Care of Flies fished in Seawater

Recommendations for care of flies fished in Seawater.

This is a very fine Daiichi Salmon Fly hook exposed to Seawater for several days.

Like many of our blogosphere readers, I devote serious time and effort to fly fishing for salmon and sea run cutthroat in places that are often tide driven. That is to say, on any given day or time of day I could be fishing the surface freshwater layer, a brackish mixture of fresh and salt, or pure ocean water. I have begun of recent to venture out to fish for rockfish in offshore waters, and guess what – some of my salmon flies are just what the Rockfish want to eat, so my flies are doing double duty.

This is a very fine TMC fly hook that has been exposed to seawater and suffered because it is NOT designed for the rigors of the briny deep.

So, what to do, how do I care for flies tied on many freshwater (non-saltwater-safe) hooks? Here is the straight opinion, unverified and most probably contestable, or at the very least detestable and surely slightly stinky advice I would offer in all sincerity, but would probably never quite follow myself, owing to stubbornness or lack of preparation.

1. Decide in advance that any fly tied on a standard hook (non-saltwater safe) — and dunked in the ocean – is a gonner (lost cause). This is a worthwhile sacrifice if it is kept to a manageable number of hooks, at least that is how I rationalize the situation. I don’t mind retiring a dozen or so flies a day, but I sure do not want to see a whole box of flies rust after a week in the estuary.

2. That said, yes, if you rinse your tackle and flies at the end of each day (and this means the end of each day, not every other day) you can probably DELAY the onset of hook rust, but i have not been able to PREVENT rust, once a fly tied on a freshwater hook has hit the salt.

Great fly, but the finish on the hook is not intended for the salt.

3. A prompt overnight soak in freshwater might help even more, but consider this, based on experience, that even the best fly materials like bucktail, and natural feathers we use as hackles are not 100% colorfast. So I have found that an overnight soak, and several in a row, tend to leave my flies trending to very pale shades of whatever color they started out. Again, this becomes a loosing proposition.

4. Some of the flies I tie for estuary use are on saltwater safe hooks like the Gamakatsu Big Game or the Gammie Glo Bug hook (beautiful for Comets and Scuds). These Hooks are very rust resistant.

5. Here is my strategy for minimizing fly loss. First, I keep my main fly collection in a water resistant box like a Cliffs Bugger Beast or Bugger Beast Junior fly box. This represents the mother load of flies I take out on a trip. This box, I keep in a water tight Bag protected from the sea air, which alone can do the damage if the flies are dusted with ocean spray.

Now, here is a saltwater safe hook, a Gamakatsu SC15 Saltwater hook, fished in the brine for parts of 3 seasons. Still in great condition, naturally.

6. Then i select roughly two to 4 dozen flies that i am likely to fish on any day and load these in a Cliffs Crab Shack box, which is relatively small but has good depth to accommodate flies with some bulk.

7. Any fly that has been in the sale NEVER goes back into either of my fly boxes. NEVER. I have a chunk of foam or use a Cliff’s Float fly patch to stick these flies in and use these for several days in a row. Any flies tied on standard freshwater hooks will start to show varying amounts of rust over the next few days, but the points stay sharp during this period and I can touch them up each day if needed. Clousers, for example, tied on Gamakatsu Big Game hooks do not rust, but I NEVER put these back in a fly box that contains non-saltwater hooks.

8. At the end of a week I will have a small or large handful of hooks that have been in the salt. I will rinse these, inspect them, and throw them in an inexpensive plastic fly box for the next trip. At some stage of rusting, I will discard a fair number of flies tied on freshwater hooks, but these have already seen good use. Flies tied on saltwater resistant hooks are usually still in great condition while the others will show some or a lot of rust. The rest of this already-been-used flies are the first candidates for use in the ocean next trip out. My main reserves of flies are still in reserve, so to speak, and have not been exposed to the danger of the salt.

9. Rods, reels, and lines do need to be rinsed; if not daily then as often as possible. As the years have progressed, my attention to rod/reel/line rinsing has deteriorated considerably. My strategy has been to mostly fish with tackle that is saltwater resistant and give it a spray now and then.

OK. Nuff said. Begin counter advice stream now please.

BTW, there are hazards associated with photography – see photo below for example please. Close call.


This entry was posted in Fly Fishing Gear Review, Fly Tying. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Care of Flies fished in Seawater

  1. Rob R says:

    Oh great, now you tell me! Know anyone who wants to buy 20 dozen slightly rusted flies?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *