Salt Water Flies The 3 Essential

Salt Water Flies – The 3 Essential

By Ted Demopoulos

All fishermen have their workhorse flies, the flies that account for most of their fish. Unfortunately they rarely think about why those flies work, why that assortment should cover most of their fishing situations.

Often fishermen simply have their favorite flies and use them without any real logic. If you take a more scientific approach you are likely to catch more fish. I’ve learned from experience over the past 2+ decades that the following three flies cover most salt water fishing situations, ranging from bonefish to stripers, tarpon to king salmon, and much more.

The three salt water flies I depend most on are Leftys deceivers, Clouser minnows, and snake flies. Like most fly fishermen, I seem to have 100 different types of flies, but these are the three that account for over 90% of my fish.

Leftys Deceiver:
The deceiver is an incredibly versatile fly. You can fish it on top, deep, and in the middle. It can match short thin baitfish, long thin baitfish, fat baitfish, and quite an array of other critters: grass shrimp, lobsters, and just about everything else.

I like both long and short ones, usually in the 2″ to 5″ range.

I tie my deceivers primarily sparsely, in all black, all white, all chartreuse, and white with a green top, but also tie a few bulky ones to imitate thicker food sources.

I tie the majority of my deceivers on size 1/0 hooks. I like to tie a few on bigger hooks, for example 3/0 or 4/0 hooks, partly because they sink faster with a big hook. I always have a few tied on smaller hooks too.

I usually add a little bit of flash on top, maybe 4-10 stands of whatever I have on hand, trimmed to random lengths for maximum effect, and sometimes top my deceivers in peacock hurl, especially the all white ones.

I’ve caught just about everything with deceivers, from tarpon to stripers to rainbow trout, and many offshore species as well.

Clouser Minnow:
You need a fly that sinks rapidly, and the Clouser is my choice. Sometimes getting your fly a few inches deeper makes all difference between steady action and no fish.

I like my Clousers in pink, white, chartreuse, and white with a green top. I tie most of these between 2 to 2 1/2+ inches long, but tie some much smaller and some much longer.

I tie them primarily on 1/0 hooks and I always have a few smaller sized ones, usually size 4 or 6, just in case. These are great flies for catching ‘miscellaneous’ species, and I tend to catch lots of strange miscellaneous species, especially when fishing in the tropics.

What won’t eat a Clouser? I don’t know, but I’ve caught fish ranging from king salmon to bonefish, and sharks to barramundi on Clousers.

Snake Fly:
I love snake flies!

Snake flies can match a wide variety of baitfish and critters, just like the flies above, and imitate a bigger bodied baitfish easier due to the deer hair head.

I trim the deer hair head pretty thin, and tie them both smallish, around 2″, and bigger, maybe 4-5″, in all black, all white, and with an orange head and chartreuse body.

I pretty much use white ones in the day and black ones at night. The orange/chartreuse ones, which I only tie in smaller sizes, around 2″ long, sometimes work phenomenally well, although I have no idea why!

Miscellaneous Saltwater Flies:
I try to always carry a few flyrod poppers, usually “Bob’s Bangers” tied on 2/0 Mustad 34011 hooks, and a few very sparse flies, often Rays Flies or Eelies.

And of course I also carry all kinds of strange stuff — sometimes to match the prevalent bait, but usually because I just got creative when tying!

Of course knowing the best retrieves for larger fish is also important!

Visit for more fishing tips and techniques, including plenty of “how to” as well as informative striped bass stories.

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