Summer is quickly approaching, and that means family vacations. If it were up to me, our vacations would always be planned around fishing, but that’s usually not how a family vacation works. I’m sure you can relate. Let’s be honest though, after you book a room you will probably at least take a minute or two to google fishing opportunities nearby. This year we are going to Myrtle Beach, and I’m finally going to take the fly rod along. Other than a handful of trips fishing bait from a pier, I’m a total salt newb. I’m keeping notes on the whole process, from pre-trip prep to post-trip observations. The plan is to share each step of the process here to help my fellow troutbums who may want to try fly fishing on vacation as well. It can be a bit intimidating to jump into saltwater fly fishing, and trying to do you research can be daunting. My hope is that sharing my journey will help encourage others to give it a try. Reading information from a guy that has been doing it his whole life is one thing, but if I can figure it out and share some tips maybe that will give you confidence that you can be successful in salt as well. So we’ll start with pre-trip preparations.
Step 1: budget
Determine what you budget is. This will determine things like which license you can buy, what new gear you can add, and whether you can afford a guide. You don’t want to drop a bunch of money on a new 9wt only to realize you don’t have enough $$$ left over for an expensive non-resident fishing license (and some states can be really expensive!).
Step 2: location
Will you be surf fishing? Wading a tidal creek? Kayaking? Hiring a charter boat? These are important details to figure out early. If you can afford a guide with a boat, obviously that will cut down on the learning curve. Personally I can’t afford $700+ tip for a day of fishing, but there are other options. You can rent kayaks fairly affordably, and many places offer guided kayak trips. For example, Black River Outdoors in Myrtle Beach offers a half day guided trip for only $125. This is much more affordable, and you have the option to rent a kayak later in the trip and fish many of the same areas. Our resort has beach front and a tidal creek draining a salt marsh. Most likely I will be fishing the surf at night and fishing the marsh from kayak during the day. Use google maps and local fishing forums to research the area and develop a game plan ahead of time.
Step 3: license
Nothing would ruin a short fishing trip on vacation quicker than a hefty fine. Research before you get there and determine what license you need. Many states offer a 3 or 10 day license for non-residents, but if you travel there regularly you may want a full year. Personally I have a full year license for North Carolina because we usually have a couple of family trips up there every year, and it is not a far drive for a day trip. But for this trip I’m only buying the South Carolina 14 day license because I rarely fish in SC. This is something you definitely want to work out before you shell out money for an annual license, only to realize you’ll never use it again.
Step 4: gear
For most surf and inshore fishing a 7-9wt rod is ideal, with an 8wt typically being the norm. I’ll be bringing my 9′ 7wt. I’ve heard of people fishing in salt with a 5wt or 6wt rod, but you’ll probably find that the lighter line doesn’t handle the wind as well. You will want a reel with a good drag. If you are lucky you may get to see your backing, a rare site for most troutbums. A floating line will work, but you may also want an intermediate line for surf fishing to get down below the waves. I’m taking one of each, and I’ll definitely keep a mental note of which one gets fished the most and report back in later blog posts. A simple 9′ 1x or 2x leader will cover most surf and inshore fishing. You can also tie your own two section leaders with straight mono. Start with a 4.5′ 20-30lb mono butt section and a 4.5′ tip section using mono with half of the breaking strength. So for a 30lb butt sections you would use a 15lb tip section, or for a 20lb butt section use a 10lb tip section.
Step 5: flies
This one is a no-brainer. Saltwater flies are expensive to buy at a shop or online, but with the current Monthly Salt special offer you will get 9 flies for just $12. I’m taking my salt assortment bass fishing in the morning and have plans to take the same flies striper fishing after vacation. It’s a very versatile assortment and far more affordable than paying tourist prices at the fly shop.