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peregrines 08-18-2011 06:10 PM

Gear for fly fishing the surf
There have been some folks that are starting to fly fish in the surf, so here's some gear you might want to consider in addition to your rod, reel, fly lines and flies.

Here's some stuff that comes in handy wading in the Northeast surf.

Stripping basket (also called a shooting basket). The purpose is to hold loose coils of fly line out of the water to reduce friction, helping to add distance to your cast when you shoot it through the guides. There is a lot of water resistance when you try and rip loose coils of intermediate or sinking fly line through the water column when you cast, but even floating lines can be hard to cast when current takes the loose coils down tide. You can buy a stripping basket from Orvis $60 , LL Bean $35, or a Mangrove Hip Shooter $50 or you can easily make your own. Here's a fancy smanchy version:

The one I use is even simpler, just a Rubber Maid dishpan and shock cord with hooks. I drilled holes in the rim of the short sides for shock cord and wear it around my waist. No drain holes or things in the bottom to hold fly line. I can flip it up and out of the way when walking or to empty it after a wave, and use it afterwards in the truck to throw wet and sandy stuff (since it doesn't have drain holes).

Homemade Stripping basket
Rubber Maid Dish Pan and shock cord with hooks

Other gear that you might want to consider:

Waterproof flashlight on a lanyard- Because some of the best fishing in the surf is at dawn, dusk and after dark, a water proof flashlight is essential if there's a chance you'll be fishing in low light. Wearing a flashlight on a lanyard ensures you'll be able to find it quickly and offers the possibility of a hands free light source if you need one for some tasks such as tying knots or searching through a fly box. If you don't already have one, find one that uses easy to replace batteries.

LED Neck or Head Light- if you do a lot of fishing after dark, this is a good investment. If you spring for one, look for one with a switch that turns on a red LED before it goes to white-- the red LED will preserve your night vision (and the night vision of those around you) and is less likely to scare fish in the surf zone.

Note: usually there is a surprising amount of ambient light, even on the darkest nights along the surf. And if you fish a lot in the dark, you'll quickly learn to tie knots, land fish and even thread leaders through they eyes of flies without a light. But a light can be essential in emergencies, and for finding your way to and from the beach. For fishing at night, I carry both a neck light and waterproof flashlight on a lanyard.

Polarized sunglasses - will eliminate glare and help you to see fish and bottom contours below the surface. Get a pair that also offers protection from UV rays (said to cause cataracts). Sunglasses also offer some measure of eye protection from flying hooks.

Lucky Hat with brim- reduces glare and sun exposure, and also offers some protection from flying hooks.

Leader material some extra leaders or spools of mono

Tape measure- essential to comply with various laws if you intend to keep any fish, but also a a good for accurately recording fish that you release.

Hook Hone- This 5 1/2" yellow plastic handled Luhr Jensen hook file runs about $7 and is great for putting a cutting edge on hooks and touching them up if the points become dinged or rolled on rocks or fish.

Insect repellent- many of the best areas seem to require walking through bug infested places. Good to keep handy.

Some basic flies- although there are thousands of patterns to choose from, a fistful of clousers and deceivers is probably fine to start in many areas. Add a puncture proof container of some sort to carry them. Lots of options ranging from a homemade VCR cassete tape box, Cliff's Bugger Barn (around $21) and many more options.

Small Brush from dust pan- just kept handy in the truck for wiping off sand

Pliers with sidecutters, or at a minimum household pliers. There are many excellent but expensive saltwater proof pliers made for fishing that run from $120 and up. Less expensive options are these Manley's Pliers with sidecutters (for cutting heavy mono or wire bite tippets, will also cut braid and small hooks) at around $40, or a pair of Hansom Tackle Saltwater pliers at $60. Rather than the really cheap $12 "fishing pliers" though, you'd be better off with a pair of household needle nosed or regular pliers, touched up often with 3 in 1 oil. Pliers come in real handy for unhooking fish with teeth.
Belt for waders- if it's cold enough to wear waders, a belt you can cinch down over them will keep a lot of water out of your waders if you fall or get hit by a wave or wake. A diver's weight belt with nylon buckle goes for around $7, or one with a stainless one like this is around $20.
Clockwise from top left:
Waterproof flashlight on strong cord to be worn as a Lanyard
LED Head/neck light with both red and white LEDS
Polarized Sunglasses- essential for cutting glare from the water, worn with croakie.
Lucky hat -
In stripping basket clockwise from top left:
Leader material
Tape measure-
Luhr Jensen Hook Hone-
Insect repellent- .
Some basic flies
Small Brush
Manley Pliers with sidecutters and/or ordinary household pliers. .
Dive Belt with Stainless buckle

Not shown:

Water proof sunscreen- I've been using Coppertone Sport for many years-- it seems to hold up around water and sweat, and isn't too greasy

Waterproof top, worn outside and over waders in cold weather, cinched down with wader belt. Keeps water out in rough water even when knocked over by a wave.

Waders/Boots- depending on the area you fish and the water temps, wet wading might be fine-- bare foot or with flats booties depending on the bottom. In areas with colder water, breathable waders offer a a more comfortable and lighter alternative to neoprene. Boot foot waders might be more appropriate than stocking foot plus wading shores if you fish on a lot of sandy beaches. Some areas like rocky coastlines and jetties might require the addition of strap on cleats (Korkers) that go on over bootfoot or wading shoes.

Tide and Current Tables- printed versions are widely available from tackle shops, weekly fishing mags etc. Additional info including wave height and wave/wind direction for the areas you plan to fish is often available on the web through NOAA and online surf reports.

Moon phase calendar- Available on the web. The full and new moons exert the strongest influence on tides, with both the highest high tides and lowest low tides on full and new moons.

Fishing Log - it's a good idea to record your adventures if you plan on fishing a particular area over time-- you'll be more likely to find patterns. You can build your own in a spreadsheet like Excel.

Depending where you fish, and your personal preferences for gear there may be a lot of differences in our own individual lists of must have items, but for those of you that might be thinking about hitting the surf for the first time, this list will hopefully give you something to think about.

We have a lot of members that fish the surf and/or wade along the east, gulf and west coasts so please feel free to weigh in with your gear suggestions.

peregrines 08-25-2011 11:36 AM

Re: Gear for fly fishing the surf
Here are some additional suggestions from members that fly fish the surf:

From chuck s:

Go with the first basket shown in the how to video--with the deluxe bungees it almost $5! Those like you show do not drain and can pull you down if swamped and the belt doesn't give. For fishing flats and very mild surf the solid baskets are fine. The basket I show here: Carp--flyfishing for freshwater Redfish!

is very expensive at around $3 or so and uses weed whip line angled toward the corners to allow good shooting while keeping the coils seperated. For those of us fishing surf and esp jetties we've found that you might want to leave a less hardy rod at home and go for something that will take a beating--especially jetty, rock hoppers! Mine was an old Ugly Stick 8 weight! Go with a very light vest or lanyard or better yet just a tech shirt with a few extra pockets as the surf is a place to lose tackle if and when a wave swamps you!

I carry tippet, a releaser, a cheap Boga knock off and a few extra flies as well as a throw away pair of nippers and a few flies. While in the surf, I just have the releaser, such as this: ARC Dehooker, Inc.

but I make my own and a cheap pair of needle nose pliers. I carry a gal or two of fresh water to give things a quik rinse after getting out or the water and then take all to the shower once home.

---------- Post added at 12:36 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:30 PM ----------

And from Rip Tide:

I've gone through a bunch of stripping baskets over the years and found that both solid and perforated baskets have their uses. In fact for a while I carried one of each in the truck. One made of a Rubbermaid tub and one made from a supermarket shopping basket.

Most recently I've stuck with only the solid basket. In the surf I can tip it up to deflect waves and once, when the sandbar I was standing on eroded away, I used it as a floatation device until I got back to solid ground.
Having done my share of fishing at night, I find that white is the best color for a basket as it makes a good background when tying on a fly or picking out a wind knot in the dark.

I've never cared for the "fingers" or loops made of weed wacker material as it makes it impossible to carry or store any gear in the basket and in my experience the loops cause more tangles than they solve. About 8 years ago I came up with an alternative that's worked out very well for me.
Wire nuts.
They're held with stainless screws and washers and a squirt of Goop to protect the springs. 8 years of use and still going strong.

If you fish where there's toothy critters, it's a good idea to have a Boga type grip. But those things are heavy and expensive. Not something you ever want to carry while surf fishing.
I use one of these Fish Grips. They're like 10 bucks, they float, and I can carry it clipped to my wading belt
Rather than official fishing pliers, I use a pair of regular needle-nose. I carrying them, along with my file, in a homemade
double holster of sheet foam. A few squirts of 3-in-1 into the holster keeps them both rust-free

and from Oarfish:

As long as you asked, I like to take along a paddling jacket (dry shirt) to keep my upper half dry and water outa the waders.


featherandfinblog 11-20-2013 10:23 PM

Re: Gear for fly fishing the surf
We regularly run interactive gear lists on our site...with links directly to the fly shop. You might want to check out our Northeast Saltwater Gear List which we recently ran. Visit our site (, search "gear list" and it pops right up.

Spencer Knibbe

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