Saltwater Fly Fishing: How it all began for me

I don't really know how I got into saltwater fly fishing. I think I saw some videos somewhere and was intrigued so I wanted to try it. When I decided to saltwater fly fish for striped bass this spring I used every resource available to me to gather as much information as I possibly could. You can go on the internet and find an infinite amount of knowledge from web sites like FlyrodStripedBass.com, videos on Youtube, blogs, and how-to articles on saltwater fly fishing for stripers.

I also frequent local fly shops like L&H Woods and Water and Tight Lines fly shop and talk to the pros. I've found that other fly fisherman are more than willing to help a new guy out. There is so much information out there it can certainly be overwhelming for the newcomer to figure out where to begin. I believe the smartest thing I did was befriend a handful of local fly fisherman and fished with them as much as possible. I watched everything they did and asked them any question that came to mind. I've made some great new friends fly fishing and I'm certain I'll make many many more.

First things first, I needed something to fish with. A 9' 9wt rod with an intermediate slow sinking line was recommended to me and can cover most situations I fish. I eventually did get spare spools with a floating line and one with a sinking line and use all three regularly. I learned a few knots like the non-slip mono loop, double surgeons loop, and a blood knot and also a few easy leader systems that work fine for what I do. I try to really keep it simple out there and it's getting me by for now. Since I don't tie flies yet, I've been buying them off the shelf and have been given plenty from friends that do tie. Tying to me is a whole other animal. I felt like I had enough on my plate just learning how to fly fish that I didn't start tying. A vice is on my Christmas list this year though.

Big NJ Striper on the fly, Bob Manning
I like to read books and there are plenty of very good ones written specifically on fly rodding for striped bass. I used the Internet to find inexpensive used books on saltwater fly fishing. The first book I read was Fly Fishing in Salt Water by Lefty Kreh, sort of a bible on the sport. Other books I read include Sight Fishing for Striped Bass by Alan Caolo, Stripers on the Fly by Lou Tabory, Fly Rodding the Coast by Ed Mitchell, and Striper Moon by Ken Abrames. I won't go into great detail about each book but they all give you pieces of the puzzle to begin your saltwater fly fishing career. You name it, tackle and equipment, flies, knots and leaders, casting, reading the water, tides, fishing (beaches, jetties, inlets, estuaries, bridges, etc), it's all there. I've read all these books cover to cover and still pick them up and randomly and read a chapter here and there. You can't ever read enough on the subject and there's a lot more good stuff written out there I haven't looked at. The books give me a game plan each time I go out. For instance, if I just read the chapter on fishing bridges, I could go out there and try to do what Ed Mitchell just told me to do or the best I can.

I learned how to cast by watching casting videos on Youtube and practicing in a park and on my lawn. I spent a good week and many hours casting on land before I even hit the water. I also took a casting lesson about two months in. I highly recommend taking a lesson from pro a just to get the basic mechanics down. I'm really enjoying the casting aspect of the sport and look forward to getting better over time. Fly casting is a lot like golf. You're never gonna be good at it unless you practice. You can't go out and shoot a 72 if you play three times a year. I have to be casting all the time to get better. Every time I'm out there fishing I learn something new about casting. It's a really neat process and making a good cast can be as satisfying as catching a fish, well almost as satisfying!

It sounds cliché but getting out there and fishing as much as my wife and two little kids would allow was crucial to picking up fly fishing. I fish anytime I can, whether it's super early in the morning or at night I try to get out there. I'm lucky I live very close to a tidal river and the Jersey coast in Jetty Country. I try to mix it up and fish all different locations. I have fishing access to flats, bridges, sand bars, creek mouths, jetties, and nice sand beaches. I try to fish them all. I also have a boat that can get me closer to the fish when they are out of range. It's not like getting one from the sand but it's always fun to put a bend in the rod, especially to the new fly rodder.

To me, there is no other fishing experience as awesome as getting a striped bass on the fly. Everything needs to come together to make it happen. From planning to fish the right stage of the tide > to being allowed out of the house at that moment > to choosing the right fly to match the bait > to making a good cast to where you think fish may be holding. There's a lot going on when saltwater fly fishing and that's what makes catching a striper on the fly so sweet. One of the the things I like best about it is you can go out and wade somewhere in solitude away from the masses. Catching a small striped bass under a bridge or some sneaky spot is as fun as catching a big fish on a boat. I had a great first season on the fly rod and look forward to improving and getting better year after year. I've been fishing my whole life in some capacity, but for me the fly rod is where it is at.

-Bob Manning, New Jersey

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