All fly fishing is not created equally. There are some very distinct differences between fly fishing in the bay and heading out on a boat and fly fishing offshore.
Offshore fly fishing has been around since Captain Joel was a young boy in the late 1970s. People started doing it in Florida, and it slowly caught on. Lately it has become more popular, though most people don’t even realize it’s a thing.
Let’s look at three of the biggest differences between fly fishing in the bay and fly fishing in the ocean.
#1: The size of the fishing tackle
Fishing tackle includes all the equipment you use when you fish. For offshore fly fishers, some of the most important parts of the tackle are: fly lines, fly rods, tippet, leaders, and backing. If you’re not familiar with all of these items, let’s walk through them.
Basically, when it comes down to the difference in tackle size for fly fishing in the bay or fly fishing offshore, everything you need for offshore is bigger, longer, heavier, and stronger. Which makes sense, because the fish offshore are all of those things as well.
As all anglers know, fly lines come in different weights. The weight of the fly line is what determines what you fish for. Get the wrong fly line, and you’re not going to catch anything except a tan.
The pole is matched to the weight of the fly line. If you have a 5-weight rod, you need to use a 5-weight casting line. The casting line is what carries the fly. The fly is such a light weight that you can’t cast it with conventional tackle. You need a heavier line with a shooting head to actually get the fly out there, cast, and away from you.
The size of your fly line, fly rod, and tippet (the material connected to your fly) all have to be matched to the fish you want to catch.
Fly fishing in the bay requires a lighter rod than fly fishing offshore because the fish are smaller. You’ll need a 5-8 weight to fish in the bay, and an 8+ weight to fish offshore.
If you go up to a #12 to #14 class rod for fishing offshore, you could get up to a leader being 18-20 pounds. A leader is the tapered monofilament connected to your fly line. From your fly line to your fly, you have a leader that’s generally about six feet. From there, you tie on your tippet.
Fly line backing is a thin, strong section of line that’s directly secured to the arbor of a fly reel and to the back end of a fly line. It’s like a back-up for big fish that like to fight (and those are the kind of fish we’ll be catching when we fly fish offshore). Most fly lines are just 100 feet long, so we’ll use 200+ yards of 30-pound Dacron backing as insurance.
Fly lines, tippets, backing and leaders take a minute to learn and understand, but once you get familiar with the technology, it’s not hard to get the hang of them.
#2: Poling and drifting vs. trolling and drifting
When you’re fishing in the bay, there are two ways to move your boat: a trolling motor or a pole. Trolling motors are more common, but they’re definitely not as fish-friendly as a regular old pole. Poling is a skill that has to be learned: it’s not as easy as it looks.
When you’re fly fishing in the bay, in shallow water, you’re poling and drifting to the fish, around the fish, over the fish. A lot of times, you can see the fish, but they’re often hidden in moss or seaweed. In that case, you can do blind casting.
(And, yes, we’re definitely biased, but we think offshore fly fishing is tons more fun!)
When we’re offshore fishing, we pick a location to stop and troll. You can take chum (dead fish) and throw it over the side and it brings the fish up to feed, then you can cast while they’re feeding on the chum and break in and catch them that way.
We bait a fish up to the back of the boat to where you can see the fish and actually throw the fly to the fish. Just about 99% of fly fishing is sight casting. Nothing is getting in your way. You see the fish, then you cast.
You’re searching for fish that are on the surface. Or you tease them to the surface and throw to the fish once he is in sight. Once you present your fly to the fish, you get a bite!
Let’s say we’re going to go fly fishing offshore for dorado. We would head offshore, and we would put the baits out like we’re regular offshore fishing. Without hooks. Once we see the dorado, we pull the bait away, and replace the bait with the fly rod and try to catch it on the fly rod.
That’s called bait and switch tactics. Bait the fish and then switch to the fly rod.
#3: The size of the fight
The fight—getting the fish from the water to the deck—is the most thrilling part of the fishing adventure. But there is so much skill involved, as well as strength, stamina, and willpower.
The basic difference when it comes to reeling in a fish in the bay and reeling in a fish offshore is the size of the fight.
The fight on shore is shallow and light and much easier (so, not as exciting). And the fight offshore is deep and heavy and a heck of a lot harder. Some fish are master fighters. (Cobia fight really hard. Tuna chomp down hard and have a really hard bite.)
There’s a learning curve to casting a fly rod; it takes practice. If we have novice or first-time anglers that want to try this type of fly fishing, we will educate them while we’re offshore and can even make arrangements if they want one-on-one lessons before departing for the charter.
We’re also in the process of creating some casting and fly-tying workshops. We’ve heard from a lot of people who are eager to learn, and we’re happy to be of service. (Click here to contact us about signing up for a workshop today!)
And there you have it—the main differences between fly fishing in the bay and fly fishing offshore. We don’t have to tell you which one we think is the obvious best choice, do we?
If you’re feeling intimidated or overwhelmed, no worries! Captain Joel and his First Mate are here for you to make your offshore fly fishing charter the absolute best experience it can be.
Now, who’s ready for an adventure?
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MEGABITE SPORT FISHING
300 S Garcia St
Port Isabel, Texas
Monday - Friday :: 9am - 5pm
Weekends :: Gone Fishing!
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