Shopping for flies is one of the most daunting and difficult steps a fly angler will face, especially when gearing up for a fishing trip. There are so many flies to choose from, and so many bizarre names and designs to sort through, that many anglers just end up buying flies at random. Frankly, that's not a horrible way to approach it. As long as you have a nice selection of baitfish flies and top-water "dry" flies, you should be ready to fish virtually any lake, pond, river, or stream in the country.
If you are hoping to take your fly fishing skills to the saltwater arena, however, you will need to change your tack a bit. In general, saltwater fly fishing relies much more on wet flies or streamers - flies that sink beneath the surface of the water - than it does on the dry flies that float on top of the surface to entice fish. Flies that mimic baitfish species remain essential, but you will also have to look at wet flies that imitate other oceanic presences - shrimp and crab, especially.
The Clouser Minnow is a fly that is considered essential across the board, for just about any type of fly fishing. Its importance extends into the saltwater realm, particularly for saltwater anglers hoping to play the flats.
The Clouser bears a unique upside-down tie design in relation to its hook, meaning that the hook can skate along under the water surface in the flats without snagging on bottom rocks or seaweed. Like other wet fly streamers, the Clouser Minnow is equally adept at catching fish in freshwater and saltwater environments.
A Disco Shrimp fly provides anglers with one of the most realistic shrimp imitations of any fly, making it an absolute essential for any saltwater fly fishing expedition. The design of the fly makes it perfect for "causing a scene" on the water surface and thereby inspiring fish from far and wide to come and investigate.
The Avalon Keel Crab fly essentially combines the best elements of the Disco Shrimp and the Clouser Minnow. On one hand, the fly resembles a crab, which is a common type of prey for saltwater species and will therefore attract plentiful attention from saltwater game fish.
On the other hand, the Keel Crab fly is tied "hook-side up," which makes it great for fishing in shallow ocean waters where it might snag on plants or corals. This weighted wet fly sinks easily to the seafloor, where it can gather attention just like the "real" shellfish out there.
Named appropriately after Florida's Everglades, where saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, and flat fishing all meet and sometimes even overlap, the Everglades Special is a unique fly that can ensnare a wide range of different game fish species by not really looking like any specific type of organism.
Instead, the Everglades Special is designed with the specific goal of looking ambiguous. The fly resembles a dozen or more different baitfish, and is therefore the perfect weapon for a vibrant and versatile fishing spot like the Everglades.
Like the Clouser Minnow, the Lefty's Deceiver is a popular wet fly streamer that you will find in almost any saltwater fly angler's tackle box.
Designed by Lefty Kreh, a legendary fly fisherman, the Lefty's Deceiver was developed because Kreh needed a streamer that could cast well without wrapping itself around the hook and ruining the illusion of the fly. Since the Deceiver has been used for decades to catch all manner of saltwater species, we'd say Kreh did all right in achieving that goal.
Another essential crab fly to have in your tackle box, the Cathy's Fleeing Crab fly is particularly effective and dangerous against game fish because it triggers their predatory nature. The highly flexible silicone legs create true lifelike movement, making it the kind of fly that no fish can miss or resist.
Pinfish are incredibly common baitfish among saltwater populations, and that fact naturally means that every saltwater fly angler should have a Pinfish-related fly to entice them.
The GT Pinfish is a simplistic and easy-to-tie fly that may just become one of the most efficient and productive salt flies in your collection.
As the name of this fly suggests, it's the go-to fly if you have a hankering for some bonefish. The Gotcha is an extremely popular and simplistic fly, and has a place in virtually any saltwater tackle box. If your specialty really is bonefish, you might even consider stocking up on this fly in multiple colors and sizes.
The Kinky Muddler is one of those lovable flies with a nearly mythical origin story.
Jonny King, a New York lawyer and fisherman, claims that he actually created the fly by mistake while experimenting with different components. Regardless of how the Kinky Muddler was developed, this bucktail-based fly is one used by anglers all the way down the saltwater ports of the East Coast. It imitates baitfish normally pursued by striped bass and is therefore thought to be most essential for fishermen going after that species, but it's proven successful with other types of catches as well.
We wouldn't think of sending you onto the salty waters in and around America with only a single shrimp fly in your arsenal. Next to the Disco Shrimp, the Mantis is a solid back-up shrimp fly most used for catching bonefish and carp.
However, with the number of oceanic species that consistently gobble up shrimp, the Mantis and the Disco Shrimp should both prove to be among the most versatile and useful flies in your tackle box - regardless of what you're fishing for.