« Fish eats another, 4 times its length. | Main | Fishpen »

October 28, 2007

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/flytalk

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Fly Talk at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/flytalk.

Who's Better ... Mr. Saltwater or Freshwater?

I love flyfishing in the salt. But beyond the rods, reels, and lines, the truth is, saltwater and freshwater flyfishing are two entirely different sports. Why?

1. On the river, the cast matters zero; on the flats the cast is paramount.
2. On the flats, your fly pattern selection counts about 1/10th what it does on the river or lake.
3. You fight saltwater fish with a low rod angle, and put the pressure in the line/reel; pull that stunt in freshwater and you’re done.
4. On the flats, there are fish that can eat you; on the river, there are rapids that can eat you.
5. On the river, you want those flies to dead-drift toward your target; in the salt, the fish aren’t used to their food attacking them.

So here's my question: Is it easier to go from the ocean to the river, or vice versa?

- Deeter


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Who's Better ... Mr. Saltwater or Freshwater? :



"On the river, the cast matters zero"




Nada. Zip. Squadoosh. Well, okay ... not exactly zero. A good cast won't hurt you anywhere. But distance counts for beans. And I believe there are about 14 things that determine a good river flyfisher that are WAY more important than the cast.


Great question. I sometimes think it's harder to transition to salt, because if you can't make the cast, you don't get to play. It's hard to shoot line with mimimal false casts to a moving fish while accounting for wind.

But trout fishing has so many little subtle techniques that need to be refined to be truly good at it, and then you have to tie on those teeny flies when your fingers are numb from the cold water...

But it's tough to answer, too, because I think most people start fly fishing in some form in freshwater, either for trout or learning on sunfish and bluegill.

I guess the question could best be anwsered by guides. For saltwater guides, how long does it typically take a trout angler--on his first saltwater trip--to adjust to the flats? And for the trout guides--how long does it take the guy from Florida to adjust on his first trip river fishing?


And what are those 14 things? Or are you saving them for an article?


even without seeing the 14 things I'd be inclined to agree with you, but... "zero" is a big overstatement, especially if you're evaluating casting based solely on distance. distance-schmistance!

of course, I'm a rotten saltwater fly fisherman. and perfectly content to remain so. ;)



Man, you guys are keeping me honest here ... this is a blog after all ... there is no accountability in the Web 2.0 world is there?

14 things (would be a good story).

1. The drift/presentation
2. Ability to mend
3. Ability to read water
4. Ability to match the hatch (select flies)
5. Fighting fish
6. Tying knots
7. Wading quietly (wade instead of cast)
8. Ability to see/spot fish
9. Timing the cast
10. Roll cast
11. The drift
12. The drift
13. The drift
14. The drift

And Pete... to your very good point re. guides: If someone can't cast, they aren't catching fish on a saltwater trip. Period. But, we can guide people who have never held a rod into fish on the river ... but does that make it easier, or the freshwater guide "better."

There's a tricky question: Who has the tougher job, the saltwater guide, or the river guide? Jeez, maybe we'll save that for later.


Aren't 1,2,9,10,11,12,13 and 14 somehow tied to directly to the cast? I've been a guide, and I have a pile of friends who guide, and the number 1,2,9,10,11,12,13 and 14th complaint are that clients can't cast, and don't really care to learn. If you can't cast 30 feet, you're screwed in Montana, or any where else for that matter. And why spend all that money on travel and gear and not give a S#@$ about the core of the day? It'd be like going elk hunting with a new gun and not even bore sighting it.
Maybe I'm wrong. Probably been eating too much lead split shot.

Evan V

Freshwater, obviously.
1.You have to handle flies carefully to ensure rapids don't take them.
2.Must drift the fly repeatedly.
3.Have to cast smaller flies far.
4.Animals capable of injury(bears, coyotes, wolves, etc)


Good points Rob ... chew a little more split shot, or you'll make me look really stupid.

I agree ... mostly. Hey, the cast is the golf swing, on fresh or saltwater. Gotta have it to play the game. My point (intentionally hot) is that people over-emphasize the cast to a fault. And I still think a really good guide can work around the 30-foot cast. On a river.


You can work around the 30 footer, but it sucks.

Anthony Bartkowski

To be a good guide, you must be able to analyze the client's skill set quickly with idle chat and tossing them into a hole for the final review of how the day will be. You have to be able to adjust and work with the individual so they are able to get into the fish with the skills that have been brought to you. We would all like to have an expert who wants to learn more of the intricacies of the sport, but more times than not we are spending the day honing the basics.

I will work with all casting abilities, but if I had my choice give me someone who does not know the difference between the tip and the butt of a fly rod.

Anthony Bartkowski

If you are in a boat - you better bring your A-Game to the river to have a great day.

If it is a wading trip - the 30-foot cast is not necessarily required. Think about it. Where are most of your fish caught on wade trips - probably close to 90% are within 20 feet. If you are outside of this you better put your running shoes on as you will be chasing after the catch.

Anthony Bartkowski

To complete the 14-step program...

11. Swing Presentation
12. Finishing the swing to the flip
13. Hook Set
14. Cold adult beverages at the end of the day reliving the catch with the fellas!!!

My top 3 items to be effective on your first day in the river are:

1. Drift/Presentation
3. Match the Hatch
8. Sight Fishing - finding the fish

There are a lot of different ways to get your line to where the fish are, but if you don't have the right presentation and bugs you might as well have stayed on the porch. Lastly, don't waste your time if you can't see a fish.


Was with a guy a couple of weeks ago when he caught his first redfish on fly. We had already caught about 18 that morning on the Indian River on spinning tacle when he decided to give it a shot on the long rod. It wasn't much of a challenge though. The water was stained and you could get within 25 feet of the reds before they would spook. Made it a lot easier. But normally in the flats you can't get within 60 feet of the reds before they scatter in every direction. The biggest fish of the day was 15 lbs. and the smallest was 4 1/2 lbs.

Our Blogs



 Subscribe in a reader

Add to Google

Add to My AOL

Add to Technorati Favorites!