Saltwater fly fishing is more than just a hobby…it’s a lifestyle.
And if you haven’t come prepared with the right gear, you might as well go home. Thankfully, whether you’re a beginner or an old pro, we’ve put together a handy list of essential saltwater fly fishing gear to make your fishing trip go swimmingly.
We’ve put sunblock at the top of our list for a very good reason: effective sun protection is a must. You want to come back from your trip with a good haul of fish—not a nasty sunburn.
Saltwater fly fishing is fun, but it’s not worth the risk of sun damage to your skin, or even developing skin cancer later in life. So it’s important to choose an adequate sunscreen to block the sun’s rays.
A physical sunblock that uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is best, and an SPF rating of at least 30–which translates into blocking 97% of the sun’s rays—is usually recommended. Higher ratings don’t really confer much greater coverage, so be sure to slather the stuff on frequently throughout the day.
And remember to get a good pair of polarized sunglasses and wear a hat, too.
Gloves are another important part of any angler’s inventory of saltwater fly fishing gear.
You don’t want to handle a snapping, struggling fish with your bare hands, because this can lead to cuts and bites and other nasty wounds. The same can happen naturally with handling hooks and other fishing gear.
Cuts and slices on your hand can lead to nasty infections, or just make handling your fishing gear a real pain. Even if you have gloves, make sure you keep some bandages or gauze with you, as well as antibacterial hand wash just in case.
And Super Glue, too—believe it or not, it’s a good remedy to glue shut a sliced finger.
3. A Good Handheld GPS
Navigation is critical when you’re going to be on the water. So that’s why having a good, reliable handheld global positioning system (GPS) unit will make your life that much easier.
Using a GPS will help in navigating shallow waters, marshes, tidal flats, and wherever dedicated fly fishers go. Plus, you can always use one to quickly find those areas you’ve fished before, so you waste no time in finding the best fishing haunts.
Here’s a list of some of the better and cheaper handheld GPS units available:
- Garmin GPSMAP 64st: a rugged unit that receives high marks
- Garmin eTrex 30x: the perfect GPS unit for the budget-conscious
- DeLorme inReach Explorer: you can’t beat this one for long-lasting battery life
4. A Good Tackle Bag
This one probably goes without saying, but it’s important to have a good, sturdy tackle bag on all of your saltwater fly fishing adventures. Every fly fisherman worth his salt should pack along a tackle bag made of a tough, durable material, and loaded with lots of pockets.
Be sure to choose one that’s big enough to handle all your gear, too. Your tackle bag says a lot about who you are as a fisherman—are you serious, or just an amateur? Find the most rugged bag you can, and stuff it to the gills with your tackle boxes, flies, reels, lines, all your fishing gear and of course, a large water bottle.
And don’t forget your lunch, either.
Pliers are a must, for obvious reasons. You’ll need them for releasing fish, cutting wires, pinching hooks, and countless other applications.
So do yourself a favor, and choose a good, sturdy set of pliers before you set out on your saltwater fly fishing trip. They needn’t be anything too expensive or fancy.
MadBite’s Aluminum Fishing Pliers are a good, inexpensive choice. They are made of aircraft-grade aluminum, and as such are impervious to saltwater corrosion; they also come with a crimping tool, and altogether they’ll set you back for less than $25.
6. Hook Sharpener
It’s inevitable. Hooks will get dull through the regular wear and tear of use. They get snagged on rocks, coral, driftwood, and even seaweed, and gradually they become duller and duller.
So it’s a good idea to always have a hook sharpener in your tackle bag, because dull hooks are not a good look.
7. Find the Best Saltwater Fly Rods
The most important part of your saltwater fly fishing gear is, of course, the rod and reel. Saltwater fly fishing comes with its own challenges and special requirements, which are reflected in the equipment you’ll want to use.
So let’s take a look at some of the best saltwater fly rods on the market:
- Scott Sector: Scott’s Sector series is the top-of-the-line, with a high-quality design optimized for fishing performance
- Scott Meridian: the Scott Meridian is probably the best all around saltwater fly rod; it’s perfect for beginners and pros alike, with a lightweight design
- G.Loomis Asquith: for the saltwater fly fisher with deep pockets, the Asquith fly rod—incredibly lightweight and accurate—is a masterpiece of design
And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the fly reels. In saltwater fishing, it’s crucial to find a reel that’s corrosion resistant, and fortunately there are quite a few reels that fit the bill. A good drag system and a reel that can hold plenty of backing is crucial too.
One of the best saltwater fly reels out there is the Ross Reels Evolution LTX. It’s made of corrosion-resistant T6 aluminum alloy, and it’s purpose built for hardcore saltwater anglers.
Get the Right Saltwater Fly Fishing Gear…and Then Get Fishing!
Use this handy guide to find the right saltwater fly fishing gear for beginners, and then check out our site for our excellent video guides on saltwater fly fishing.
We have videos on saltwater fly fishing in shallow waters, as well as offshore fly fishing for those looking for a greater challenge. And while you’re at it, be sure to peruse our extensive library of fishing videos that cover just about every topic you can imagine.