Saltwater Fly Fishing In The United Kingdom

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  Getting started on a budget.

O.K, so you have decided you like the idea of trying saltwater fly fishing here in the U.K. The problem is, either you have a limited amount of money to spend getting set up, or you don't want to break the bank until you know the sport is for you. Obviously the latest offerings from Sage or Hardy won't fit into your budget. The following is intended as a guide to tackling up on a limited budget, rather than a shopping list of exactly which tackle to buy. Tackle purchases are a very personal thing and what's right for you may not be suitable for others. I have broken the guide down into sections ( rods, reels,lines etc. ) and have based it on purchasing brand new rather than used. As always it pays to buy the best you can afford, but there are ways to save a few pounds here and there. Internet search engines can be useful for locating reviews of tackle on the many fishing bulletin boards and discussion forums.


For SWFF in the U.K. an #8 or #9 rod is generally considered most suitable. There are a few #9 rated rods available for less than £100, but the range is limited and I cant recall seeing any #9 rods for around the £50 mark. A rod rated for #8 lines is capable of coping with most UK SWFF situations and there are many more models available in this size at lower prices. Many anglers favour 3 or 4 piece rods, for ease of transport, but the same rods, as a 2 piece are often slightly cheaper. Rods specifically designed with saltwater in mind come with a higher price tag generally , so money can be saved by looking at rods designed for Trout reservoir fishing that co-incidentally have SW proof fittings. Surprisingly, a lot do. Bear in mind that you will need to give these rods a good clean in freshwater after a session in the salt. Whilst some bargains are available online, by purchasing from a tackle store you have the advantage of getting a feel of the rod before you buy, as well as advice from the dealer and if paying by cash, you can sometimes haggle over the price ( especially if buying a reel and line at the same time ).


There are many budget priced reels on the market. Ideally for SWFF you want a reel with a level of saltwater resistance , a decent line capacity and some sort of drag system. This narrows down your options a little. Both Ron Thompson and Masterline market copies of the System2 reels and these can be bought for as little as £30. If you prefer a large arbour reel then there a several manufacturers who produce suitable reels. Okuma is a name that springs to mind, having seen positive reviews on U.S. websites about these reels.


This is probably one area where it really pays to buy the best you can. Personally, I do most of my SWFF with a 15 ft Sink tip line, so I would recommend buying a fairly decent line and then saving money by buying a cheaper Intermediate and / or sinking line. Certainly line selection will be reflected by the areas you will be fishing, so seeking advice from others who SWFF in the area or posting a query on a web forum such as will help you select the right line for you. Mill ends/ factory seconds may seem cheap but can be a real lottery. You may be lucky and get a line where the colour has come out wrong or the range has been discontinued, but you could easily get a line that has manufacturing defects or is too short etc.


Ultimately the cheapest flies are those you tie yourself. However this can be time consuming and the initial outlay on tying vice, tools and materials can be expensive. There are many people selling saltwater flies, but much of the product they sell is unsuitable for U.K. use. I would recommend purchasing from OceanFlies Contact them to discuss the areas you will be fishing and the species your attempting to catch and they will be able to advise you on which flies are most suitable.


Ask 10 SWFFishermen what leader they use and you'll get 10 different answers, but none will be wrong. It's another area where it's very much personal preference. One area where there seems to be unanimous agreement is the use of Fluorocarbon, rather than Nylon monofilament line, especially during daylight. It's not cheap, but it can make the difference between catching fish or blanking. Buying it by the spool is cheaper than buying tapered, ready made leaders, which aren't really necessary anyway.

Stripping Basket or Bowl

An essential item. There's nothing worse ( or more dangerous ) than have loads of fly line wrapped around your feet when stood on rocks or washing around in the current when wading. Quality, hard plastic ones, such as the Orvis are very expensive. An alternative is the folding baskets designed for reservoir use. The best option is to make your own from washing up bowl or similar with a luggage strap or belt to secure it to your waist.

Other Items

Waders - Chest waders are a must. I started SWFF with a pair of thigh waders which are OK, but can restrict where and when you fish. Breathable waders are becoming cheaper, but lightweight Nylon/Rubber waders are a cheap, effective alternative as long as you don't mind sweating a little. There's no need to buy a specific fishing waistcoat. Most of the things you need when fishing can be hung round your neck on a lanyard or tucked in the top of your waders. Most hiking /camping stores sell waterproof 'butt' bags should you need extra storage. You will need some sort of eyewear to protect your eyes from the glare off the water as well as wayward casts. Polarizing sunglasses can be bought quite cheaply as long as you don't mind looking like an extra in CHiPs! Line snips are no more than nail clippers.

Obviously there are other little bits and pieces you will need - Fly boxes, forceps or pliers for hook removal, head lamp or small torch, a wide brimmed hat or baseball cap and are just a case of shopping around to find what you want.

There are a lot more questions and advice in the Forum




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