Choosing the Saltwater Fly Rod

by Fly Fisherman

Anyone who has a good bass bug rod, properly lined, is reasonably well equipped to fly fish the salt. But as recommended in the rod article, earlier, the ideal is a 9-1/4-foot rod with slow action that comes right down into the grip. The slow action is needed to handle the large, wind resistant lures commonly used in salt water fly fishing, to wait for them to travel slowly rearwards, complete the loop at the end of the backcast, and then have the power to make the forward throw. A stiff, fast action rod snaps back too soon for this slow back loop and the line will drop and power is lost. Also, with a stiff rod the caster will have to make several casts in order to get out sufficient line and such repeated false casts are very tiring, especially in wind, which is often a hazard on salt water flats. A slow rod enables him to get off a quick toss to an oncoming fish without loss of time.
I like the 9 1/4-foot stick better than the 9-tooter, The added length gives greater height on the backcast, making for a better throw; and the length comes in handy when playing the lure in extremely shallow water. By holding the rod high you can often prevent the fly from catching on the bottom and keep it swimming in a couple of inches of water.
The lining of these big rods is all important. A level line will not shoot well, and a double taper is so light on the end that it will fold up in the wind. But a GAF forward taper (for explanation of this and other line-diameter terms, see section on LINES) will bring out everything that is in the rod. You can shoot the head of the line and the weight up front will pull • the shooting line after it. It is possible to pick up 35 feet of line and shoot an additional 35 feet, all with only one backcast. It takes the work out of fishing and an angler who uses this equipment can fish all day with pleasure. Yet if he were to try to pick up, say 5o feet of line, false cast it a couple of times, and heave it out, his arm would fall off by the end of the day.
The tapered leader is an important adjunct to the GAF line. The leader should start with a go-pound test nylon butt section, then taper, in an overall length of 12 feet, through 2o, 15, 12 and to to whatever fineness is desired on the tippet. For big tarpon and snook, most fishermen who go for them use a 12-pound test tippet. For fish like channel bass and snipers, a to-pound test tippet assures enough strikes and has the strength to withstand the weight and rough tactics of these great fighters. For bonefish and ladyfish, tippets are tapered as low as 6-and sometimes 4-pound test. In all cases, the butt section and the tippet section should be longer than the other parts of the leader—the butt section because it will help the casting by the added stiffness near the fly line; and the tippet because the long, finer nylon allows the angler to give more action to the fly and also keeps the fish from seeing the leader.

Because so many of the briny speedsters make long runs, a salt water reel should carry at least zoo yards of backing as well as the fly line. Some of these fast running fish would break the leader or the rod tip if they weren’t allowed to run. Most of the larger fresh water reels, and practically all of the good Atlantic salmon reels, are large enough to hold this much backing.
While in trout fishing, or for that matter, in fresh water fishing generally, an angler needs several outfits to properly cover the field, this is not the case in the salt. The one salt water fly fishing outfit does the job in every phase, from the canals where he may go for baby tarpon, snook or bass, to the bonefish flats, or the striped bass along Northern jettys and in rivers and bays, or for the dolphin of the deep. With this one outfit infinite variations of casting and lure play can be obtained, and that infinite variety is none too great for the multitude of game battlers of the salt that will hit a fly.

Since salty fish are highly individual in their reactions, the playing of the lure is important, and only experience teaches exactly what each fish wants under varying conditions. But basic to all lure play, regardless of the end result being sought. is the strip method of retrieve. The strip enables the fisherman to bring the fly back in jerks to match the action of a swimming minnow, shrimp or crab. With this method lie can give the fly a six-inch pull or bring it forward a foot. He can slow or speed the retrieve or stop it altogether. and yet he will always have a line that is good and tight for the strike or for the pick-up.

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