Truly Madly deeply – The Art of Dredging with Saltwater Flies or at least trying too

Posted By Oz on Jul 21, 2017 | 0 comments

Fly fishing in deep water is not easy. It requires patience and heaps of practice but the rewards are out there if you can master this discipline. I have a few techniques and observations I can share within this blog.I hope it all makes sense and gets you motivated to get down on it! 

Fly fishing in 50 to 60 foot of water with 1.5 knots of tide, wind over tide is an art form and something that I have been trying to perfect for some time now . Its requires a great deal of patience , intuition and a sixth sense to figure just where your fly may be  in the water column at any given time. I still have a long way to go to be able to say that I have nailed it. I recommend beginners to go for a fly rod combo but the problem with being the skipper all the time is its hard for me to spend a great deal of time with a fly rod in my hand. I can fish a lure rod quite effectively while controlling the boat around the rocks, the fly rod is long and time consuming and the fly line catches every conceivable snag around the consul. Sometimes if I don’t actually get on the bow and have a cast and watch the way that the wind and tide are working and the angle and decent of the fly line. I just don’t know what I need to do with the boat and how best to set up the drifts for a client.

Lure fishing transformed my catches 7 years ago and even more so the mighty Fiiish Minnow .The ability to hold a lure down in the tide and control its depth via a mixture of density, tide, wind and retrieve opened my fishery and my results bloomed, at last I was catching those bigger Bass that I had only ever bumped into once or twice a year at best when I fished the fly rod. It was an piffany so to speak A Paddle tail shad catches big fish with almost zero input from the angler at times , when my clients over work the lures despite my advice I have been known to use shock tactics to get the message to’ mellow it out’ by proclaiming that’ if i put a rod in the rod holder and let the lure flutter away out there  it will catch more fish than everyone else on the boat combined ‘ That tends to get the message across. The ability of these minnows to scour the depths and cover so much new water also brought in a wealth of new GPS coordinates to my fish finder . I have a whole new level of knowledge of large areas of the Cornish coastline from 10 to 100 foot deep . The challenge to me was or is still to take this ” deeper water understanding ” and transpose the results across to the fly rod. Its not easy but here are some of the things I’m up to right now in my quest


Fly Rod

When I  fish with a 7 foot lure rod then pick up a 9 foot fly rod the fly rod feels floppy ,far too long and clumsy . I hate 9 foot lure rods on my boat and fly rod is even longer as we hold the rod on the very end of the butt. When I stand in a stream with a 6 or 7 foot fly rod it just feels right , compact . For dredging I don’t need to mend the line or even cast a full line . So with all this in mind I took  delivery of a SAGE 2 – Peacock Bass 7 foot 11 inch 10 weight ( 390g ) fly rod . Its a highly specialised tool and I don’t think anyone makes a similar rod . The shorter rod definitely provides  better feel and contact with the fly line and fly in the process . It will also feel less cluttered around the consul if and when I try some lazy dredging from the helm. Its a pretty horrible rod if I am to be honest , it casts a heavy sink line with no finesse  but it does give me the tight responsive feel I need once the fly is out there dredging the depths . Its short stubby and very sensitive ( like me !)

Fly Lines

In the old days I fished with Rio Outbound sinking lines but over the years I have really warmed to the Airflow Depth finders and 40 Plus fly lines in 400 g . The running line is perhaps a tad thick for dedicated dredging but I find it so much easier to manage than finer stiffer running lines. If and when I still can not maintain depth then I will occasionally use a Rio T 14 or T 17 shooting head and loop it to the existing head of the Airflo line , casting this is not pretty if Im honest but it does get right down there . Gareth at Airflo was kind enough to send me a whole load of lines to try a couple of years ago, this included a full sinking line that sinks like a brick .

Bass soup

Bass soup


I dont mess around with my leaders I fish Seguar Fluorocarbon tapered leaders cut back and then with 18 inches of 25 lb leader attached , this provides me with enough grunt to fight big fish and also more to the point drag flies out from the kelp and rocks without snapping off constantly . If you fish a place called the manacles its going to live up to its name and its going to eat flies and fly lines.

10501900_10153023681328858_1516760650746913053_nFly Reels 

I have been using the Nautilus FWX reels on Zen2 for a few seasons now , my god they have stood the test . I have done absolutely zero maintenance on them over that period , they get a half baked rinse under the garden hose once or twice a week and thats it . The FWX has an adequate drag for shallow water bass fishing or bonefish but when it comes to deeper water pollock fishing  it really does become time to upgrade to the CFF 8/10 reel , so thats the plan . The CFF has a super powerful drag , those big Pollock pull so bloody hard . I have a 16 pounder sitting on top of all the food in our chest freezer , that thug pulled like a train !I have yet to land a fish that size on the fly . Ive had them to 11 lb and the fight is  a shock to the system . My inadequate drags actually add the fun as I have to palm the reel to stop the fish diving into the snags.


The Fly 

Clousers are hard to beat , they add weight to a fly , they keel the fly to swim hook point upwards . I am tying mine with the XXL lead eyes. These are not pretty but they do the job required of them . My favourite hook for the jumbo depth finder clousers is the Gamakatsu SL12 S size 2/0 and 4/0 .I prefer natural materials but synthetics are far less buoyant . Keep it simple as you as you will certainly be sacrificing flies to the  Rock Gods on most days. Another new angle for me comes from watching the evolution of Pike fly tying over the last few years is the use of tube flies.  If there one thing that breaks my heart to do every spring is open my fly box and throw away perfectly good flies due to corrosion of the hooks . Its a mugs game and I play it year after year . So I have started tying tube flies to replace my working flies. Last and not least is the evolution of the wiggle tail in Pike flies and this really does bring together my experience with paddle tail shads and my fly fishing . Wiggle tails are becoming almost standard with the Pike guys . Its time I added these to my arsenal.

Presenting the fly 

Patience is the name of the game when it comes to fishing deep down and also knowing the limitations of the rig , sometimes you hit the point where you just can not achieve the depths , this is normally the wrong mix of wind and tide , If you are fishing with a Di 7 fly line then with zero wind and tide in the mix you are still looking at 100 second drop time. I would say that is conservative guess and in reality it may well take longer , so you might have 3 minute wait. We can speed up this process with the weight of the fly , I find that the heavy fly makes a huge difference to the sink rate and it also provides a far stronger contact between angler and fly. This is ugly chuck and duck territory , its about the depth not the distance of your cast . Sometimes a short ugly flop of the fly into the water is enough . Its how the wind and tide will effect the fly line that really is key. The best scenario is a light breeze . Zero breeze doesn’t help unless you just want to fish the fly vertical under the boat . I actually like a gentle wind against tide . I can cast my fly to around 12  -1 O ‘clock on the bow then let the tide take the fly away from me down tide. I compare this to salmon fishing in a very slow deep river . The fly line will feel tight and heavy and thats always best  . You can strip the fly a few yards then let it tumble back down steam , Fishing ” on the hang ” If this is happening then I am a happy guide. If we have tight pockets and tight zones to fish then I may have to start my drift quite some way up tide . Its not always easy to get this right  . These methods tend to work best in what I call open water or searching areas where the fish can show up almost anywhere in a given area .

Wind and tide together If we have wind and tide together then I may need to cast the fly slightly down wind / Down tide  ( 11 O’ clock ) then wait for the line to drift to 12 then 1 O’ Clock before stripping . If we have too much wind then this will just become un fishable . In which case I will probably just grab a lure rod and fish a weighted lure !

There are a couple more tricks I use when fishing deep with the fly rod but I am not going to disclose them on my blog . For every 100 or 1000 regular readers there will be a weekend warrior bass fishing guide with no roots in saltwater fly fishing hoping to pick up a few basic tips .


Thanks for reading and please do comment its always nice to know your out there reading .


saltwater fly cornwall - zen2





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