A wise angler once said that a mistake is merely an opportunity to learn. Well why not learn from other’s mistakes too? Recently, FF fly fishing Ambassador Jenny Tates compiled 5 common saltwater fly fishing slip-ups so you can avoid them next time you're out in the salt, pushing through the flats, and throwing flies. 

Becoming A Saltwater Angler 

The Arm & Wrist

A common mistake made by folks learning how to cast is using too much arm and wrist. The goal is to get the fly rod to do the work. When you feel the rod load and create line speed, you know you’re headed in the right direction.  A classic example used amongst many anglers is to think about hammering a nail into a wall. Imagine the cork grip as the base of your hammer. Keep the rod tip on the same plane at roughly 10 and 2 o’clock and hammer away.

I say that with a caveat...everyone's casting style varies and you learn what works best for you.

Fighting the Fish 

Well done! You’ve got the fish hooked and now it’s on the run. Half the fun is playing the fish but you have to keep in mind that too much pressure can cause the fish to break off. Learning the balance of when to hand strip, crank down on the reel, or let it run is key for success. Another common mistake made during the fight is not keeping your rod tip up. These fish will take any slack they’re given.

Over time playing a fish becomes second nature but there’s definitely a learning curve for most.

Unreliable Knots

Beginners, learn your knots. It’s a sinking feeling when a fish breaks off because the knot came undone. These are my go to knots for fly fishing saltwater:

The Kreh Loop is a great saltwater knot to learn. It’s a non slip loop knot that provides wiggle room for the fly to act more natural in the water. It’s works like a charm and is extremely reliable.  

Line Management

Learning how to properly manage your fly line can be extremely difficult for new timers. In fact, proper line management is just as important to learn as how to cast effectively and set the hook properly. It can feel very awkward at first with 30ft of line at your fingertips and toes.

I suggest stretching your line before heading out to avoid any kinks in the line that could get caught in unexpected places. Another suggestion for managing your line better is to invest in either a stripping basket if you’re wade fishing or a stripping bucket for those fishing from a boat. Both options will help you prepare for your next shot.


False Casting Too Much

Easier said than done. Once you find the rhythm of the rod you’ll understand that false casting is simply enjoyable. The humming of the line is almost mesmerizing. I am the first to admit that I am an offender of this rookie mistake. As a saltwater angler, I love throwing line.

The rule of thumb however is to false cast as many times as you need to sufficiently reach the desired fish. A good angler can shoot out 60ft of line with one double hall. Your have to remember that your target is on the move while your rod is in the air. I should take my own advice...


About the Author: 

Jenny is a Free Fly Fishing Ambassador and a New Englander with a love for the ocean. There's no place she'd rather be than on the water in search of everything and nothing at the same time, especially with a fly rod in hand.