Fly Fishing the Surf

Part of me always look at fly fisherman in the surf with amazement. I mean, its hard to catch a fish with a rod that can cast 150 yards (ok, 50 in my case), never mind a fly rod with  which cast is usually measured in feet. But the more I think about fly fishing the salt, the more I am getting an itch to do it myself.
Lets be honest, fly fishing, pier fishing, chunking, hand lining, they are all surf fishing if done from shore. There is beauty in each one of them.
We have decided that we should give some space in our magazine to all these techniques. After all, this is not Plugoholic Anonymous Magazine although if you look in to the man caves of some of our readers  you might be questioning this statement. I know saltwater fly fishing  is a small but fast growing part of our sport. What I am curious is how many of you guys are actually doing it or have done it in the past ?

49 comments on “Fly Fishing the Surf

  1. fishtrek

    Done it in the bay side of Nantucket and Matha’s Vineyard On a small cruise and my wife only allowed the pole because it broke down into 4 sections for easy carry. Ended up with a striper and blue Totally thrilling.

  2. Matt D

    I have tried it a few times from the surf as well as the boat with limited success but when I did hook up, boy what a thrill. I just wish that I had more patience to stick with it to improve my skills.

  3. frank

    started ff about 10 yrs ago and it quickly became my preferred method…initially,most of my fishing was in the bay but then moved to the ocean side when conditions warranted and had(have) an absolute blast…with practice of course one is able to tolerate more varied conditions(wind,current,wave height,etc)…have reached somewhat of a balance and now travel w/ both fly and surf rods…good luck and enjoy..p.s. i use a 9 wt in the surf and it has been fine so far on the keepers that i’ve found

  4. Ruru Lures

    Use to fly fish the surf exclusively for years. Distance is usually not a concern how many times have you caught a fish fight at your feet. Largest from the surf on a fly was 22#.

  5. John martines

    I used to years ago and was never very good at it. I just got stuck in the rut with it. Went back to conventional tackle and the fly stuff sits idle now. Every year I say I’ll give it a try, Now 7 years later I still haven’t LOL..

  6. Brendan

    I started as a fly fisherman and it is a challenge in the surf to say the least. Requirements are a stripping basket, some clousers & deceivers an 8-10wt rod/line and a lot of patience. You’ll catch fish.

  7. Robert LIO

    I have a regular customer who flyfishes the beach exclusively,he does quite well..I was in Montauk this past June where the bass were right at your feet on the North couldnt even get in the water to cast..they were taking small bait.. a flyrod would have been an ideal weapon..

  8. Bill H

    Never have but have thought about it. A beach I regularly fish is big with fly casters and they fair pretty well.

  9. Frank R

    I got into flyfishing about 5 years ago. I joined the Atlantic Saltwater FLyrodders here in NJ and the instruction they provided helped my learning curve immensely. It took about a full season to become proficient and it was very satisfying to have learned to cast and caught a fish on a fly I tied myself. Even if I didnt catch anything, which was often, I found casting calming or extremely relaxing, like Xanax.

  10. Irish

    I love it but the sucess rate in terms of #s of fish is definitely lower in my case. But to throw my flies at or around a bridge or in the Sound is heaven to me. Theres an old expression,”I’d rather catch fish than flyfish” I can be the opposite. S some nights its more fun to grab the flyrod and disappear into the marsh.

  11. M Mazz

    A good friend introduce me to saltwater fly fishing last year. What a blast!! It’s now my preferred method of fishing. It’s such a rush to feel the strike and strip set the hook. Last spring while fishing the flats I cought 1 bass, 1blue, 1sea robin and several fluke on the same fly.

  12. Dave H.

    When the cinder worms hatch in the spring I fish a back bay spot with the 8 weight. Best way to match the worms. Sometimes I’ll toss flies on the boat too but rarely. My biggest striper on a flyrod is about 15 lbs.

  13. johnnyfish

    Im not that good at it yet,but hit some coctail blues in the wash .Love the art of fly fishing.Really like fly fishing for trout with a caddis dry fly cause its top water fishing and you see the fish hit!!!

  14. pete f

    I was once a dedicated flyfisherman. Now even when I bring my flyrod to the salt it stays in the truck. My shoulder can’t take casting for a long time anymore with a flyrod but a surf rod does’nt bother me.
    It is worth trying and if I was going to reccomend a book to start with it would be Stripers and Streamers by Ray Bonderew (not sure of the name spelling) a little less technical than some books but written by a real fisherman.
    His writing style reminds me of yours. That is a good thing.

  15. Mark M

    My friend “skinny” vinny catalano is one of the best fly guys I know. Whether off the surf, boat or fresh water, this guy is one of the best and most dialed in fly guys around. He charters alot of guys who come from all over the east coast because the saltwater fly scene is red hot here on LI.

  16. JohnP

    I began fly fishing in FW when I was a kid, as this was the only practical way to deliver what the trout were feeding on – flies. When the trout were on flies, you could throw bait all you wanted, you would not hook up.

    It wasn’t until 1989 that I saw a guy fly fishing from a Jetty in Spring Lake NJ. From that moment I knew I just had to fly fish the salt. I bought a junky fly rod a year later and upgraded to a 10 wt the Sage RPLX around 1994. I still have that rod and fish with it most of the time.

    These days I still fly fish the surf whenever is it practical (wind and waves). It is that much fun. I particularly like wet suiting with the fly rod.

    Besides the art of casting, I really enjoy making my own flies. This time of year I set up the tying bench in the basement and I tie a year’s worth of flies over the cold months. There are always new patterns to think up and new techniques for combining the material. Just a great sport.

  17. Nick

    Some years ago I read a fly fishing the surf book by Lou Tabory, it was great….. I got into it, caught a couple small blues, up to around 2 pounds, lotsa fun….. to much effort for the payoff for me though………. sold everything……

  18. Scott Smith

    Been doing it almost twenty years. Mostly sod banks in the Jersey back bays. Funny when I moved to Cape Cod about 10 years ago I focused on conventional and only Fly-Fished when it was easy. Big fish were the focus then. Now back in Jersey, I’m back to tying flies and getting all spirital about it looking to catch 18″ schoolies in the spring. If you haven’t done it, you should. It teaches you so much about currents and feeding habits in tides.

  19. Rich m

    have a salt fly rod used it maybe ten times. was givin to me when i was young and still chasing young ham wallets around. lol funny i was looking at it the other day but couldnt remember how to even use im glad a few fellow posters left a few books for me to start up again.

  20. Jason Colby

    Fly fishing scares me! I have often enough felt “inadaquate” with heavy tackle battling bass that have had me quite outclassed. I guess conditions have a lot to do with it. “Monsters” I’ve hooked in heavy current can test any tackle but under the right conditions I guess any bass can fall to a fly rod.
    Every weekend you can watch 100 + pound tarpon being taken on fly rods on the fishing shows. Why would a 60 pound bass be much more difficult?
    OK, so you are not in a boat chasing it (-50 pounds), you do not have to deal with the current (-30 pounds), so I guess what I fear is anything over 20 pounds!
    In 1996 (I think) I saw “John P” (perhaps it is the same guy a couple of posts above?) fly fishing a spot where 15 or so years earlier I had taken several fish over 50 and lost some that were “much bigger”. Granted back then I used 50 pound Micron on my Squidder which doesn’t compare to my current 80 pound Power Pro but either way, I’m pretty sure his fly rod would have been no match for anything in that size class; surely not there while the current was running!……..JC

  21. Bill K.

    Gonna try the flats tthis year in the spring dirk.g the worm hatch….then graduate to the surf by the summer and early fall….learning curve is immense for the change in condition….like going from the pond with dough balls and bobbers to throwing plugs in the surf….

  22. Tom Schneider

    I love FF in saltwater. I interweave it with other methods of fishing the surf (plugs and bait). At times it can be very effective! I have found it to be absolutely deadly on weakfish (if they are around).
    I must be doing something right: took 1st place in the NYS Interclub 2 years in a row for largest striped bass in the FF category!

  23. Fitzy

    I used to fly fish a lot more than I do now. At times, it is more productive than any other method available (skinny water sight fishing,tailing blues, and small estuaries to name a few), but those times are few and far between. For albies, I can’t think of a better method (most of the time). When those small Tuna (20-35lbs) were around, that’s when flies were exceptionally productive.

    As others pointed out, flies typically aren’t the best method for large bass, but they can be had with enough time on the water and a touch of luck. My personal best fly rod bass is omly around 20lbs with a few larger hooked and lost- all sight fishing in the middle of the day, knee to waist deep in the water. It’s a huge rush spotting a fish 125′ away, and waiting for it to come into casting range.


  24. Dean Vervoort

    With the right conditions and bait, a fly can out fish rod and reel. I have found that specifically true with sand eels. I always try to bring mine when conditions are good but usually start with the rod and reel.

  25. Rocky Saraullo

    I try it a few times a year. Haven’t caught anything from the surf yet but will continue trying as I like the challange. I would appreciate reading about others who do it.

  26. TRisser

    I am an angler not a purest so anyway I can improve my fishing and I’m in. I enjoy FF and pugging and find myself at a 50:50 ratio most years. What I have found is using multiple methods of fishing has made me a much better all around fisherman. If you want to get into FF use a sand eel teaser for a couple weeks in front of your plug. You will be shocked how many bass will hit that small fly in the seam and trough instead of that massive plug following it. The best place to start are back bay flats with a popper or deceiver. Once your casting is consistent moving to the surf is just a mental adjustment.

  27. CTMatt

    To be honest…fly fisherman by me have been a bit rude and annoying. On more then one occasion my buddy and I have hit a sandbar with a few fliers there and have heard lame comments like “does your bigger surf rod catch bigger stripers” and even “does that rod compensate for other things”. These people pretty much ruined my impression of what a fly fisherman is therefore I do not want to even try it. Plus the wisping and spray they put on me when I am quietly plugging away next to them is irritating. They also need more casting room so it pinches me in my spot if an army of them shows up Sorry, not the hugest fan. To each his own…but most of the fly folks I have met were jerks. Not all of course, just the ones in my area.

  28. Charlie G.

    I have been for over 40 years. I fish other methods also…whatever works best. On those dead calm summer nights in the back bays when there is a lot of very small bait it is very effective. A 15 lb bluefish or False Albacore is a real blast. Windy conditions and some locations such as Cutty make it difficult but if you pick your spots there is nothing better.

  29. Joe Cafiso

    Actually the Saltwater fly fishing got me into plug fishing. I truly love them both as one cannot replace the other.It’s a great way to catch. You know the saying “one from the surf is worth ten from the boat?” Well wait until you catch a striper from the surf on the fly rod !!!! It’s a whole different feeling. Good Luck with it Z

  30. firstlight

    I’m an occasional flycaster in the salt, more often from a boat, but from time to time from the surf. It’s quite a thrill hooking up on the flyrod. Think about how often the fish are right at your feet in water breaking on the rocks or at the drop-off along a beach. A long cast isn’t usually required. While even catching small fish can be exciting, and a big fish is downright exhilerating. Albie or bonito are the ultimate small pursuit. Just for the hell of it in the past, I’ve actually used a heavy outfit spooled with mono to liveline.

  31. bunufish

    Side note, the book you recommended a few blogs back is nice. The drawings on current, surf, sandbars, where to cast, how to cast etc is the most informative I’ve seen so far.

    Since it’s written for FF, the focus is on the beach close by, rather than the sandbar way out there. Easier to process.

  32. JohnP

    Hi Jason,

    yes its the same JohnP. I did take many many fish on the fly in that location and similar spots over the years, but I will admit I never broke 30lbs on the fly there. I did hook one moose in the late 90s there that took a while to turn. I lost it after i got it in close, but I suspect I would have landed it if I had the fish under control sooner. There is an art and skill to applying leverage to land big fish and I am getting better. Like you said they take Tuna and Tarpon on the fly so there is no reason why a 50 lb bass cannot be landed from the beach on a fly.

    Either way its worth the challenge in my opinion.

    Oh and Zeno, you lament the loss of the weakfish, what a killer the flies were on the weakfish when they were around years ago! There is nothing like delivering a fly to a weakfish slurping in a rip on a later summer night!

  33. Woody

    Be careful Z… it’s addictive… I was introduced to fly fishing on the Au Sable river when a neighbor gave me his old equipment and a few lessons… I was 14 years old… Still use that old brown tone fiberglass rod for small trout! I’m in my 60’s now… flogging the surf started getting hard on my shoulder so a few years back I switched to a 9-10 weight Spey rod for areas with moving water… then later I found the long rods work just as well on the beach or backwater… the style of casting is easy on the shoulder and covers more water… you can really put it out there…

  34. Tony Marchisotto

    I haven’t gone with the fly rod in about 4 years, fished mostly the north shore with it.Schoolie time. I have seen times (rarely) when fish would not touch a lure but would slam a fly! One morning a few of us were standing in the parking lot at Mt Sinai harbor after a run of small blue fish fun, when the water in the harbor began to boil. There was a large school of Tunny chasing bait, small white deceivers etc did the trick. Boy what a fight they put up! Some I my winter prep was to rig an old plastic popper with no hooks and a fly tied to the back. My son got me 2 of Salty’s casting eggs for a stocking stuffer can’t wait to try em!

  35. Rob

    Since I’m almost living in Albany LOL, I got myself a couple of fly rods/reels to try out in the fresh water up here. I won’t attempt salt right now as its already hard to catch fish on spinning.

    I’m reading the LL Bean intro to flyfishing. I already know how to tie flies so I’m part way there but the casting itself looks pretty intimidating. It feels like I’
    m learning how to ride a bike for the first time.

  36. Joe L

    I tried Fly fishing for the first time this past fall.It ain’t easy.Casting a fly with a sinking line can be difficult to say the least.I’ll give it another try this spring.

  37. Bob

    Wanted to try it so I got the fly fishing rod, reel and flys about 4 years ago. Did some practice casting but have yet to hit the water with it.

  38. Ron H

    I surf cast and feel that Fly Fishing and surf casting can be combined. Tony M. mentioned above he got salty’s casting eggs. This is an old timers way of presenting a fly. For those who aren’t aware of this method I will explain. The wooden egg is tied to the running line, a 3 or 4 foot leader is tied to the other end of the egg and your favorite fly is tied on. There is a nail in the egg and you place the hook from the fly over the nail. When you cast, it is aerodynamic and when the egg lands the fly falls off. You than slowly work the egg back to the beach or jetty. You can buy flies or tie your own. Give it a try, and you may get hooked, no pun intended.

  39. King Cod

    Got a Konic V and TFO Pro 9wt late last year … I’m looking forward to trying it out in the coming season….

  40. Karl

    Been my preferred weapon in the quiver for 20+ years, have caught many a striper from the beach and jetties blind casting day and night (NJ) & sight fishing (Cape Cod & Martha’s Vineyard), as well fly casting from a boat chasing albies, stripers and blues. Bob Popovic got me and many others started on it.

  41. pistol pete

    I have WAY too much gear in my garage already, and have a hard time deciding which rod/reel/plug/wetsuit to take out on any given night… If I started fly fishing, I would be starting all over gear wise, and would be even tougher to decide what I’m going to do… dont kid yourself… If you are into fishing, fly fishing is a whole new world… you are starting over. I’m saving it for retirement.

  42. Barry

    I would love to flyfish the surf. I need to learn to cast, set up my line, which line when, leaders, what flies to use, etc. This would be a great seminar series.


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