Saltwater Fishin Ain't Easy

Winter is here and this is the time fly shops talk more about destination trips. Unlike a lot of the industry folks that write these blogs, I am not a great saltwater angler. However, I've been lucky enough to do some traveling the last few years and here are some of the things I've learned, mostly the hard way. 
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-Guanaja, Honduras
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To start, let's clarify one big thing. Saltwater Fishin Ain't Easy. The weather rarely cooperates, it is almost always windy, and the fish are a lot less predictable than trout. The lower your expectations and the less pressure you put on specific fish counts/species, the better. Fish usually don't cooperate all day and it is important to keep your head in the game. One hour of great fishing over the course of a 10 hour day should be viewed as a success. 
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It's not all doom and gloom though. A great day of saltwater fishing may change your life. There are few experiences like sighting a fish, placing a fly in front of it, and witnessing the predatory instincts kick in. Getting the fly there is one thing, setting the hook correctly is another and the fight is the icing on the cake. 
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Mahahual, Mexio 
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Sighting Fish 
Flats fishing is visual and most of the bow time is spent looking for fish. 
  • Focus your attention on water that has better visibility based on how high the sun is. Choose water you can see clearly through vs water with a glare. 
  • Keep looking! Dedicate yourself to sighting fish and you can also help your fishing partner spot fish while you're in time out. The harder and longer you look, the better your eyes will adjust
  • Bring lens cleaning wipes and keep your shades clean
  • Brown and blue glass lenses are the ticket for me. Add a low light ignitor lens in there if you are spoiled
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    Guanaja, Honduras
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    Sharing Time
    Switch anglers on the front of the boat frequently. More often than not, someone hogs the front of the boat which builds tension between the two anglers. One person catches a fish in 5 minutes and the next person stands on the front of the boat for 3 hours. Switch every spot or every 30 minutes. This will keep you fresh and energized. In turn, you will fish better. 
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    San Pedro, Belize
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    Practice/visualize your strip set 
    The further you hold your rod in front of you, the more room you have to strip set back toward your body. If a fish is on your fly, avoid having your reel right by your waste. That way you have more room to either strip set or simply pull your entire rig back directly toward your body. Also, some fish deserve a strong strip set (tarpon) and others not so much (bonefish!). Just don't get too upset if you F it up a few times. Happens to the best of us! 
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    Crooked Island, Bahamas
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    Conquer the Double Haul Cast!
    Saltwater destinations are windy and fish are rarely close. Stop by your local fly shop and trade a 6 pack for a casting lesson. Go to your local park on a windy day, place a dinner plate 50 feet away into the wind, and practice until you get it. Youtube has a million instructional videos. Practicing pre-trip can go a long way when that permit is 60 feet out at a weird angle.
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    Fly Fish Guanaja Lodge, Honduras
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    Establish a local connection 
    Booking a guide is the best way to destination fish but not everyone can afford multiple days of guided fishing. If you do book a guide, be nice! Ask them for a gear and fly list a few weeks ahead of time. Also, ask them if they need any terminal tackle! Supplies can be very hard to come by in foreign countries, especially south of the border. Go to the local tackle shop or start schmoozing with locals for fishing intel if you are doing it yourself. This can save you a ton of time and frustration. 
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    San Pedro, Belize
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    Rigging
    Your overall leader/tippet combo should range anywhere from 8 feet to 12 feet. The longer your leader, the harder it will be to cast. If the slap of your fly line is frequently spooking fish and your leader is shorter than 9 feet, lengthen it by a foot or two. 
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    Lb test will generally range from 8lb to 40lb. I use 8-12lb fluorocarbon for bonefish, 16lb for permit, and 25-40lb for juvenile tarpon. 
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    Fly weight is one of the last big consideration. Big lead eyes will help get your fly down quicker but they also create a lot of disturbance when the fly hits the water. Bring shrimp and crabs with varying weight. Utilize flies with minimal lead in shallow flats, 6 inches to 2 feet. Once you are targeting fish 3 feet or deeper, you need to utilize flies with extra weight in the eyes. Also, clousers work everywhere!
     
    Lastly, we are fully stocked at the shop for saltwater fishing trips. We are also happy to special order gear and turnaround times are pretty quick this time of year. 
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    Best of Luck! 

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