Tired of snow? Try saltwater fly-fishing

I did it. I went fly-fishing where itís warm and never snows. I went where friends who live there describe it as the place old people go to get older.

I went to Florida.

As an aging retired guide whose tip jar is empty, I stayed with friends in Bonita Springs and Marathon. That way, I slept in their guest rooms, ate their food, drank their whisky and, at one spot, used my friendís flats boat.

Cost to me: plane fare for two (my wife loves our friends too much to let me stay with them by myself) and a dinner out for my friends. They didnít seem to mind restaurants that served food on paper plates and drinks out of plastic cups. This seemed like a cheap price for four days of saltwater fly-fishing and frolicking in the sun.

While all that was fun, I am not moving to Florida. I love living in the mountains. Whatís not to love about belly crawling to the edge of a small stream in winter and casting a size 20 Adams to a 6-inch trout that has a brain the size of a pen head, only to have that trout swim around your fly for 45 minutes, then head upstream? Sometimes you just gotta take a break and try another state.

Fly-fishing in saltwater resembles fly-fishing in fresh water, with a few exceptions. I make that statement because I donít want anyone to be intimidated with the thought of casting a fly into saltwater.

The biggest difference is the size of the equipment. For saltwater, I suggest an 8- or 9-weight rod. Building your own leader is fairly easy. Start with a 40-pound butt section, followed by a 30-pound section, then a 20-pound section. Finish this off with a 15-pound tippet, and youíre good to go for most fish. If youíre after bigger fish, adjust the poundage accordingly.

To splice the leader together, I use both blood and surgeonís knots.

For flies, I use four patterns. I have found Clousers, Crabs, Crazy Charlies and Gotchas work best. If you tie your own flies, be sure and use hooks made for saltwater.

Saltwater casts are the same as for fresh water. It helps if you can double-haul; the wind can do weird things to a cast. Because youíll be casting larger flies, be patient with your casts. A hurried cast will result in some huge wind knots. When this happens to me, I use the 30-second rule. If I canít untie the knot in 30 seconds, I cut it out and start splicing.

The biggest difference between saltwater fly-fishing and mountain fly-fishing is the size and variety of fish in the ocean compared with mountain streams. In four days of fishing, I caught red fish, snapper, barracuda, jack crevalle and yellowtails. I cast at permits, sharks and tarpon but couldnít get them to take my fly. As you can see, lots of fish in the ocean can either eat you or at least a finger. Be careful taking them off the hook.

Fly-fishing can be either from a flats boat or along the beach. The biggest bonefish and only tarpon Iíve caught were while wading in ankle-deep water. A boat will get you more places, but it is not necessary.

A word of caution. While wadding in shallow water along a beach, be careful of waves. It is not uncommon to suddenly have a large wave roll in and take you off your feet.

Donít be hesitant to try saltwater fly-fishing. Itís fun and allows you to fly-fish when belly crawling through the snow deters any sane person from going out.

Reach Don Oliver at durango_fishing@frontier.net.

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