Anyone who loves fly fishing always dreams of catching a tailing red or a thrashing tarpon on a fly rod. It is something of beauty that not many fisherman through out the world are able to do.
Although, what if you take a family vacation to a beach anywhere on the coast and you do not have easy access to a boat and your shake your head at breaking waves because you know that there is a fish of some sorts within a lines reach but the only question is, how do you catch them? Most guys I have seen fishing from the surf use massive rods with 3-4 oz. pyramid weights and whatever kind of bait they can find such as shrimp, sand fleas, or mud minnows to throw on their rigs. Even as they attempt to cast far out into the ocean their cast do not go tremendously far and yet they still catch blue fish, red fish, pompano etc. I have heard that these fish troll the waves feeding on sand fleas that are being washed in the breaking waves so if you can catch them with massive rods and weights, why not a fly rod?
This is a subject that is not widely talked about and seldom published by a professional to read and study about. As for tips and techniques used to catch these fish with a fly rod it is virtually impossible to find unless you spend hours online searching for it. I believe that there ARE fish close to the beaches and these fish ARE catch able!
I would like to know what type of rod, line, sinking line, flies, methods people use to catch these fish!
Jesse, first of all, welcome to the forum. You've come to the right place for answers to your questions about fly fishing.
If you search threads on this forum, you will find some very good information about surf fishing with flies. This is something I've been doing for the last five years in So Cal.
Catching fish in the surf does not require 15-foot rods with heavy weights and bait. I use a 6 or 8 weight fly rod with sinking line and short 4-6 foot section of 8 to 12-lb mono. Attched to that is a fly that is usually a variation of a Clouser in sizes 8 to 1/0. Locally, fish in the surf zone favor things that look like sand crabs, so that's what I throw with reasonable success. I recommend using a stripping basket to manage your line, and you can either wet wade or use waders.
You will be amazed at the fish that can be caught within 50 feet of the beach.
Surf fly fishing is a lotta fun.... I mean a REAL lotta fun.
Big fish, crashing waves, wide open spaces.
It's important to be safe and have the right gear, but the fish are often in close to feed just as you suspect and when they are, they're hungry. Often the fish are right at your feet.
Being able to read the water is just as important as it is with trout fishing and maybe even more-so as the gamefish have plenty of room to spread out.
You need to be able to recognize currents and structure and understand how these are constantly changing with the tides.
Understanding the various baits is important, but the flies that imitate them can be very simple. The proper size and profile. Deep, mid, and top water just about covers it all.
Here's a primer on gear and if you use the search funtion you'll find quite a few posts on the subject.
Jesse, depending on the location, you may have rough conditions that challenge you and your gear with tide and surf conspiring against you getting to your intended targets.
Out here on the West Coast, I use a fast sinking line 90% of the time, due to typically rough conditions. I occasionally use an intermediate line if conditions allow for it.
Last summer, I was in Florida and used a floating line in the surf along the Gulf Coast and it worked great for the local conditions there.
As RipTide wrote, evaluating the conditions and locating likely holding spots can be difficult at first. The more time you spend doing it, like anything else, the better you will be at spotting the structure that the fish like.
Studying the beach at extreme low tides will reveal the troughs, holes, and rocks that attract fish. Another way of spotting the underwater structure is by looking at how the waves break. If a wave is breaking, but then disappears, and then breaks again closer to shore, there is a trough parallel to shore that is causing the wave to do that. That should be a target for your cast. Waves breaking unevenly can demonstrate where holes and troughs are located.
Also, rip tides can create troughs in the sand, but also are powerful currents that pull bait and debris out to deeper water. Fish will target the edges of rip tides to catch bait as it is pulled away from the beach.
Nervous water can indicate fish activity or small holes and troughs that cause irregular movement of the water. This is another form of structure at which you should aim your casts.
In addition to on-the-water conditions, check your tide charts to target times when fish will likely be feeding close to shore. Getting to the beach just after low tide and fishing an incoming or rising tide can yield some of the best results in my experience. This puts the current in your favor by driving both predator and prey toward the beach.
Here are a few photographic examples that illustrate gear, conditions, and fish.
Welcome to the surf! and the Forum. Finding this forum is the best first step in making preparation to fly fish Salt Water. I would recommend two good books which are somewhat the "Bibles" for SW fly fishing. These books have helped me tremendously. Lou Tabory and Lefty Kreh are the authors, (I'm at work and don't rember the exact titles.) At any rate you can buy these books at Amazon for pennies - literally-. These books have the answers to the questions you thought of (and the answers to the ones you haven't thought of yet).
I have little experience in surf fishing, but my impression was that it is less complicated and more accessible than people think. I was in Central California in october and had a lot of fun surf fishing. I brought my six weight with me and bought an intermediate line with a few small saltwater flies that looked like sandfleas when I arrived in San Francisco. I than bought a basket at a superstore and made a makeshift stripping basket with a duck tape belt! hehe
I then put on my wadding pants and went on into the surf! I had so much fun even if I only caught 3 fish in 4 hours of fishing! I can't wait to try again and would like to try the east coast this summer.
Best way to learn a new type fishing is to go out there and experience, nothing wrong with getting skunked of making mistakes.
Finally, I'd like to add that one advice that was given to me a few times before fishing and that I found very useful was: Do not turn your back to the surf!!!
I'm glad this thread is here. There is another one pertaining to fishing the surf around Pensacola/FWB that I replied to recently but the threads are hard to find.
I purchased a 9 wt Clearwater outfit as my first saltwater rig. We vacation yearly to the Alabama Gulf coast. More times than not I book a charter out of Romar marina near Orange Beach. This charter is aboard a 23' Kenner skiff boat. I might just bring my fly rig aboard this year if the captain agrees, however I will most certainly be knee deep in the surf each morning and evening behind our rental which is two miles from Fort Morgan, AL. I'll watch the tide charts closely and fish both the Gulf and Bay sides of the peninsula.
I started to go with a spey setup but settled on the 9 foot, 9 wt rig.
I bought an assortment of flies. Mostly clousers, crabs, shrimp and squid patterns which I will also try to tie some of my own variations before our trip which is around the July 4 holiday. I plan on taking various sizes ranging from 4,6,8 all the way up to 1/0. I cannot wait to get back down there with fly tackle this year instead of bait casting gear.
In the past I've done quite well with a bait casting setup catching a little bit of everything from ladyfish to Spanish. I really want to hook up with some redfish but I'm not sure if that's possible from the surf.
I'm still undecided on a stripping basket. I plan on fishing at low tide as much as possible and do my best on reading the breaks and small jetties along the beach. I hope the fact that I don't have a basket doesn't come back to bite me.
I hear that when the tides change the fish really like to run up in the bays around the Pass near Orange Beach and up into Mobile Bay.
Hopefully with the heavier weight line the wind won't be too much of an issue. If so, I may wind up with a lot of new body piercings...
As the original poster mentioned, there are a ton of guys fishing those big water rigs with cut ladyfish, triangle weights and sand anchors. In the past, I've given the ladyfish I've caught to them to use as bait and they've caught a little bit of everything from sharks to skates.