Fly Fishing: Salt Life Isn’t Always Fair

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Bad fly fishing omens. Photo Louis Cahill


Wool socks and thermals on, fleece on top of that, buff raised high on the nose, I battened down the hatches on my final layer of protection, my rain jacket and pants. Wind howling and white caps crashing in the distance, I try to pretend my finger tips aren’t tingling with pain from the bitter cold morning temperatures. As we motor down the canal towards the redfish grounds, with the pier very much still in sight, I already find myself thinking, “Today’s fly fishing is going to suck”.

I’ve spent enough time on the water over the years to know when there’s little hope for fishing success, and I no longer feel obligated to torture myself, hoping for a miracle to happen or spend the day falsely proclaiming to my buddies, all is good. Today, not even the pelicans think it’s worth their time to head out fishing. Their huddled together on the bank with their beaks tucked tight against their chest. They’re noticeably shivering, clearly not happy, and they’ve all somehow found a way to agree it’s a good idea for them to check their egos, in the off chance they can gain some warmth in numbers.

Yesterday, of course, the weather was absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, that beautiful fishing day was spent driving the eight hours down to Delacroix, LA and our fly rods were stowed in their tubes. Why does it always seem to play out this way for me? I’ve been looking forward to heading down south to get my saltwater fix for months, and I’ve even managed to get two of my favorite buddies to accompany me on the trip. We finally get here, and our first day is a total bust, from the horrible weather. What can I say, life in the salt isn’t always fair. That’s at least what I’ve learned as a mountain man and trout fisherman who only finds a couple times a year to head down for some fly fishing in the salt. I always remember to say my pre-trip prayers to the Fish Gods, problem is, my prayers aren’t usually answered.

If your new to fishing in saltwater and you want to fully enjoy your fly fishing adventures in the future, you better get in the habit of going with the flow, and except that fishing days will be lost due to unfavorable weather. My advice, that is, if you’re willing to let me pass it on to you, would be to look at your initial planned trip schedule to the salt, and then always try to add a couple extra days of fishing into your itinerary. Due whatever it takes to make it happen. Work your ass off at work to get ahead, promise to pick up a coworkers shift when you get back so they’ll cover you while your gone if you can. More importantly, before you leave for your fishing trip, take your gal out for an entertaining evening and romantic dinner. Lastly, make damn sure you provide her with a world-class happy ending to the night. That’s how you’ll find a way to squeeze in another day or two for your trip, and it will do wonders in allowing you to keep your spirits up when you’re confronted with shit weather. Furthermore, the extra days will give you more time to get comfortable handling the often tough, saltwater fly fishing conditions, and if you’re fishing without a guide, you’ll have the time to figure out where the fish are located and how to catch them.

That said, I now give you permission to chastise me. Go ahead, kick me in my crown jewels, and tell me I’m a complete fraud, because I wasn’t smart enough to take my own advice during this past redfishing trip to Louisiana. We really could have used another day or two of fly fishing in our schedule, since two of our three days were crap weather. Once again, our time on the road driving back to GA, was spent looking out the window at perfect weather, and that did not feel good. Leaving one day earlier and staying one day longer, I’m pretty confident our time in Louisiana would have turned into a dream fly fishing trip. Remember this when you’re planning your next saltwater fishing adventure.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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16 thoughts on “Fly Fishing: Salt Life Isn’t Always Fair

  1. Hey man, no worries. No one catches them all the time. I’m having own struggles on completely new water this winter, I’m out west. But what I’m realizing is that I’m not used to fishing highly pressured waters. Up in Michigan I have the option of fishing places that hardly get fished all year. Where I am now for the winter, and I came here to ski though we are without snow, there are constantly people fishing the same spots. It sucks. It’s not fishing to me at all…excuse me my while I vent. I’m from the most watery place in the world and now I’m in severe drought, WTF.
    LA > Louisiana, I thought you meant Los Angeles. There would be no point in going there! I respect you admitting your struggle.

    • Hey Spencer,

      My advice would be to downsize your tippet and flies and also focus on fly fishing secondary spots where the greater portion of fly anglers do not spend as much time fishing. It’s really easy to always hit the obvious spots, because there’s always trout there, but that means they’re also the wisest of the trout. Fishing the not so obvious spots or the marginal water can get you some hook ups in these conditions. I don’t know how long you’ll be out there, but time on the water will begin to put the odds in your favor. Get to experimenting and find out the key to getting those fish to eat your flies. Got to a fly shop if my suggestions fail to figure out what the problems are.


      • Yeah I am running fluro with the appropriate size for the fly, but my next step was gonna be go even smaller like you said. Thanks dude. As a naive midwesterner, we believe all freestone rivers are full of fish..not always the case. But I really do like your advice for fishing highly pressured water. I will do these things, thanks..

  2. Good advice Kent. More days to fish, more chances to catch fish. Also, I would add, if you are hiring a guide for more than one day, do not book for consecutive days. A day or two between trips may increase the chances for better weather.

  3. Having lived on a Florida redfish flat, I am well aware of good day/bad day issues. Still, I spent days on the water sitting sideways on my kayak tossing little clousers to try to get sea trout to tighten my line on my days off from work. Redfish? Not a chance on coldest, windy days. I am the same way here in North Georgia: Living on a Tailwater and fishing for trout with numb feet and a chapped face and frozen guides. I am willing to physically punish myself to get my fix.

    My wife would understand it even less if she was actually on the water freezing her butt off. Only we know how uncomfortable it really is… but how important it is to us nonetheless.

  4. God rewarded my wife and I for working hard to get down to the coast of North Carolina a day early. Took the skiff out a day early and found a nice school of reds…they ate. The next two scheduled days of fishing sucked as winds were in the 25mph range and air temps fell below freezing at night. The school that had been in this same spot for 3 months suddenly vanished…or maybe just buried themselves in the mud.

  5. Ahh the salt. Something always gets me too. We were in NOLA a few weeks ago and got slammed with the Polar Vortex. Kinda weird to see palm trees in 30 degree weather. Do you ever feel cursed? I do.

  6. It is always best to book more days fishing knowing all things will not work out as you planned. Your advice on taking your wife, sweetie, or date for the trip is also good. It can be too cold to fish, but you can stay warm, and earn more points with that special lady to go fishing another day.

  7. Been there man, and boy it sucks! Wind, rain, water spouts, cold weather……it always seems to hunt you down and test your fortitude. Just gotta keep on truckin’ though. Play the cards your dealt and fish your ass off!

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  9. The best lesson I’ve learned about traveling to fish is that winter is winter. That is, you may be escaping from Boston or Bozeman to escape the cold for a fishing escape. Just remember, your warm may be their cold… That is Louisiana, Florida, and the Bahamas get cold fronts in Jan and Feb. Notice that the locals are wearing their puffy coats even though you’re sporting shorts and a T? If you want to tilt the odds in your favor go during the fall and late spring. Like your home haunts the fishing there is red hot. I know we all want to get away and steal some time in the dead of winter when fishing at home is less appealing but that can be the kiss of death if a cold front sweeps across the Yucatan and stretches to Anguilla. A little research into when the fishing is best will go a long way in improving your odds at having weather conducive to a successful trip.

  10. Well said. Redfish like nice, stable weather. Wind muddies the water and makes fishing tough and catching almost impossible. My advice: Enjoy the surroundings in salt. Watch the birds. Notice the changes over the years in the marsh. Be a good conversationalist, keep a good attitude and enjoy being on the water. After all, you are not at work.

    One more word of advice….Find a guide who will be honest about your chances of finding/catching fish. If the weather is crap, and your guide explains your situation and gives you the option to go or not to go, you have found a good guide whose goal is your satisfaction, not taking your money.

    Booking non-consecutive days is also a good idea.

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