Fly fishing growing popular on the Bay



I saw more anglers waving fly rods on the Bay last year than ever before.

Ed Russell, a devoted saltwater fly angler, believes that "it provides the best way to enjoy the fish of the Chesapeake Bay with the least impact on these precious resources."

Joe Brooks, Lefty Kreh, Tom McNally, Tom Loving and a number of other fly fishing greats used the Bay to enhance their reputations with the long limber rods 40 years ago.

Kreh, the retired Baltimore Sun outdoors editor, is considered to be the leading pioneer in this phase of the sport. The next time you spot a popular streamer fly dubbed "Lefty's Deceiver," you are looking at saltwater fly rodding history.

Every tackle catalog to pass through my front door these past few weeks has hawked a series of saltwater fly rods and reels. This hasn't always been the case.

Fly rod pro Bill May said, "There are two major differences between saltwater and freshwater tackle. First, saltwater is corrosive and can destroy freshwater tackle in short order unless care is taken.

"The second major difference is due to the size, strength and stamina of saltwater fish. Rods need to withstand prolonged casting of heavier fly lines and playing heavier fish. Reels need smooth drags and much greater line capacities."

Both May and Russell recommend a minimum 9-foot graphite rod handling an 8-weight line. If you fly fish for largemouth or smallmouth bass, chances are you have a very close match sitting in the closet.

In fact, the rod and reel I use for my freshwater bassin' is the same rod I use for general-purpose Bay casting for rockfish, speckled trout and perch. If you plan on fishing saltwater exclusively, the same length rod taking a 9- or 10-weight line would be the better choice.

You can easily spend a fortune on a saltwater fly reel, but it isn't necessary.

Next, you need a few leaders. Unlike casting to weary trout, the Bay fly rodder doesn't have to lose sleep over delicate presentation. I tend be lazy and use packaged 7 1/2 -foot leaders sporting 8- to 12-pound test tippets sold at most Anne Arundel County tackle shops.

My most productive fall striper fly is a "chum fly," which is any fly within reach that resembles a piece of chum.

Dennis Snyder of Glen Burnie did just that during a combo sea duck/rockfish trip with guide Norm Haddaway last fall and easily out fished the rest of our party right out of the boat.

A basic selection of Bay streamer flies, which are fished under the surface, includes Lefty's Deceiver in an assortment of sizes and color combos, the Clouser Deep Minnow, Squid Fly and the Whitlock Salt Shrimp.

Round out your arsenal with a selection of popping bugs in red, white, black, blue, yellow or combinations of those colors.

Another very effective Chesapeake fly is the Del Brown Crab Fly, which is fished just under the surface in the presence of swimming crabs.

Popular spots easily reached by the Anne Arundel fly tosser include the mouth of the Chester River, Bloody Point and Love Point, the Bay Bridges and the south side of Pooles Island.

The Patapsco from the Inner Harbor to the Bay is a hot spot for fly casters to work breaking rockfish, and I have enjoyed excellent fishing around the Patuxent River's Walnut Point Light. The Choptank River is never a wrong choice for the fly rodder, either.

A good way to begin your Chesapeake fly rodding experiences this year is to book one of the guides now working the area.

Brady Bounds (301-862-3166), Norm Bartlett (410-679-8790) and Mike Murphy (410-822-3474) have built solid reputations as guides specializing in Bay fly fishing.

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