Fly Fishing Tips 5 min read

Can You Fly Fish in Saltwater? What You Need To Know

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

September 1, 2021

can you fly fish in saltwater

Can you fly fish in saltwater? This is a question that’s easily answered, as most fly fishers work in salt and freshwater. The key is taking the time to master the skill.

With the unlimited amount of fishing opportunities available to you, experiencing angling in all conditions is ideal. This guide explores the differences between saltwater and freshwater fishing.

Differences Between Fresh and Saltwater Fly Fishing Equipment

You might be surprised to learn that there are significant differences between fresh and saltwater fishing. Not only will you need a different set of equipment, but your technique will have to be changed as well. With the number of variations between the two, many find that they’re entirely different activities.

Rods and Reels

When getting ready for saltwater fly fishing, the first thing to consider is that you’ll need new gear. Saltwater is known to be particularly corrosive, which can deteriorate your freshwater equipment. Hence, you’ll want to ensure you choose items with anti-corrosive properties to keep the rod and reel in top condition.

What’s more, you’re likely to notice that the price of salt and freshwater rods and reels will differ. Saltwater equipment not only needs to be anti-corrosive but also needs to manage heavier fish species. Your reel will often be rated for higher drag needs, especially as you’ll be targeting bonefish, redfish, tarpon, and other large species.

Line and Leader

Two other items you’ll likely have to buy from scratch are a new line and leader. Just like your rods and reels, you’re going to need a line that can handle significantly higher weights. Also, your leader will need to manage larger fish without snapping off immediately.

Luckily, there are a variety of different types of line specifically designed for saltwater fly fishing. You’ll want to pay close attention to your rod’s weight as well as the water temperature while choosing.

As most saltwater locations are warmer, opt for a tropical fly line for specific fish species. Floating line is often one of the more popular options, but you might need a sinking line if you’re working in deeper depths. When selecting a leader, consider those that can handle up to 80 pounds and as long as 12 feet.


There’s an endless number of flies on the market for all different environments. When you start fly fishing in saltwater, the fish’s food sources will change compared to freshwater. Most types of prey you find in saltwater are shrimp, baitfish, or even crabs, much larger than standard flies.

In general, the concept of choosing the right flies is the same for saltwater and freshwater. You’ll want to make sure you select a design that mimics the natural food source of that area. You’ll likely find that eight-inch (or larger) baits are your best option for attracting easily spooked fish.

Can You Fly Fish in Saltwater?

When you head out for a saltwater fly fishing trip, there are some important things you will want to be prepared for. Not only is the experience going to be different, but the environment will be as well. Let’s go over some great tips to help you make the most of your excursion.

can you fly fish in saltwater areas

Tip 1: Know the Space

The very first thing every angler needs to consider when starting fly fishing is what the area is like. Like freshwater fishing, the body of water you are working with will be significantly larger than a river. This means that your fish have a significantly broader area to roam and hide.

For this reason, you will need a good amount of knowledge to know where to locate fish. As the space is less constrained, you will likely need to move around a lot to find the most populated areas. Also, you’ll need to consider that fish are likely to move throughout the day to where food is the most plentiful.

If you find it challenging to get all of the information about your desired fishing spot on your own, it would be best to ask for help. There are likely plenty of fly fishing shops in your area packed with seasoned professionals willing to help. Alternatively, the internet has an assortment of resources that can help you learn your environment better.

Tip 2: Getting to Fishing Spots

With a good idea of the water, finding the best spot to fish should be considerably easier. With saltwater, you are likely to be the most successful by using a boat to get to where you need to venture.

Although it is possible to fish along the shoreline, you’re not going to find the largest targets that way. Instead, consider using a boat to get to bays, flats, and estuaries that are likely streaming with fish.

Another considerable advantage of having a boat is that it can allow you to move more freely in the water. As a result, you’ll be able to explore some of the best spots to get your hands on the largest fish.

Tip 3: Consider the Weather

When working on open water, you are more susceptible to changing weather conditions. The wind is one of the most notable things to remember, as you’ll need to master your cast against the wind. At the same time, it’s also essential to note that it can be challenging to get close enough if it’s too calm outdoors.

Your best option is to refine your casting skills in windy conditions. We also recommend learning how to cast along with changing tides, which is another variable that can affect your success.

Tip 4: Find a Saltwater Casting Technique

One of the most common issues saltwater fly fishers encounter is the distance of their casts. As a freshwater fly fisher, you are likely used to casting shorter distances with a faster retrieval.

The problem is, salty bodies of water won’t be as still as freshwater, like lakes. The fish in these areas are continually moving so that they don’t fall victim to natural predators.

Compared to saltwater, you’ll be less likely to get as close to fish as you would in a lake or a pond. Therefore, learning how to capitalize on distance can help you get your hands on some of the largest species in the area.

One of the most popular methods for saltwater casting is known as a double-haul technique. Using this movement, you’ll be pulling the line with your non-dominant hand, allowing for a higher load on the forward cast. With this process, you’ll be able to cast considerably farther while also punching straight through the wind.

It is also important to refine your retrieval to mimic familiar food sources, like crabs. You might find that short, quick ticks can catch even the most unsuspecting fish.

Tip 5: Get the Right Gear

One tip that is often forgotten is to make sure you have the right gear available when on the water. Like freshwater fly fishing, you’ll need protective gear like a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. However, it’s also important to consider stripping fingers, especially with the larger fish you’re targeting.

Having your fly line cut into your finger or burn it is something that can ruin your entire trip. Stripping fingers allow the line to move effortlessly through your fingers while you still maintain control. It is a phenomenal tool to have available so that you can get your hands on the biggest catches.

Tip 6: Practice Makes Perfect

It is far too often that experienced freshwater fishers believe they will be successful with their first saltwater experience. However, just as you learned how to work in freshwater and rivers, saltwater fly fishing requires practice.

In most instances, you can refine your casting and retrieval technique within one to two days to see significant progress. It can also be a great idea to look for resources designed to help you learn new tricks and techniques.

Many resources exist, whether you opt for instructional videos, help from seasoned professionals, or online forums. As long as you are able to get to the point where you can cast at a distance to get near fish, you’re well on your way.

Fly Fishing in Saltwater

Can you fly fish in saltwater? If you’ve ever wondered the same thing, you’ll be glad to know that it’s possible.

As a more enhanced and exhilarating version of freshwater fishing, it’s a very popular activity. By using local knowledge, upgrading your gear, and mastering your casting technique, you can get your hands on some incredible fish.