Gear Up for Saltwater Fly Fishing Along the Gulf Coast

So you want to learn how to fly fish and are wondering what gear to buy?  

Saltwater fly fishing is a sport that is rapidly gaining popularity over the last decade and with it comes a whole new style of fishing. 

If you enjoy the adrenaline rush that sight fishing provides, then the fly rod is the perfect weapon of choice.   With enough practice and experience, you will have a huge advantage over conventional tackle.  The small flies allow your casts to land silently and avoid spooking fish in inches of water.  It also provides you endless styles of flies to choose from, so no matter what the situation is you will be able to adjust.  Ever had a cast miss your target and have to reel it all the way back in and then try to cast again but by then it’s too late?  Well not with fly fishing.  If you miss your cast, you can pick it up and recast in a matter of seconds.    

Unfortunately fly fishing is often viewed as an expensive hobby to get into.  When you start to look up all the gear you will need it can quickly get overwhelming, and glimpses of high priced rods and reels will often deter many people.  This doesn’t have to be the case.  There are many great options out there that can fit just about anyone’s budget.  

In this article we will discuss several options that you can explore and adjust to fit your budget, from the beginner kits to the best setup money can buy.  Just keep in mind that the gear mentioned here is selected with a focus on inshore saltwater fly fishing in the Gulf Coast area, targeting fish such as Redfish, Speckled Trout, Snook, small Tarpon, and Sheepshead.  We'll be looking at 8 weight rods and reels that offer enough fighting power to handle everything and enough backbone to punch into those strong coastal winds.  

If you're looking to just test the waters, or perhaps buy a gift for your child.  There are a few beginner "kits" out there that have everything you need to get started.  Take for example the Orvis 8-weight Combo Kit for just $169.  That is a great entry-level option for someone that's just beginning.  Just don't expect this setup to last a long time or deliver stellar results.  While it will certainly get the job done, it will lack many of the features needed for a more permanent quality setup.

To get a good quality set up that will last a life time of fly fishing, you'll be looking to spend around $300-500.   Let’s start with the rod, the most important piece.  Your casting ability will largely hinge on the feel of the rod and how it “loads” the line.   A beginner will probably not know what to look for and after hours of standing in a store shaking and wiggling dozens of different rods, you may leave the store more confused than when you arrived.  An 8-weight rod that is 9 feet long, and has a medium-fast action is a perfect choice for saltwater fly fishing in Texas.  A highly recommended brand that fits in our budget is Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO).  Take a look at the Lefty Kreh Professional Series II for about $160 or the highly recognized BVK model for $280.  The rod is the most vital piece of equipment for fly fishing, so if you’re going to splurge on anything, put it towards the rod. TFO rods are getting rave reviews from all the top fisherman in the industry and is highly touted as the best value rod available.    

Ok, we got the rod now let’s slap a reel on it.  You’ll want something that holds up in the saltwater environment and has a good drag that can handle Redfish.  Plus you’ll want something that matches the rod and looks great don’t you?  There's a few options to look at depending on your budget.  First off is a brand that all fly fisherman have come to know and love, Orvis.  While their Mirage series is their top tier reel running about $650, they also offer the Hydros series.  The Orvis Hydros SL - IV reel is a quality setup that will cost you around $240 and is sure to last many years in the salt enviornment.  This reel ranked 5th in the Trident Fly Fishing 8wt Shootout that beat out many reels twice its price.  If you're looking to spend a little more and want a great sealed drag system from a top quality company, check out the Nautilus CCF-X2 6/8.  This reel will run you about $435 and has a sealed Teflon and carbon fiber disc drag system.

If you're looking to buy the best of the best and spend upwards of $2000 for your rod/reel setup, there's a few options to consider.  For the rod, consider the Sage Salt HD for around $850, the Scott Meridian for $865, or if you're looking for a 1 piece rod, look at the G Loomis NRX PRO-1 for about $750.  When it comes time to pick the "best" reel, there's a few brands to consider.  First let's check out the old favorite, Tibor Everglades.  This reel is truly the benchmark that all reels are measured against and will run you about $650.  Next up is the Hatch 7 Plus Gen 2, this reel also costs around $650, offers a sealed drag system, and has a huge loyal following in the fly fishing scene.  Last but not least, the Galvan Grip G-8.  This reel is about $100 cheaper and is ranking at the top of all the latest reel reviews.  You simply cannot go wrong with any of these options.  You will be sporting the latest technologies and will certainly make all your friends jealous!  

To finish the outfit of your new setup, you’ll want some good line on your reel.  This is often over-looked when considering your budget, but it’s important to get the right line for your style of fishing.  When you’re on the shallow flats on a Texas summer day you want a floating line that won’t get sticky in the heat and has low memory so it lays flat and straight on the water. The Scientific Angler – Mastery Redfish Warm WF-8-F is a great choice.  This will run you about $80 but can last many years if you take care of it properly.  If you want to spend a little more, check out the new RIO DirectCore Flats Pro line.  This line is brand new and has won "Best New Fly Line for 2018" at iCast.  Whichever floating line you choose, they typically range about 100 foot long, so you’re going to need some backing on your reel.  Backing is simply just extra line to give you added length in case that Redfish decides to run, pull drag, and scream line off your reel.  Check your reel manufacturer's specs to see how much backing your reel requires.  For example the Nautilus XL Max reel allows for 175 yards of 20# backing using the WF-8-F line.  For about $9 you can get some Scientific Anglers 20# Dacron Backing.  You’ll also want to grab a few leaders to make things easier.  I’ve had good luck with the Scientific Anglers Saltwater 12lb, they cost about $8 for a two-pack.  This is 9 feet of tapered nylon that has a loop on one end for quick rigging and is designed with low visibility in mind.  You can tie your fly directly on to this or you can add about a foot of tippet.  

So that basically sums it up with everything that you’ll need to get started.  When friends want to get into saltwater fly fishing and ask which rod and reel to buy, this is the article I refer them to.  It’s a great combination of high quality brands, at a reasonable prices, and that’s going to last a life time of enjoyment.  If you find the budget is a bit too expensive, check out E-Bay.  A lot of people buy a nice set up and then use it once or twice before giving up, so there is always good used gear available there.

Now that you got everything you need to fly fish, get out there and practice your casting technique and you’ll be hooked up with Redfish in no time.  And if you are looking for some good flies, check out our fly shop, they are all designed to target Redfish and Trout in the Texas Gulf Coast area.