Saltwater Fishing on the Fly

There's an art to tying flies, but the thrill's in the hunt

Every sport has its experts, but you don’t need much expertise to experience and appreciate the breathtaking pull of an angry redfish on a pulsating 8-weight.

Fly-fishing is an ancient art, imported from Europe and practiced on high-country streams for centuries before the first enterprising long-rodder attempted the presentation of an oversized fly to a saltwater gamefish. 

These days, coastal fly casters regularly catch everything from 15-inch school trout to 150-pound tarpon. They achieve this feat by drawing on the expertise of numerous authorities as well as countless texts and videos.

Over time, the quality of tackle in relation to its price has consistently improved. Many entry-level outfits are now actually superior to “state-of-the-art” rigs marketed in years past. 

Technology, materials and manufacturing techniques have brought high-end fly-fishing gear within easy reach of the angler who’s willing to make a modest investment.

Accomplished saltwater fly casters often use 6- or 7-weight rods. It’s great fun to fight even modestly sized redfish and trout on lighter-weight blanks. However, for easier learning, without sacrificing the authority to counter constantly present coastal winds, most beginners fare best with 8-weight rods.

Most saltwater fly casters express a general preference for weight-forward floating line. After all, it’s the line being cast, not the lure. Sinking line is appropriate for surf-casting, jetty fishing or plumbing deep bay troughs and reefs, but for the classic drill of stalking tailing redfish in calf-deep water, floating line rules.

Unlike lures and baits on conventional tackle, flies are retrieved via “stripping” the line by hand, not cranking a reel handle. Once there’s a strike, the hook is set with a firm tug of the line, not a swoosh of the rod.

Fly line embodies two materials, the core and the coating. Most fly lines are approximately 30 yards long. Attaching the line to the backing is arguably a job best left, at least the first time or two, to a pro shop. In fact, pro shops are a beginning fly caster’s go-to source for everything from proper tackle setup to knot-tying to effective fly presentation.

Many Texas casters, both saltwater and freshwater, benefit from membership in the Federation of Fly Fishers, a group of avid longrodders with chapters nationwide. They’re generous with their time and knowledge, sharing fly patterns and techniques.

It’s been my experience that fly casters are more willing to share their expertise than any other faction of the angling community. After all, fly fishermen possess a common passion, one that transcends the catching of fish.

A good fly caster does not always a good fisherman make. You can, after all, be an excellent mechanic and still not know how to drive a car.

Just as effective archery requires highly refined hunting skills, fly-fishing increases the challenge of saltwater angling and calls on new skills. Occasionally, it can actually give the angler an edge.

When conventional lures spook skittish gamefish, it’s possible that a gently presented streamer can be just the enticement that draws a savage response from an unsuspecting predator. Even more impressive is the sense of control an angler feels when a blind cast is rewarded with the unanticipated sighting of a tailing redfish in the opposite direction.

Faced with that exciting but frustrating quandary, the hapless baitcaster can only crank the reel handle as quickly as possible and hope for a last-second shot at a fish that’s very likely to flee in response to the hurried impact of the cast.

A cool-headed fly caster needs only lift the line from the water, firmly pull it behind, load up the rod, aim and — given reasonable competence and a small bit of luck — quickly “shoot” an irresistible offering directly in the path of the unsuspecting fish.

When a tailing redfish lifts its head and turns, slicing through an accelerated wake with a defiantly raised dorsal fin, and only seconds later lunges atop a saltwater fly like a bulldog on a rat, the feeling you get is like hitting a bull’s-eye or a hole-in-one.

Share this post and invite your friends to subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine to get more tips like this. We have an all-access subscription offer.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info. Cast Net Fishing

  3. wonderful post. this is very well written and unique. Thank you for sharing this post here. keep sharing this in future. Miami Fishing Reports

  4. I am really happy to say it’s an interesting post to read . I learn new information from your article , you are doing a great job.Fishing in Fort Lauderdale

  5. Thank you for putting all these strategies into a very readable place. It shows your ability and great skills. keep sharing such article in future. St. Petersburg Inshore Fishing Charters

  6. We can relate to your blog as we are a powerful new force in the fly fishing industry. RiverBum offers premium quality flies and gear at highly competitive prices. A family owned US business, RiverBum promotes the sport of fly fishing to all folks from every walk of life.

  7. I really want to thank the author for such a nice blog that helped me to understand why it is important. thanks for sharing. Deep Sea Fishing San Diego

  8. Wow, nice post. I'm impressed by this blog as well as this movie. There is so much information about this fishing. St. Petersburg Fishing Charters

  9. Awesome article,keep on posting that great content, and I'll be a regular visitor for a long time...looking for the next one....keep it up!best electric ice augers

  10. The very elegantly composed article that you have given to us about it. Continue imparting your insight to us, Much obliged. Marco Island Fishing Guide

  11. The information which you have shared here . It is a really useful and informative article. I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great work. Thank you. Outer Banks Fishing Trips

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. I just need to say this is a well-informed article which you have shared here about hoodies. Adjuvants For Animal Vaccines It is an engaging and gainful article for us. Continue imparting this sort of info, Thanks to you.

  14. A 3 piece paddle board uk is a type of stand up paddle board that is composed of three separate pieces that fit together. This type of paddle board is typically easier to transport and store than a traditional paddle board, as it can be disassembled and carried in a backpack or other type of bag. 3 piece paddle boards are also often more affordable than traditional paddle boards, making them a great option for those on a budget.