41 - Top 6 Flies For UK Saltwater Fishing
With countless locations to explore and various species to catch, it’s little wonder saltwater fly fishing is growing around the British coast. Fish like bass, pollack and mullet not only take a fly well, but give excellent sport on light tackle.
But when it comes to the best fly patterns to try for UK sea fishing, where do you start? It would be tricky to produce a definitive list in one article. Nevertheless, some patterns crop up again and again, such is their dependability. In just a minute, we’ll share our pick of six of the very best all-rounders to get you up and running, along with some tips on how to fish them.
From the outset, we should also give you a few pointers on sizes and general tips for UK sea fishing with fly tackle:
-If unsure where to start, imitating small fish is a great idea. Most sea fish are predatory, after all, and colours like silver, olive will always work. You can experiment with crabs, shrimps and other creature copies once you catch some fish and grow in confidence.
-Pack a range of sizes. We try to stock all our flies in both larger and smaller sizes where possible. Starting small (say 4 to 8) makes perfect sense if you’re not sure what to begin with, as smaller fish like mackerel and school bass will manage a smaller fly much better than say a 2/0. That said, you’ll also want bigger flies for scenarios such as coloured or rough water, or where larger fish are expected.
-Always have some bolder options besides natural colours. The sea is a dynamic, changeable environment. If the water is coloured, black or chartreuse are well worth a go.
Even modest sea fish fight like tigers! Do tackle up sensibly.
-Make sure your flies are up to the job! While you might occasionally get away with regular streamers in calm seas or estuaries, saltwater tends to demand tougher hooks and more durable materials. For this reason, all of our saltwater flies are chosen with care. They’re tied on quality, extra strong rust-proof hooks- and yet we also offer great value at typically only £1.50 to £2.50 per fly!
-Use tough leaders and gear. The sea takes no prisoners when it comes to tackle. Nor do sea fish tend to be leader shy! 8-10lb fluorocarbon is a sensible starting point, but you could go heavier still around rocks and other snags. The only exception to this rule of beefy leaders is perhaps Mullet, which demand smaller flies and slightly lighter tippets, with 5-6lb a sensible starting point.
Turrall fluorocarbon is tough, fast sinking and great value at under £6 per spool
Usually, we’re talking setups in the 6 to 9 weight bracket, depending on conditions. That’s not to say the occasional sea fly fisher needs to invest in lots of new gear. A stillwater fly fishing setup of 6 to 8 weight with a bit of backbone will work fine much of the time- just be sure to clean it after use in the salt! If you get a taste for it, you may eventually want to try more specialised gear.
-Sharpen hooks and check leaders often. Talking of the rough stuff, it also pays to keep an eye on your hook points and leaders regularly. Rocks and rolling waves can damage even tough materials and, in time, dull hook points. A multi tool, with hook sharpener and line snips, is a handy investment to keep your flies ready to hook up and quickly cut and replace any frayed leaders!
-Rinse flies and gear in fresh water after use. Even purpose made flies and gear will suffer from exposure to seawater if not cared for. It’s a good idea to isolate any flies you use on the day, keeping them separate from those not yet tried. Give them a wash in tap water after your session to prevent corrosion. It’s also a must to wash your rod, reel and fly line under the shower when you get home to avoid any longer term damage.
SIX GREAT FLIES FOR BRITISH SEA FISH
This excellent fly needs little introduction- and is among the best all round fly patterns for UK sea fishing we can think of. The weighted head not only helps the fly sink, but gives an attractive up and down motion. The dumbbell eyes also encourage the fly to fish “point up” to reduce snagging. It works a treat for many fish in all sizes and hues, but perhaps the classic colours are either chartreuse or olive and white. Fabulous for pollack and bass.
TIP: Flies and lures sink slower in saltwater than freshwater! For this reason, it’s often handy to have a few weighted flies and sinking lines in case you need to get down lower.
Another classic saltwater fly pattern that is an excellent all-rounder for both shore and boat fishing. Don’t be afraid to go a bit bigger, especially when fishing afloat or anywhere noted for larger fish! This is one of the best flies we’ve used for pollack, working especially well using a fast sink line over any inshore reef.
TIP: Always pack a hook sharpener. Any fly that you use on consecutive trips is likely to lose a little edge.
For any indecisive angler, this fly pattern is a neat combination of half Clouser and half Deceiver, hence the name. Of all our saltwater flies, it’s also one that comes in the widest array of sizes (4, 2, 1/0 and 2/0) adding even more versatility. Be sure to pack some smaller versions to widen your species tally- a size 4 is a great shout for mackerel and garfish on slightly lighter six and seven weight setups.
TIP: Saltwater fish tend be faster and fitter than many freshwater predators. Be prepared to strip fast for fish like bass when using any fleeing baitfish style fly.
SANDEEL (pink shown)
From late spring to autumn, the humble sandeel is one of the most important of all prey items for saltwater predators, and especially sea bass. Hence you don’t want to be without some copies in your fly box! Natural versions like olive and white or black and white can be great in clear water, but don’t forget to pack a few in pink or chartreuse. Why bass should prefer these crazy colours isn’t always obvious, but they often do! Perhaps it’s because when there are thousands of the real thing, it’s better to stand out a bit than blend in?
TIP: Always look out for concentrations of prey such as sandeels. Any areas they come close inshore and get trapped or concentrated are well worth exploring.
FLASH SHRIMP (Olive shown)While talking about UK saltwater fly fishing and the best flies to use, it would be criminal these days not to at least mention mullet! With a strangely shaped mouth and incredible power, they are a thrilling challenge. Due to popular demand, we just had to stock some proven fly patterns! The Flash Shrimp has to be one of the best flies for mullet. Try fishing one with a gentle figure of eight retrieve or even dead drifted on the tide to sighted fish- and watch like a hawk for takes! Hook one of these fish and you’ll have a fight to remember.
TIP: Be prepared to wade and observe closely when mullet fishing; but be wary of muddy areas and always plan an escape route as the tide rushes in.
Rodney Wevill cradles a fine fly caught mullet.
PRINCE OF TIDES
Last but not least, we should also mention a fly pattern or two to beat the weed, which can be a big challenge in the summer for much of England, Wales and Scotland. The fish will still be around when there’s weed galore, but it can be frustrating to try to present a fly in and around it. You could try a small surface popper to avoid submerged weed. However, this fly is also a good bet, with a fine weed guard incorporated. Black is also a good colour if you find a bit of spring or summer algal bloom on the water.
TIP: Don’t shy away from weedy and rocky areas. Fish love these spots- but you may need to step up your tackle.