Every expert saltwater angler has their preferred fly pattern for species they are pursuing, and they know exactly how to use it.
Having the right fly on hand is as essential as wearing the right high-performance fishing apparel to make your saltwater adventure a success. Whether you’re a curious angler looking to shake up your usual rotation or just beginning your fly fishing journey...
Here are some of the best saltwater flies to pack on your next trip:
If anyone knows how to create the perfect saltwater fly, it’s legendary angler Bernard “Lefty” Kreh. His books are considered sacred to saltwater fishermen worldwide, and he put his extensive knowledge and experience into designing what is widely considered to be the best saltwater fly pattern ever conceived, known as the Deceiver.
Initially, Kreh designed his special fly pattern for landing saltwater bass in the Chesapeake Bay, but these days, anglers rig the Deceiver to land a range of game fish. The Deceiver has seen many iterations over the decades, but the original was created to resemble smelt baitfish.
The fly features a body of silver tinsel, four to six white saddle hackles, white bucktail for the wing, silver Krystal flash topping, and is completed with a white thread head. This fly perfectly imitates the look of baitfish, moves naturally in the water, and has very little resistance on the backcast.
The bucktail jig, or Jiggy, is one of the most consistently successful flies for the saltwater angler. It is also considered to be the most versatile, as it can be endlessly modified to imitate a variety of bait, from squid to shrimp to small baitfish. No surf bag or tackle box is complete without a range of bucktails.
When anglers first started using jigs, deer hair was the most buoyant and durable material to tie around a jig hook. However, modern plastic jigs with synthetic hair offer a wider variety of colors and textures to catch a broader range of saltwater fish.
A slim profile and a unique head shape allow the jig to stay parallel in the water, moving energetically to lure the fish. The weighted head of the fly enables you to fish at lower depths than standard saltwater flies. This makes them the ideal choice for landing big game fish like marlin, but they also work well with fish like shallow water fluke and sea bass.
The Marabou Bunny Fly
The Marabou Bunny is a Frankenstein’s monster wet fly that has gained steady popularity within the fly fishing community for its perfect blend of the best elements of two stalwart favorites: The Marabou and the Bunny.
Using a rabbit fur body and a marabou fur tail gives this fly an incredible range of movement due to the way that the water flows through the gaps in the fur. Many anglers use a pearl flash tied to either side of the tail to attract a wide range of saltwater gamefish, from bonefish to tarpon to small tuna.
Clouser Deep Minnow
Second in popularity to the Deceiver is Bob Clouser’s Deep Minnow. The angling legend created the fly to land striped bass, but as his success grew, so did the reputation of his fly. This was primarily due to the vast range of species susceptible to the allure of the Deep Minnow.
The beauty of the Deep Minnow is in the simplicity of the design. Clouser used an unusual upside-down hair pattern. He combined this with a wing, barbell eyes, and a little flash added to be extra attractive to game fish. The fly is tied in a slender profile, which can be modified to any size. The weight can be easily altered by changing out the barbell size.
Back in the 1940s, Homer Rhodes developed this fly, it was known simply as the Streamer Fly and was used for snaring snook. However, as more anglers noticed the effectiveness of the fly on various types of fresh and saltwater fish, it affectionately became known as the Seaducer.
The most effective color scheme is red and white, however, many anglers have used yellow and chartreuse or an all-grizzly color scheme to great success. The tail features three to four-saddle hackles with four more hackles palmered in the opposite direction close to the head. The lightweight design gives it excellent buoyancy, and by simply varying the color and movement of the fly, you can easily imitate a variety of prey.
The Classic Hairwing
When it comes to flies, the simplest design is often the best. The classic hairwing is about as simple as a fly can get. The original design was one of the first flies to gain a following in the United States as fly fishing began to grow in popularity with sports anglers.
A bucktail wing and tail are tied simply with a body of silver tinsel and finished with a head of black thread. The pattern is open to numerous modifications by changing out the hair colors or alternating natural and synthetic thread. The fly can also be tied in both wide and slim profiles, depending on the species you are pursuing. One of the best-known modifications of the hairwing is the Purple Tarpon fly.
The Wrap Up
The only debate that fires up anglers more than lure vs. live bait fishing is which saltwater fly is best. Most anglers consider the best style of fly to be one that most closely imitates a target’s natural prey. More often than not, it is the fly that elicits the most aggressive response from the fish that is the most successful.
Ask any angler which is the best fly for the job, and these six flies will likely top the list. Remember to take along a good selection of flies on your next saltwater adventure to increase your chances of getting a bite.