I recently went on my first ever saltwater fly-fishing trip while my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Cairns Australia. Since then I have received many questions about what I did to prepare for a successful trip.
- Practice, practice, practice
This is by far the most important aspect to having a successful flats, or mangrove trip. Leading up to my mangrove trip in Australia I was practicing in my backyard for an hour a day every day. I was NOT practicing my hero casts. I was practicing accuracy at realistic ranges and nothing over 60 feet. To practice my accuracy I would pick a point in the backyard, for example, a sprinkler head, a hot spot in the grass, and occasionally my dog running by. I would start short and work my way back from there. I would not move back in distance until I had made 5 successful casts to the target. I have to admit my practice might have been overkill, but this guided trip wasn’t cheap and I wanted to make sure that if something was going to go wrong, it wasn’t going to be from my casting.
This is crucial and probably one of the most fun preparations you can do. This basically means getting on YouTube and looking up videos of the species you are fishing for. Pay attention to how fast anglers strip, what kind of structure is being fished around, and what kind of flies are being used. If the guide you’re going with has an Instagram, follow them to check in and see how the fishing has been lately and what species are being caught.
Modern Deceivers lined up, and ready to go.
Okay, stay with me on this one. I know this may sound like the corniest thing you’ve ever heard, but it really isn’t. Being a former college baseball player, one thing the coaches always worked with us on was our mental strength, and visualizing the actions needed to get the job done. Fly-fishing, much like baseball, is a mental game. There are times things are bound to not go your way, whether it’s losing a monster, or just making a poor cast. How you are able to bounce back from these situations when pressure is mounting and eyes are on you is key to having a successful day. Leading up to my trip I would spend a few minutes every now and again (usually taking a break from tying) sit on my deck, close my eyes, and visualize stripping the fly in feeling the line go tight and executing a proper strip set. On my trip I only preformed a trout set on 1 fish, and I believe this number was so low because of the visualization prep work I did leading up to this trip.
- Make sure that strip set is dialed
If you’ve done any research into saltwater fly fishing then I’m sure you’ve seen it a million times. “Strip set, don’t trout set”. This is because saltwater fish tend to have much harder mouths than our freshwater friends and you need to plant the hook if you have any chance at landing one of these fish. The best way I found to actually practice the mechanics of strip setting is to fish for bass. Bass are great because they love eating streamers, and can readily be found just about anywhere. When that bass takes your streamer or popper strip set on it! (You should already be doing this bass fishing). Trout also work for this as well if you have a decent streamer fishery near you.
The fruit of hard labor.
- Relax, have fun
It’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed and to build your trip up into something bigger than it actually is in your mind. Remember to relax, and have fun, you’re on vacation. I had an absolutely wonderful time with my guide, we made jokes, talked some smack to each other (and my wife), and it was without a doubt the most fun I have ever had fly fishing. I’m convinced saltwater is the pinnacle of our sport. So much so I’ve already booked my second saltwater trip, I promise you that if you follow these steps you’ll have the tools you need to have one of the best times of your life.
Nothing but smiles over here.