6 Essential Saltwater Fishing Flies

6 Essential Saltwater Fishing Flies – Pro Tips!

This post will list the 6 essential saltwater fishing flies. Saltwater fly fishing is terrific sport! Catching a trophy fish on a fly is challenging and rewarding. The beginning of the process is choosing the best fly for the situation.

Florida fishing flies

The 6 essential saltwater fly patterns are;

  • Clouser Deep Minnow

  • Lefty’s Deceiver

  • Crystal Minnow

  • D.T. Special

  • Gotcha

  • Gurgler

best saltwater fishing fly

There are many saltwater fly patterns available to anglers. In fact, much like with artificial lures, choosing the proper fly can actually be overwhelming. This is particularly true with novice anglers just getting into the sport. However, even experienced fly casters can be intimidated by the number of patterns available. The purpose of this article is to simplify the process by narrowing it down to the six essential saltwater fishing flies.

Click to read a comprehensive article on fly fishing in Florida by Capt Jim

All of the fly patterns on this list can be tied using a variety of materials and color combinations. In most cases, there is no one set color combination as is often the case with freshwater fishing flies. Instead, successful fly anglers match the size and color of the fly to the current fishing conditions.

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White is an excellent all round color followed by natural hues such as pink and olive. Many anglers still prefer to tie with buck tail while some consider more modern synthetic materials to be more durable. There is no right or wrong answer, it is all about angler preference.

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1)  Clouser Deep Minnow

The Clouser Minnow was invented by Bob Clouser as a smallmouth bass fly. Bob fished the Susquehanna River. It was not long before saltwater anglers discovered how effective this fly was on a wide variety of species. It will catch just about every saltwater game fish species and has become perhaps the most popular saltwater fishing fly.


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Versatility is what makes the Clouser Deep Minnow tops on the list of the 6 essential saltwater fishing flies. It can be tied on any hook size. The weight of the eyes can be varied for multiple applications. Every color combination imaginable can be utilized to mimic any type of forage.

6 essential saltwater fishing flies

Clouser Minnow details

The Clouser Minnow consists of a hook, weighted eyes, and some dressing. If this sounds familiar, it should. That is basically the description of a buck tail jig, which is a very effective saltwater fishing lure.

The fly is usually tied with two different colors. In most cases, anglers use white on the bottom and a contrasting color on the top. White and chartreuse is a very popular color pattern. Dark natural colors such as green and olive work well, too. Anglers can certainly use two dark colors as well as one color. All white Clouser Minnows are extremely effective in clear water.

best fly for saltwater fish

Most anglers add a bunch of some type of flashy material between the two colors. This really imitates bait fish species such as silver sides, anchovies, and glass minnows. Crystal Flash works well and comes in a good variety of colors.

Clouser Minnow flies can be tied with both buck tail and synthetic material. Many anglers feel that buck tail provides more action. Synthetic material is deemed by most to be more durable. As in many situations, there is a trade off.

Weighted eyes on the Clouser Minnow

The key to the success of the Clouser Minnow is the weighted eyes. They get the fly down in the water column. The weighted eyes also provide the “jigging” action that makes the fly rise and fall when retrieved.

fly fishing

Eyes come in a variety of weights and colors. This certainly adds to the productivity of the Clouser Minnow. Anglers can tailor the fly to the conditions that they will be fishing. Heavy eyes tied on a larger hook and used on a sinking line will allow anglers to fish the fly fairly deep. Conversely, light eyes fished on a floating or sink tip line will work much shallower.

Another great aspect of the Clouser Minnow is that it rides with the hook up. This results in the fly being fairly weedless. It can be worked through shallow grass fairly easily.

Tying the Clouser Minnow

The Clouser Minnow is an easy fly to tie. With the hook in the vice in the upright position, the eyes are tied on. The eyes need to sit back a bit to allow room for material to be tied on the front of the hook. It is a good idea to add a drop of glue here to help keep the eyes in place.

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A strip of material is then tied onto the top of the hook. Since the fly rides hook up, this will be the bottom or belly of the pattern. Most anglers use white for this strip. The hook is then turned over on the vice. This is usually where the flash is tied in. After that, the other colored material (unless one solid color is used) is tied on top. Anglers can get creative and add a peacock strip or something to outline the top. A whip finish or half hitches finishes off the fly.

2)  Lefty’s Deceiver

The Lefty’s Deceiver was created by legendary fly tier and fisher Lefty Kreh. It is a definitive bait fish pattern. The Deceiver is unweighted and can be tied in any size or color. Anglers can keep it simple or get creative!

lefty's deceiver

Click this link to shop Amazon for Deceiver flies

The Deceiver is white on the bottom with a little red under the throat. The back is usually darker, with green being a popular color. Peacock is often used on the back to accentuate the profile. It has some flash mixed in. It usually has a few feathers splayed. This gives the fly great action in the water. Lefty’s Deceiver is second on the list of the 6 essential saltwater fishing flies.

The Deceiver pattern is an unweighted fly. It is fairly wide, offering a broad profile. It is an excellent fly when used to imitate bait fish such as herring and sardines which are broadly shaped. As mentioned earlier, it is usually white on the bottom than transitioning into a darker back. This color combination mimics many natural bait fish.

saltwater fishing flies

Lefty’s Deceiver can be used to cover the entire water column. When used with a floating line it will stay near the surface as it is an unweighted pattern. Anglers wishing to fish it deeper can do so with a sink tip or full sinking line. It is an excellent fly choice any time bait fish are present and will full just about every saltwater species that will take a fly.

3)  D.T. Special

saltwater fishing flies

The D.T. Special is a very good bait fish pattern. It works very well for schooling fish such as Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, and false albacore. It has the shank of the hook wrapped in thread, splayed feathers on the tail with a touch of buck tail and flash. Bead chain eyes can be added. It can be tied in a variety of colors, however white is predominantly used.

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Like most diverse fishing flies, the D.T. Special can be worked throughout the water column and will fool a wide variety of species. It is easy to cast as it does not weigh a lot and has minimal bulk. I can be especially effective in shallow, clear water when fish are a bit finicky. It is usually worked fairly quickly with sharp strips followed by a pause.

6 essential saltwater fly patterns

Anglers can tie a variation of this fly on a long shank hook for Spanish mackerel and bluefish. This really reduces cut-offs and eliminates the need for a steel leader. This in turn drastically increases strikes. The longer shank acts as a leader, giving the fish and extra inch or so to take the fly without cutting it off. It does not sound like much, but it really makes a difference. It is third on the list of top saltwater fishing flies.

5 essential saltwater fishing flies

4)  Crystal Minnow

The Crystal Minnow is a variation of the Clouser Minnow. It is a very good snook fly here in Florida. It is next on the list of 6 essential saltwater fishing flies. Anglers fly fishing lighted docks and bridges at night do very well with this pattern. It can be tied to imitate both bait fish and shrimp and other crustaceans. White and pink are popular colors patters.

essential saltwater fishing flies

The fly has bead chain eyes. These are not heavy enough to turn the fly over. Therefore, it sits upright. The shank has some type of body material to add bulk and color. A tail extends to the rear. This is a very easy fly to tie and is extremely effective. It is the perfect choice when fishing in clear water, when fish can be finicky, and especially when they are feeding on small bait fish such as glass minnows.

5)  Gotcha fly

6 essential saltwater fishing flies

The Gotcha fly pattern is the perfect shrimp imitation. It is similar to a Clouser but with a few slight variations. It usually uses smaller bead chain eyes. The Gotcha also is tied with a short tail in the shank of the hook is wrapped some type of material. It is usually tied on a smaller hook, in sizes #4 and #6.

The smaller hook and lighter be chain eyes result in the fly making a very subtle entry into the water. Bonefish, permit, and other species are very spooky and clear shallow water. This fly is the perfect choice in these circumstances. Gotcha patterns are usually tied in natural colors such as pink, white, brown, and olive, often with combinations of those.

Top 25 Florida game fish

While best known for sight casting to shallow water game fish, this fly pattern will produce anywhere that saltwater fish eat shrimp. Therefore, it will catch just about every species that swims as rarely will any game fish turned down the opportunity to devour a tasty shrimp. It is usually worked a bit slower and with more finesse than some of the other bait fish fly patterns. The Gotcha is one of the most versatile and productive of all saltwater fishing flies.

top game fish in Florida

6)  Gurgler fly pattern

fly fishing

Every angler fly fishing and saltwater should have a surfaced fly in his or her fly box. It is quite thrilling to see a game fish take a fly on the surface. However, many poppers and surface flies are quite bulky and can be difficult to cast, especially when it is breezy and also for novice anglers.

For these reasons, Capt. Jim recommends the Gurgler fly pattern. It is last on the list of 6 essential saltwater fishing flies. It is a bit less bulky than some of the other popper and surface fly patterns. It can be tied in any variety of colors and sizes. The Gurgler uses a bent over piece of foam to produce the surface disruption which attracts game fish.

In conclusion, this article on the 6 essential saltwater fly patterns will help fly anglers catch more fish!

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