How To Fly Fish Saltwater Flats

If you are a saltwater fly fisherman who wants to know the best ways to catch fish on saltwater flats, then this post is for you.

There are many factors to consider when fishing saltwater flats, including the tides, weather, water temperature, fish behavior, etc.

I have put together some resources that will help you get the most out of your fishing trip.

And finally, if you want to save the most money on a new saltwater rod, you’ll want to see what’s available on the best saltwater fly rod for the money page.

What is a saltwater flat?

A saltwater flat, also known as a tidal flat or marsh, is an area of land that has been formed by the deposition of silt and other material from water on a coastline.

Saltwater flats occur at low tide when the saltwater ocean meets the freshwater rivers and streams. Saltwater flats are found in many locations around the world.

Understanding the Saltwater Flats

Parts of a Flat

The primary building blocks of a good shallow-water fishery are grass beds, bars, channels, and vegetation with a little sand and gravel to break up the bottoms. There is no limit on how many times a grass bed can be touched by a boat.

The only real limit is how many boats can go in the same place at the same time. A channel is a low spot at the bottom that has a lot of vegetation on it, which can make it difficult for fish to get around. Channels are great spots to catch small game fish like spottail shads and reds.

Ideal Conditions for Flats Fishing

While saltwater flats may vary from region to region, most flats consist of sand, mud, or silt.

In shallow areas, you will find rock pools and mounds, which can produce fish species such as croaker, pinfish, and others.

If the flats are deeper, the fish will be more plentiful, with redfish, drum, flounder, and other species.

The ideal conditions for fishing are:

Tide – The best times for flat fishing are high and low tides. High tide will bring fish up onto the flats, and the low tide will allow anglers to sneak up on the fish.

Wind – Flat fishing will always be a little tougher when there is a breeze, but it doesn’t affect your casting too much. In calm conditions, the wind will drive the bait away from the angler.

Light – The best conditions for flat fishing are in the early morning and late afternoon. The midday sun will reflect off the water, reducing visibility and making the fish hard to see.

Water clarity – Fish will stay close to shore, so clear water will give you an advantage. Also, if there is a layer of algae on the surface, it may deter fish from feeding. 

Finding the Perfect Fishing Spot

Finding the perfect fishing spot on saltwater flats can be difficult. It depends on what you want to catch. There are flats that produce striped bass, Atlantic salmon, and other large fish. There are flats that produce small fish, like trout.

There are flats where you can target baitfish for catching smaller fish, or flats where you can target sharks and sea turtles for shark fishing. You might want to find a flat that produces both, or a flat that targets a specific species.

Also, check out my blog post on different types of the fly fishing season, its benefits, and the other best spots to fish. 

The Gear For Fly Fishing Saltwater Flats

Saltwater flats, or “grass flats” as they are commonly known, are some of the most challenging environments in freshwater fly fishing.

There are few if any trout to be had, and most of the water is devoid of structure. The result is an environment that is unlike anything else in the fly fishing universe.

These days, there are far fewer rivers, lakes, and streams suitable for freshwater fly fishing. Saltwater flats are the last remaining bastion. They are often characterized by deep-blue waters and rocky bottoms, with a few isolated stretches of grass and sand.

These flats are a veritable playground for fly fishers seeking to experience the thrill of the hunt and to learn about fly fishing from the perspective of the fish.

Most saltwater flats are relatively easy to access and fish, though certain regions may require special equipment, permits, licenses, etc. Regardless of location, however, saltwater fly fishing requires the right gear.

The right gear for saltwater fly fishing allows anglers to get closer to the fish than they would otherwise be able to.

The best fly fishing saltwater flats are often found in protected bays, estuaries, and islands. Anglers must be careful to protect themselves against harsh environmental conditions while out on these flats.

A number of factors can cause injury or even death to fly anglers, such as heavy winds, rough waves, and unpredictable weather.

A variety of tools, skills, and accessories are required for saltwater fly fishing. Here are the top five pieces of fly fishing gear that are necessary for success.

1. Saltwater Reels

Saltwater fly fishing requires reels that can handle heavy loads. In fact, it is recommended that you go with reels that can handle at least 200 pounds of drag.

2. Fly Rod Selection

Saltwater fly fishing requires rods that can stand up to the environment. Saltwater flies are generally quite large, and often require larger and stronger rods than freshwater flies.

Additionally, saltwater flies are much tougher than their freshwater counterparts, and therefore require rods that can withstand the rigors of this environment.

3. Leaders

The leaders used on saltwater flats are generally very short. This allows anglers to cast further distances and allows for quicker recovery of the leaders after casting. Additionally, the shorter leaders are less likely to snarl or kink in the saltwater environment.

4. Floating lines

Because of the short leader lengths, floating lines are also required for saltwater fly fishing. Saltwater floats are usually made from cork or foam.

5. Flies

Fly fishing saltwater flats can present anglers with a wide array of challenges and opportunities. Anglers can encounter a wide range of saltwater species.

Saltwater Flats Tips, Techniques & Common Mistakes I Learned On My First Trip

The flats are the best place to start when trying to improve your technique and become a better fisherman. They’re not too technical, and the fish bite is usually good. There is no need to purchase expensive gear or go to expensive locations.

You’re Always Sight Fishing

There are no poles, lines, or reels, so it is easy to pick up and start fishing without any equipment. You can use virtually any type of bait.

Most of the fish that live in the flats are very easy to catch and very difficult to lose. This means that you can get to the fish quickly and easily, as long as you are patient. The key to success on the flats is in the preparation and set up before you even cast.

Light Is Key

The sun can provide enough light to see by, but a flashlight works great as well. White light is much more visible than a colored one. When you find a fish, you can shine a light on it and then drop your line into the water to keep it from biting the hook.

Cast In Front Of The Fish

Casting is easy to learn and it is something that everyone can do. Just cast your line out from the shore and allow the weight of the lure to pull the line in. As soon as the lure touches the bottom, move your line back out. This will cause the bait to bounce and make the fish bite.

Wait For The Fish Before You Strip

Most fishermen don’t realize how fast the fish can eat bait. Even if a fish takes just 1/10th of the bait, you are still losing bait. You can fix this by letting the fish take your bait for a few seconds before you strip it. The fish will take longer to swallow your bait, but you can be certain it is a live one and not a dead one.

Never Lift Your Rod

A lift can cause your rod to break, and you can lose a big fish right off the bat. You should never lift your rod. It is only when you feel the tug of the fish that you should lift your rod. The sooner you are able to feel the fish, the easier it will be to land the fish.

Adjust For The Wind

If you want to catch fish, you need to know the direction of the wind. It is possible to fish on a calm day, but you won’t get much fish on a windy day. You will probably get a lot more fish on a windless day. Adjust your bait or lure to account for the wind.

Understanding Tides Is Very Important

Tides can cause a fish to strike a bait or lure in a different location from where you originally placed it. The fish may even swim around in circles before they decide to bite. Knowing the tides is important to ensure that you are not fishing where there are no fish or in a location where the fish are not biting.

Where is the best saltwater fly fishing in the world?

The top ten destinations are ranked here, according to anglers who have fished them and their friends. 


How do you fish in sand flats?

You don’t.

You have a couple of options.

The first is to get a boat, or rent one, and drag a big net through the water. Or you can go with a fly rod and a floating line and troll a little bit.

The second option is to use a trolling motor to move your boat along slowly in the shallows. This allows you to keep an eye on your flies as they pass by the fish.

It’s a great way to get close-up pictures of the fish. If you don’t have a boat, you can still fish the flats with a trolling motor. I like to use a smaller one that has a battery pack and runs off a standard car battery. The battery is charged when I’m fishing, so it’s ready to go when I need it.

A smaller trolling motor makes a difference when you’re fishing with a fly rod. The rod gets a lot more attention from the fish when it’s moving around in the water. The bigger motor might just distract the fish, or give them a false sense of security. I always use a floating line with a small, light tippet and a small split shot for this type of fishing. It’s a slow-motion approach that lets me work the fish closer.

How To Fly Fish Saltwater Flats Summary

I hope you enjoyed my post on how to fly fish saltwater flats. I love the saltwater flats and I have a very extensive collection of different fish, bait, and rods.

And if you are in the market for purchasing a fly rod and want a budget-friendly option, check out my best saltwater fly rod for the money page. It shows you how to find the right tool for all of your saltwater fishing needs.

Saltwater fishing, for me, is the epitome of being outside, in nature, under the sun.

I used to think saltwater fishing was only for those who live by the coast or those who have a boat, but now I realize there’s no reason why you can’t practice saltwater fly fishing at home.

Just like any other fishing technique, you need to spend time practicing to get better, and then you’re on your way.

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