How To Prepare For Your First Saltwater Fly Fishing Trip

Freshwater fly fishing dominates the industry with roughly 80% of all fly fishers only fishing freshwater. Well, maybe you’re an expert at catching 22 inch browns on a size #22 midge or you’ve been crushing largemouth on poppers like it’s your job and want to change it up a bit. Maybe you want to see a 6 pound bonefish take you into your backing in the blink of an eye. Or maybe you want a shot at chasing tailing Redfish in the mud flats of the Lowcountry. There are a lot of similarities but also a few key differences between fresh and saltwater and hopefully this write up will help you prepare for your first trip to the saltwater.

Saltwater Fly Fishing
Middle Bight, Andros Island, Bahamas

Research Your Destination

This might be the most obvious tip, but whether you already have a ticket or you’re only 5 minutes into planning your trip, there are some base line questions you’ll want to dig into.


What is the weather like where you’re going? Are you planning a trip to the Bahamas during hurricane season? You’ll want to look at the average temperature and wind range to make sure you’re going to be comfortable wherever you’re going.


What flies to bring? Just like freshwater, you’ll want to have a little variety. Do some online research to see what the masses are suggesting, but don’t forget about your local fly shop! Shop employees can be a gold mine of information and most will be willing to inform you about strip rate, sizes, colors, and weights of the flies you’ll need. Just gotta ask.


What gear do you need? Are you fishing for Tarpon or Bonefish? Redfish or Snook? Permit? GT? Stripers? False Albies? Sailfish? Should you have a floating fly line or a 26 foot sink tip? How heavy of a fly rod and fly reel do you need? What size leader should you bring? How long? Are you going to be fly fishing from a flats boat or wading? Tons of questions, but your answers will help to guide your decisions when you’re purchasing your saltwater fly fishing setup. Keep in mind that your end destination may not have a fly shop, so you’ll want to be sure you have the right gear.

Saltwater Fly Fishing Reels
Keeping consistent pressure while a fish is burning your drag will help ensure it stays hooked up.

Test Drive Your New Gear

Nobody keeps their Ferrari in the garage all year long. Get out there and cast that new fly rod! If you’ve never thrown a fly into the salt, and even if you have, spending some time practicing in an open field can do wonders for your cast. Taking about 30 minutes a day a few times a week will dramatically improve your ability to cast those heavier set ups. Don’t forget about the wind, too. Try to get out there on the windy days to have a better idea of what it will be like on your trip.

Another crucial factor in the salt to think about is line management. If you’re up on the bow of the boat you don’t want to be standing on your line or have the wind blow it all around the bow and into the water. Being conscious of where your fly line is will help to avoid the frustration of listening to the guide, making a long cast, seeing the fish and your fly and then realizing that your line is all tangled up on the casting platform and you won’t have a chance at that fish.

Lastly, think about what you’re going to be wearing. If you’re wading and have a pack, gloves, spare rod tube, etc., make sure to practice your cast with the full arsenal on to make sure you’re comfortable with it all.

Saltware Fly Fishing Gear
25 inches of Lowcountry gold!


Saltwater Fly Fishing Apparel
Synthetic materials help to regulate body temperature better, whether it’s hot or cold. Avoid cotton!

“There’s no such thing as a stupid question”

We’ve heard it our whole lives, but it’s true. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Especially in a sport like fly fishing where everybody has a preference. Call up or go into your local fly shop, see what those guys and gals recommend for your trip. Ask your buddies, dive into a Google search. Don’t be afraid to look like you don’t know what you’re doing, at some point, everybody has been there. Just ask!

Saltware Bonefish
A nice Bonefish showing off his stripes.

Have fun, it’s just fishing

Don’t forget the whole reason you’re fishing, it’s supposed to be fun! Don’t get hung up on the negatives of your trip, they are inevitable.

You will miss fish, you will blow a cast, and you will trout set.

Don’t let it affect your whole trip. Remember, frustration only breeds more frustration. Shake it off, take a breath, and be patient. Some people spend years tracking down their first Permit. Remain calm and let cooler heads prevail.

Good luck and tight lines!

Saltwater Fly Fishing Tips
A screaming drag is the best kind of drag.

Written by John Hawthorne

John Hawthorne is a North Carolinian that recently moved south to Beaufort, SC. He picked up fly fishing during his time at NC State and while working in Colorado as a rafting guide at Noah’s Ark Whitewater. John currently works at Bay Street Outfitters. Be sure to stop in during your next visit to the Lowcountry. Click here to follow along on Instagram

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A Gulf Coast Tarpon putting a nice bend in an 11wt!

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