You might only make that trip to angling paradise once, so make sure you get it right by taking advantage of well over a hundred of years of experience here at Farlows with our saltwater fly fishing experts!
Our team have fished across the entire globe so no matter where your destination is, the chances are that they will have been there and done it! But there’s more, not only will they have fished the country you are heading to, and the area, they will almost certainly have stayed in the same lodges and fished with the same guides too! From bitter experience they know the upsides and the downsides, the pros and the cons, and what mistakes you really need to avoid if you want your trip of a lifetime to be a success.
Please feel free to call us on +44 (0)20 7484 1000, email us, or call in-store at Pall Mall to speak to one of the team, no matter where you are heading, and take full advantage of the most comprehensive angling advice service in the business!
And be sure to check out our key advice below.
Take a casting Lesson
You will be fishing for wild fish with highly developed survival instincts and often in gin-clear, shallow water; they are easily spooked by clumsy casts and poor watercraft so stealth and accurate casting are a must.
In this respect it’s important to take a saltwater fly fishing casting lesson before you travel. Learning casts to deal with the wind and improving your accuracy are more important than out and out distance.
Rod and reel care
Be very careful with your rods - they are easily broken by everything from the ceiling fan in your hotel and people falling on them in the boat to belligerent crocs that don’t like being prodded! Make sure you protect those valuable reels when not in use too by popping them into a case.
Do your washing up
Wash everything that has been near saltwater, with freshwater, as soon as you possibly can, this includes tackle, accessories, flies and lures.
Rinse your clothing out in freshwater too – if you leave saltwater on them they will stay damp. For a week’s trip take two sets of clothes that you can wear on alternate days, leaving a set to dry fully on its day off.
Choose the correct clothing, Simms, Patagonia and Columbia all offer excellent ranges that will keep you cool and sunburn free, even in intense tropical heat. A good hat and buff are particularly important.
Take plenty of sun cream, lip balm and insect repellent too. We recommend water resistant ‘once a day’ sun screen such as Simms SPF 30 plus high-quality pair of sun glasses, and a cleaning kit for them, is also essential – and you won’t beat Costa Del Mar – go for a bronze lens to give the best contrast.
Also take a basic first aid kit that includes Paracetamol, anti-histamine tablets, antiseptic cream, plasters and sterile wound dressings.
Make sure you drink lots of fluids throughout the day – if you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated, so get into the habit of drinking small amounts continuously.
Select your flies carefully
There are lots of saltwater fly patterns to choose from, so read the pre-trip notes from the travel company or, better still, call into Farlows and take advantage of our inside information!
Bonefish and permit on the flats prey predominantly upon juvenile crustaceans and small fish, so getting the size right is important and patterns tied on number 4 hooks are the norm, although in areas with big bones larger flies tied on size 2 hooks will score. Most bonefish patterns work as long as they are small and weighted - with shrimp patterns with a banded tail and crab flies, like the Merkin, usually productive. We wouldn’t be without: Gotchas, Christmas Islands, Bonefish Specials, Crazy Charlie, Bubba Shrimps and Chilli Pepper.
Permit tend to favour larger crab flies and imitations on size 2 and 1 hooks are ideal. Barracuda are attracted to chartreuse flies some six to eight inches in length, or large bait fish patterns with a big eye.
Dolphin, bonito, small tuna and big jacks will hit white or yellow bait fish patterns with big eyes, dark backs and a flash on the flanks and big poppers work well for all of the big fish species.
Listen and Learn
Do remember to always listen to your guide’s advice – as well as finding the fish they also know how to catch them. Probably most important here is to cast when they tell you to cast, you may not see the fish but they will – and always strip strike.
The mechanics of hooking are fascinating and relate to many factors including the shape and structure of the mouth of the fish that has taken your fly, as well as to the size and shape of your hook. Your guide should put you right, but we recommend you chat to one of our team to make sure you don’t pull your fly out of the mouth of that fish of a lifetime!
Get your rod and reel combo right
One of our most experienced saltwater fly fishing anglers and guides, Sean Clarke, is a ‘9 / 12’ man when it comes to the salt. For bonefish and permit he carries a 9wt rod, if tarpon or GT are his target species then he opts for a 12wt.
His simple advice is that the bigger the fish the better the reel needs to be! Nautilus models are now his reels of choice but if you want to save a bit of money he recommends choosing a cheaper Orvis Hydros model – and simply putting the cheaper reel on your lighter rod, where it will be more than up to the task.
All images are courtesy of our friends at the Alphonse Fishing Company