TROPICAL SALTWATER FLY FISHING
By Jonathan Tomlinson
Tropical saltwater fly fishing has become one of the fastest growing facets of our sport with more and more people venturing abroad to chase fish on the flats than ever before. The lure of 30ºC, blue sky, warm water, and hard fighting fish for many is just too much and after their first adventure most anglers find themselves addicted to this drug-like pastime. For most it is hard to comprehend the need for 200+ yards of backing for any fish but in the salt everything is bigger, stronger and faster, in a world were the law is eat or be eaten its easy to see why these fish fight quite so powerfully.
The most popular species to target on the flats are Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, Snook and Giant Trevally. There are hundreds of locations around the world that have become very popular with the traveller, some of the best known locations are: - Belize, Mexico, Cuba, Florida, Christmas Island, Los Roques, the Seychelles and the Bahamas. These are probably the most popular and the most easily accessible. Other locations such as New Caledonia, Tahiti, Exmouth and The Coral Seas offer plenty of opportunity.
As well as more traditional flats fishing bluewater fly fishing has really seen a big leap in popularity in the last 5-10 years with people wanting to push the boundaries further and further. Now species such as Sailfish, big Tuna, Dorado, Shark, Wahoo and even Marlin are now no longer safe from the hard core fly fisherman.
Great bluewater locations include Mozambique, Kenya, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Australia but new places are being discovered every year.
Certain things need to be taken into consideration when it comes to fishing in the tropics. The fish are generally much stronger than those found in freshwater and the high temperatures and salt are more destructive than you can imagine. If the fish can’t find a way to destroy your tackle then the salt will. It can be a big investment to buy the tackle and clothing for your first saltwater trip but if you buy the best you can afford you won’t have to upgrade for your second trip. There has never been a truer meaning to the saying “buy cheap, buy twice” than there is with saltwater fishing. You will kick yourself if you loose that fish of a lifetime because your gear let you down and no one likes to learn the hard way! Some items have been specifically designed for use in tropical conditions for example tropical fly lines, their cores and coating are designed to work best in 20ºC + which is when a fresh water line will start to become limp like a piece of cooked spaghetti. Polaroid sunglasses specific for saltwater have lenses that work best in these shallow clear flats with very strong tropical sun, glasses such as the Costa Del Mar 580 glass lenses in either a blue or green mirror are ideal.
9ft 6-9 weight rods are ideal for light through to heavy bonefish. When conditions allow, fishing for bones on a light rod is great fun but for the majority of destinations an 8 weight is ideal. Only a handful of locations will require a 9 weight when larger flies (up to size 2 or even 1/0) with heavier lead eyes are needed on deeper flats.
9’ 9-10 weight rods are ideal for permit, baby tarpon, snook, roosterfish, jacks, milkfish and smaller trevally species. These rods are powerful enough to land bigger fish but without compromising presentation especially for more easily spooked species such as permit.
9’ 11-12 weight rods are more suited to large tarpon, giant trevally, big dorado and sailfish.
13+ weight rods - these are the big boys designed for fighting really powerful fish such as big tuna, shark, big wahoo and marlin. These rods tend to be 8-8½ feet in length for superior lifting and fish playing ability.
A large arbour disc drag reel is a must; it should be capable of holding at least 200+ yards of backing. A sealed drag system such as the Nautilus NV is ideal but other cork based drags such as the Tibor are highly recommended.
Floating lines are used more often than not for most shallow water flats fishing but in some areas a clear-tip or full intermediate can give the best fly presentation. For blue water fishing heavier floating and sinking lines are used. Lines such as Rio Leviathans are perfect, these lines have a beefed up 70lb BS core ideal for really big fish. Recommendations are Rio, Lee Wulff and Scientific Anglers all make lines with tropical cores designed for use in higher temperatures.
There are hundreds of flies available and you will quickly pick up your favourites but for the best advice drop into or call one of our stores and speak to an expert who can advise you on flies specific to your chosen destination.