The ba­sic gear re­quired for Beach Fish­ing

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Beach fly fish­ing: ba­sic set-up In Aus­tralia, most of us are for­tu­nate enough to live close to some sort of beach or es­tu­ary sys­tem where there are a myr­iad of fly rod tar­get species avail­able. That be­ing said, the most com­mon ques­tion we get in the shop is “how do I fly fish the beach?” In this ar­ti­cle we will look at what gear you need to suc­cess­fully and com­fort­ably fish many of Aus­tralia’s beaches.

Rod choices There is a wide choice of weights to choose from when se­lect­ing a fly rod but the the most im­por­tant prin­ci­ple when fish­ing the beach is choos­ing a sin­gle rod that can ful­fil your needs. When choos­ing the rod you should look at the fol­low­ing cri­te­ria: 1. A rod that is light enough to carry and fish with all day 2. Can it deal with the pre­vail­ing wind and still cast most fly types that you may want to fish? 3. Will it han­dle the larger types of fish you’re likely en­counter, but is it still light enough to be fun with smaller fish?

The rods that fit th­ese re­quire­ments usu­ally fall in the medium-light to medium weight classes. To put that in line weight, you would nor­mally choose a rod weight of 6, 7 or 8 but some­times you could use a 5 and some­times you should use a 9. Many fish­er­men use a 6 weight rod in most of their es­tu­ary fish­ing and only go to an 8 when the wind picks up or when big­ger flies are re­quired.

I also know many fish­er­men who use the 7 weight very suc­cess­fully for a lot of their fish­ing and only re­ally ever need the one rod. I have used an 8 weight for most of my fish­ing sim­ply be­cause I reg­u­larly have to con­tend with strong winds along the open beaches.

Ask your­self the fol­low­ing ques­tion: Am I go­ing to fish mostly estuaries with some beach work? If yes, then look at get­ting a 6 or 7 weight. If your an­swer is no and you are go­ing to fish mostly beaches with some es­tu­ary work, then go with a 7 or 8 weight. This ar­ti­cle is not go­ing to go into price or brand of rods be­cause it is not nec­es­sary. There are good qual­ity rods on the mar­ket that will fit ev­ery­one’s bud­get but my rec­om­men­da­tion for both rod and line is: Buy the best you can af­ford.

Reels A lot of peo­ple will tell you a lot of dif­fer­ent sto­ries re­gard­ing the type of reel you should get, the only ad­vice is that you should get the reel you can af­ford. Prefer­ably pick a reel with a large ar­bor that can com­fort­ably hold ap­prox­i­mately 250 me­tres of 30lb back­ing plus the fly line. Try to get a reel with good an­o­dis­ing and a wash­able or sealed drag sys­tem. Make sure it fits the rod and line weight you have cho­sen and that it bal­ances ev­ery­thing nicely. Th­ese days most reels come with a rec­om­mended line weight rating that they can be used on. You are look­ing for some­thing that is easy to use and easy to main­tain. A beach reel does not need to break the bank and I reg­u­larly fish with some ex­cel­lent beach fly fish­er­men that use reels dat­ing from around the time I was born (late 80’s).

Lines Your choice of line is as im­por­tant, if not more im­por­tant than your choice of rod. A good qual­ity line will make an av­er­age rod cast bet­ter but even the most ex­pen­sive rods will have a tough time with cheap, low-qual­ity lines. Get the best line you can af­ford. The Rio Main­stream salt­wa­ter line is an ex­cel­lent choice for those look­ing for a qual­ity starter line, how­ever it only starts at a 7 weight.

When you buy a line make sure you match the line weight with the rod weight. That means that if you buy a 6 weight rod, buy your­self a 6 weight line. There is re­ally no rea­son for a be­gin­ner to go heav­ier or lighter than the rod’s weight and it will only cause is­sues down the line when you are learn­ing how to cast. In other words, don’t lis­ten to that friend who has “fly fished for years”, just make sure the num­bers are the same and you won’t have any is­sues.

Float­ing, Sink­ing or In­ter­me­di­ate? If you are start­ing out then you should fish with a float­ing line, or floaters as they are some­times called. A floater is the eas­i­est line to cast and al­lows the novice an­gler a bit more con­trol. It can be fished suc­cess­fully at var­i­ous depths by us­ing weighted flies and many tuna have been taken on float­ing lines. If you are go­ing to fish the estuaries then this should be your pri­mary line.

If you are go­ing to be fish­ing the beaches on a reg­u­lar ba­sis then your pri­mary line should be an in­ter­me­di­ate or sink­ing line, de­pend­ing on how rough the surf con­di­tions are. This is nec­es­sary to al­low the line to sink below the waves and to pre­vent it from get­ting washed around as much as a floater. I like to fish a line that sinks slowly in light to medium surf, and the stan­dard in­ter­me­di­ate lines from the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers all seem to work well. A line with a fast sink­ing tip or head is a good line when you are fish­ing rough con­di­tion and strong winds. The most im­por­tant part about beach fish­ing is that you need to do it of­ten and in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions. A beach fish­er­man needs to be com­fort­able with their gear and their cast­ing be­fore they start chop­ping and chang­ing what lines they are go­ing to use. Once a fly­fisho is com­fort­able with their cast­ing and gear then they can ex­per­i­ment with shoot­ing head sys­tems. A good ex­am­ple of a beach fish­ing shoot­ing head would be the T-fam­ily sys­tem (a shoot­ing head made from some­thing like T-14 or T-17 fast sink­ing line) with a monofil­a­ment run­ning line. This is a very pop­u­lar sys­tem in the US and can work in your favour when long dis­tances are re­quired. Just make sure you know how to cast them. An­other op­tion is a man­u­fac­tured shoot­ing head avail­able from one of the var­i­ous fly line man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Lead­ers A stan­dard 9 to 10 foot ta­pered leader will work well in most beach fish­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. A store bought, ta­pered leader al­ways en­sures that you get good en­ergy trans­fer and a nice lay-out of the fly. I use both store bought and hand­made lead­ers, de­pend­ing on my mood on the day. If I am in the right mood I tie some lead­ers to keep in my pack for fu­ture use. The light­est break­ing strain for use in the surf should be around 10lb, be­cause you never know what might come swim­ming along, but also carry some 20lb, 15lb and 8lb lead­ers just in case. If you tie your own lead­ers then you can play around with the break­ing strains and ta­pers.

Flies When it comes to flies for use on surf beaches it is hard to beat the clas­sics. The main idea be­hind your fly choice, re­gard­less of where you are fish­ing, is to think about what you are try­ing to im­i­tate. What are the fish feed­ing on? What is the most com­mon bait in the area? What can you cast and fish the best in the pre­vail­ing con­di­tions? This is a sim­ple list of the flies we use most of­ten in the surf in no spe­cific or­der.

● Surf can­dies (easy to cast, low main­te­nance if made cor­rectly)

● Clouser Min­nows (Sim­ple to tie, gets down deep, can be frag­ile in the surf when tied with nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als)

● Gotcha/crazy Char­lie type flies (sim­ple to tie, im­i­tates var­i­ous prey species)

● De­ceivers (larger pro­file, nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als can be frag­ile)

● Pop­pers and other Sur­face flies

● Any fly that is a good gen­eral im­i­ta­tor of beach prey species

○ Prey species on the beach can in­clude sand crabs, var­i­ous bait fish species, beach worms, sand fleas and some­times even small prawns or shrimps.

Beach fish­ing is a very fun way of fish­ing and an it can get very ex­cit­ing when you fi­nally find a gut­ter hold­ing some good fish. How­ever I use the word ‘fi­nally’ on pur­pose as it may some­times take a lot of work to find the fish. Be pre­pared to walk long dis­tances when beach fish­ing and spend some time on each gut­ter. There are many peo­ple that will tell you that you need to fish the surf at this time of day dur­ing that type of tide, and they might be cor­rect, but I have to fit in my fish­ing when­ever I can and I go re­gard­less of the tide or time of day. Of course I pre­fer a spe­cific set of cir­cum­stances and early morn­ing is my pre­ferred time to go fish­ing, but go when you can.

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