point out a few guidelines to get you out into the surf catching fish and is by no means a comprehensive overview of surf fishing with the fly. Get out there and try it! The rewards are many.

If you have any questions about this article or fly fishing in general feel free to call me at 1-800-558-7658 or email to gary@northeastanglers.com


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