South African Saltwater Fly Fishing - Where, What, How, Why...
Saltwater Fly Fishing is a challenging form of angling, and definitely tests a fly fisherman's patience and skills to the maximum. Fly Fishing is often imagined with a stream, accompanied by schools of colourful trout feeding in shallow water; but very rarely imagined with an angler on some prawn banks, casting a fly at grunter frolicking in the mud. This article will talk about the latter of the two scenarios and why it is so rewarding.
When anglers talk about saltwater fishing in South Africa, very few conversations will be about fly fishing, rather spinning, rock and surf, dropshot and offshore. Once an angler lands that first fish on fly, he will be hooked! Fly Fishing in estuaries or in the surf is often overlooked as angler's prefer to fish areas with other artlure or bait methods. I think this is as a result of the unwillingness of the angler to 'waste his time throwing an artificial fly back and forth'. This can be a huge misconception, because if you get the fly right, the tide right, get lucky to be into a shoal of fish and many other factors, you can be in for the time of your life
Targeting Species - South African Saltwater Fly Fishing
The beauty for me when saltwater fly fishing is that you can literally catch every species of fish South African surf and estuaries boast, from 2cm Glassies to 90cm Garrick. All depending on what size fly you use, what area you are fishing, when you are fishing and what tides you are fishing. In South Africa, our main target inshore species on fly are: Grunter, Kob, Garrick, Springer, Kingfish, Shad, Barracuda, Steenbras and Mullet. All these fish can be fooled into taking a fly and in-between you can expect interest from other fish species. The fight from these target species can leave you breathless from the adrenalin rushes that when hooked, these fish provide.
Tackling Up - South African Saltwater Fly Fishing
As saltwater fly fishing uses completely different tackle, it will be up to you to decide what your favourite set up will be. My ideal estuary and surf fishing setup is an 8 or 9 weight rod and reel with intermediate line, this gives you enough backbone to fight a big fish but also provides a lot of fun when smaller fish are being hooked. Remember backing is always good on a reel, especially on a setup like this, try get around 60-80 meters of backing on if possible. Your leader is also very important and the best way would be to tie your leader into 3 or 4 different sections. For example, tie some .45mm line straight onto your fly line and then decrease it every 4 feet or so in strength until you get to your tippet. Your tippet should be lighter than the previous strands of leader. I prefer to fish really light, especially in estuaries. 5kg line is my choice. When fishing for species with teeth, a small steel or bite trace should be added to your setup.
Fly Selection - South African Saltwater Fly Fishing
Of the many variations and types of fly on the market there are those that never fail... Salty Buggers, Crazy Charlies, Streamers, Zonkers, Poppers and Swimming Prawn Imitations. I have also used some freshwater flies with good success: San Juan Worm, DDD, Yellow Humpey and White Death. These flies have produced Mullet, Stumpnose, Pinky and Blacktail to name a few.
Where To Fish - South African Saltwater Fly Fishing
When inshore Fly Fishing, selecting spots apply the same principles as any other type of saltwater angling. The best places to cast your fly would be in estuaries and river mouths, gullies and inlets open to the sea are also great places to start. Some of the best areas to fly fish are on or around prawn banks. Here one can fly fish throughout the day during different tides as the fish either hang around or on top of the prawn banks or very close to them in the deeper water. Vary your retrieve with your fly and don’t be shy of casting it into very shallow water. Often lots of fish will be feeding here, especially Grunter, Mullet and Steenbras.
All that’s left now is to experience this beautiful facet of angling yourself!