Saltwater Fly Fishing for Beginners

Master saltwater fly fishing: choose the right gear, practice precision casting, and catch powerful fish.

Saltwater fly fishing is an entirely different experience than fly fishing in freshwater rivers. Your fly-fishing gear should be stronger, with 8-weight setups being the least required for catching species like redfish and snook. The wind is also almost always a factor when making accurate sight casts in saltwater.

Because of various factors, saltwater fly fishing requires skill and expertise. But every effort is worth it as it results in exciting catches and intense battles with powerful fish. It offers diverse experiences, but there are some things you must know and do before going out on your saltwater fly-fishing trip. 

Choose Your Saltwater Fly Fishing Gear

Your gear is crucial in saltwater fly fishing. You need the proper rod, reel, fly line, and fly to begin your game successfully. When choosing your fly fishing gear, you must consider where you’ll fish and the species you want to catch. 

These two things will help you consult with local fly fishing enthusiasts or a nearby fishing equipment store staff member to ensure you get the items best suited to your needs. However, standard configurations are more effective for various saltwater fish.

Fly Fishing Rod

First, you must choose a fishing rod—a crucial step since the type of fly rod you use will affect the rest of your gear. Various rods are available for saltwater fly fishing, so it’s okay not to focus too much on the specifics, especially when you’re a beginner. Their importance will increase once you have gained experience as a saltwater fly fishing angler targeting a particular fish. But here are a few factors you might want to consider:

Line Weight

The thickness of the fly line, also known as line weight, will depend on the type of fish you want to target. 

The larger and more powerful the fish you want to catch, the heavier the line weight you will need. On the other hand, catching smaller fish requires less weight (8- 10 wt). The connection between fly rods and fly lines is crucial; pairing them together is necessary to use your rod efficiently.

Rod Action

The way a rod bends while casting and catching a fish is referred to as rod action. Fast-action rods bend mainly in the tip section, while slow-action rods bend throughout the entire length of the rod.

Fast-action rods are best for making accurate, long casts, while slow-action rods provide better control and sensitivity when fighting a fish.

Rod Length

Saltwater fly-fishing rods typically range in length from 8 to 12 feet. Short rods are easier to handle and are great for fishing in tight spots, while longer rods provide better casting range and are recommended for fishing in open areas.

When choosing a saltwater fly fishing rod, you must consider your fishing goals and the type of fish you intend to catch. It’s also ideal to test multiple rods to determine the most comfortable and best suited to your casting technique.


After choosing the best rod for you, you must add a reel. Selecting the correct saltwater fly fishing reel is crucial because it can affect how well your fishing gear functions and how long it lasts. Consider these various factors when selecting a saltwater fly reel:


The reel's size depends on the rod's weight and the line capacity you need. Larger, stronger reels are best for heavy rods and deep-sea fishing, while smaller reels are best for shallower waters. A key feature in a reel is a large arbor for quick line retrieval, especially when dealing with fast-moving fish.

Drag System

Unlike in most freshwater reels, the drag mechanism plays a vital role in saltwater reels and can largely determine your saltwater fly fishing success. 

The drag is a feature that manages the pressure on the line while it is released from the reel. Saltwater drag systems are usually categorized into sealed drags and non-sealed drags. 

Sealed drag systems are made to prevent water from entering the drag system and are typically more compact, enabling a very smooth drag. Non-sealed systems can be just as smooth and even more durable when properly maintained. 

Remember, always consider the type of fish you want to catch when looking for a fishing reel and its drag system.

Line Capacity

The line capacity of a reel is the quantity of line it is able to contain. Usually, the reels used for flat fishing have 300m of 50lb -80lb braid backing and a 90ft fly line. Bluewater reels typically have a capacity of up to 500 meters of backing.


Saltwater fly fishing reels are generally made of lightweight and durable metals, with aluminum being the favored material.

Again, when selecting a saltwater fly reel, it is crucial to consider your fishing objectives, the types of fish you plan to catch, and the environment in which you will be fishing.

Fly Line

Finally, you need a fly line. Deciding on the best line for you will depend on the location and method of fly fishing, making it essential to seek advice from seasoned anglers. They can advise you on using a floating or sinking, opaque or clear line to attract the fish. To complete your gear, include fly backing, leader, and tippet for your fly fishing setup.

Line Weight

Like the weight of your rod and reel, the weight of your fly line is crucial. Again, heavier fishing lines are best for larger fish and make casting easier against the wind. On the other hand, lighter lines enable delicate presentations and use thinner leaders, although they are not as easy to cast in windy conditions.

The Core

The fly line’s core is where the outer layer is connected. It can be made of either monofilament or braided material, with braided cores gaining popularity for their flexibility, durability, smaller sizes, and increased strength.

The core material is not crucial in the tropics, but the core strength is essential, especially in the heavier-weight categories. A strong core reduces the risk of your fly line breaking when putting pressure on a GT.

Application (Floating, Hovering, Sinking)

Most fly lines used in saltwater fly fishing are floating lines due to the need for sight-fishing in shallow waters.

Tapered vs. Non-Tapered

Most fly lines include either a shooting head or taper. It’s an essential tool in the ocean because it enables quick rigging while sight fishing and results in a more precise and gentle presentation.

Top Saltwater Fly Fishing Game Species

From Bonefish to Striper and more, you can catch plenty of fantastic species when you go saltwater fly fishing. It might seem strange to keep your line near the surface when fishing in deep waters, but it makes sense when trying to catch these fish.


Barracuda are fond of feeding in shallow waters and have heightened awareness of their environment, able to see up to 20 feet away. They are also predators that ambush their prey, so make sure to use a clear line when casting a fly within five to 15 feet of the fish to avoid alerting them.


Bonefish, similar to Barracuda, are game fish that rely on sight fishing and thrive in warm tropical waters. Select a bonefish taper and fly mimicking the Bonefish's natural diet to maximize success in hot weather conditions.


Usually, Dorado will opt for dark patterns that can create silhouettes. Trying out different colors based on water conditions could be beneficial when choosing a fly. But it's generally ideal to opt for one that will agitate the waters to deceive the Dorado into biting.

Striped Bass

Striped Bass (Striper) are commonly sought after in saltwater fly fishing because of their size and strength. They provide an exciting challenge when taking the bait. If you plan to target stripers, it’s best to use flies that mimic threadfin and gizzard shad, as these are their preferred prey when fishing in flowing water.

Do Some Target Practice

Practicing throwing something into a target as big as a hula hoop is an excellent way to prepare for a saltwater fly fishing adventure. 

Place objects across the yard instead of directly in front of you, then move around and attempt to strike them at varying distances as swiftly as possible. Try out various casting angles, such as backhand and short over-the-shoulder casts. 

Remember that when it comes to saltwater, it is more important to focus on speed and precision than just how far you can cast. Some individuals may claim that you must be able to cast 80 feet when fishing in saltwater, but this statement is incorrect. 

Having a 30-foot range isn't terrible, and you'll be good in most areas with 40 feet. However, precision and the ability to draw swiftly are of utmost importance.

Perfect Your Position

After casting your fishing line, lowering the rod's tip into the water is ideal. When the line is elevated, the other end hangs loose, leading to tension loss and a lack of sensation. So, it’s best to practice and perfect your position.

You might discover that confronting the fish, even when your body is contorted from executing a backhand shot, is better. You can adjust your feet to a slightly closer distance to prevent accidentally dancing on the deck and crossing the line.

Get Polarized Glasses

Wearing copper lenses that wrap around slightly helps block side light and brighten your fishing days. But remember that it still takes time to improve your ability to spot fish, even when wearing high-quality polarized sunglasses

Start close to your feet and then extend your gaze outward. Search for motion, even at the surface, where the rhythm or path of waves will stand out from its surroundings. 

Fly Fishing with Latitudes Outfitting Co.

Ready for an exceptional fly fishing adventure? Robert Gary, an outfitter and owner of Latitudes Outfitting Company, has gathered a team of top guides in western Montana for your journey!

Latitudes Outfitting Co. offers skilled guides familiar with the ideal locations for fish to thrive. This increases your chances of a successful catch when fishing in Montana's pristine waters.

Experienced, friendly, patient guides will ensure that your fishing trip is successful, no matter your level of experience. Our commitment is to offer outstanding customer service to ensure your Montana fly fishing experience is memorable and satisfying. Our main priority is ensuring your happiness and pleasure.

Embark on your upcoming fishing excursion with us now! 

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