Fly Fishing the Surf

Saltwater Fly Fishing in the UK & Ireland. 

It may seem at first a bit mad, but you can have a lot of fun standing on rocks facing the sea and flicking a fly into the depths, you may get some strange looks, but it can prove a very successful form of fly fishing. It is getting increasingly popular in the UK and Ireland, with Pollack, Bass, Mullet, Flat Fish, Cod, Mackerel amongst others all catch able on the fly. 

Best of all the fishing is free and can be very productive indeed if you hit a shoal of fish. However timing and location is everything. 

Tides are key, you ideally want the fish 3 or so hours before high tide and the 2 hours after, this is because the fish will come in close to the shore to feed between these times closer into the rocks. 

I will mainly look at Pollack, this is the main species I have caught on the fly, this is due to most of my fishing being on the West Coast of Ireland, where Pollack is the most common fish to catch. Similar principles apply to Bass, Cod, Mackerel and others. 

Firstly you need to find a location, rock fishing marks are quite widely published by various sources such are Fishery Boards, Sea Fishing Associations and clubs as well as the internet. In the Republic of Ireland, they are very helpful by sign posting all rock marks and sea fishing points and provide species catch able on the brown signs, sadly they do not do it in Scotland! 

You need to find a place with a sharp drop off or cliff where you have deep water close in and plenty of kelp beds for the fish to feed on. A ordnance survey map can help with this. 

Secondly you need to find out the tide times and coincide your fishing time with these as mentioned. 

In terms of tackle, I use a 9ft 9wt Saltwater fly rod with a saltwater reel and fast sinking lines and saltwater flies. 

Fast sinking and lead core lines can prove useful when you need to get down deep quickly to the level of the fish. It is also of note that saltwater will make you line sink slower. Some people favor shooting heads so they can get extra distance, they are also quite cheap to make. I have found the Jim Teeny T series fly lines to very good as they give a good sink rate and cast well, I mainly use a T300. 

For reels, I use a fancy saltwater proof reel, however a cheap basic reel with do the job and it won't matter so much if you bash it against rocks. 

In terms of a rod, to start with your usual 9-10ft 7-9wt trout rod will do, if you discover you have a passion for it, something more serious might be required. 

For a leader a good stiff nylon does the job, breaking strain is up to you but between 10-20lbs with do the job. 

The Flies is an area you can have a lot of fun with and let your imagination run riot with a feast of colors and flashy stuff. They need to be on saltwater hooks so they don't rust however. Flies with a bit of weight help if you want to get down a bit. Cloucer Minnows, Deceivers and the like work well in a wide range of colors such as green, white, yellow, red and blue or a mixture of them. You could also go the budget route and buy a pack of sea fishing flies, cut the leader off and tie them on, they work and provide a cheap source of flies. The flies will take quite a tool as you bash them of rocks in casting. 

It can be a dangerous sport, always take someone with you when rock fishing and be careful with the tides. 

Good Luck and Tight Lines.

William Culbert

Useful Sources:


Saltwater Fly Fishing in Britain and Northern Europe, by Peter Morgan. 


A UK website provide information on Saltwater Fly Fishing in the UK, a great resource with a online forum. 



A freshly caught Pollack on the bonnet of my Morgan, from the rocks 
near Clifen, Co Galway, Ireland. 
Fishing the surf at St John's Point, Co Donegal, Ireland. 





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