Help with a saltwater outfit or two....or even three.

I love to saltwater fish, I fish mainly offshore, normally jigging. With the chipping away at the seasons for offshore fish and for those days that the weather prohibits getting offshore with the boats I normally fish out of I want to fish inshore more. I grew up fishing inshore a lot, so I can be consistant with it, but I want a challenge, so I am taking up fly fishing, I fish the panhandle a good bit and go to the Keys if not every year, at least every other year. Redfish and trout would be the main target for my fishing, but I would also target tarpon during the summer and when ever I head to the Keys or south Fla. to fish.

I am not going to say money is no problem, but I can spend more than the average person starting out, I want to get good, reliable tackle and I don't mind spending the money on it. I have shelves of Stellas, Saltigas, Ocea Jiggers and Studio Ocean Marks along with rod racks full of high end Japanese Jigging and Popping rods for my jigging and popping, I appreciate and know the benefit of high end quality tackle. I was thinking at least one 8wt. (I just ordered a Sage Xi3 I got a good deal on) Maybe another 8wt. a 9 wt. and one for tarpon...which I truely have no clue with what I need. I catch AJs on poppers regularly, I was thinking it would be fun to catch one on a fly rod, they normally run around 40 or so lbs for the ones I catch on top water but I have no idea what outfit I would use for that.

Like I said, most of my fishing is in the panhandle, but I do travel a lot to fish, Baja, Venice, Outer Banks, Central America, I would like outfits I could take these places least to Central America and Venice along with targeting bonefish and permit if I get proficient enough with fly fishing. I used to fly fish for trout in the mountains and out west but saltwater has consumed me now. I know I have bad habits, so I plan on taking some fly fishing classes in either the Keys or up in the panhandle. I am also looking at a couple of flats skiffs now with an eye on purchasing one for my fly fishing venture, I found an older Dolphin Back Country 16ft that is in great condition for a good price that I really like....Thanks in advance.


  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Before I chime in on your immediate question, I would like to address your choice in skiffs, if I am not too late for that. The Dolphin is a good boat....I guided in the 18 ft. version of the same hull for 10years or more, out of Key West....My boat was a Shipoke but both hulls (the Backcountry models and the Shipoke) are Sidewinder hulls. Your boat choice depends on where you want to fish, especially in the Keys. If you are thinking of the Keys as from the Bahia Honda bridge and north of there, then a smaller and shallower draft boat might be the ticket. For example, from Islamorada, a run to the Flamingo area is very doable but a boat with a deep-vee like a Dolphin or Shipoke will draw too much water for that area. If you are fishing by yourself, then a 16 footer might be OK. See if you can find a 16 ft. Egret, or a Silver King...or any number of skiffs that will float in 7-9 inches of water. South of the 7-mile bridge is generally known as the "Lower Keys," and the topography changes drastically and a larger boat would be in order, say 18 ft., if you think you could pole it. Basically, the Lower Keys have bigger water, with large basins and deep channels that can get a bit choppy, especially if the wind is against the tide. The Lower Keys also has Key West and the Marquesas to the west of there. Here a boat like an 18ft. Dolphin Backcountry or a Shipoke would serve you well, with the extra length and deeper vee. The 18 ft. Egret is also an excellent boat, but closer to 19 ft., than 18. But if I were to go back into guiding again, the 18 ft. Egret would be my choice for the Lower Keys. If I were going to be fishing a lot in the Upper Keys/Flamingo/ 10,000 Islands, then I would go with a shallow draft boat. Along with a Silver King (if you could find one) the Maverick HPX comes to mind. These are 17 ft. and their only drawback is their narrow beam, which makes them a little tippy, as compared to the Silver King or Maverick 18, which would be another good all-around skiff, and more suitable for those days in the Panhandle, when you might be able to make it offshore, because the Maverick has slightly more freeboard, as does the Egret.

    I guess that what I am trying to say, is that there are tons of boats out there, all of which would suit you better than a 16 ft. Dolphin Backcountry, although I'm thinking it might be OK in the Panhandle. but there are other considerations as well.....such as, Will you be fishing alone a lot? In some scenarios, you will have to pole this skiff. If you are alone a lot, you will definitely want a skiff with the fuel tank in the bow, as opposed to under the console. This is for reasons of balance, since you might not have a person on the bow, to counter the weight of you, the poling platform and the engine in the stern. You want your boat to float as level in the water as will make poling a lot easier for you, if the boat does not squat down in the stern with just you in it.

    Once you have a better idea how you will use your skiff, you can make a more informed and intelligent choice as to which to buy.
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    For your fly rods, it appears you just ordered an excellent 8 wt.....a very fast rod that will be excellent for sight fishing bonefish and baby tarpon and even some permit on light air days. Best permit fishing is on windy days and here I would go with a 9 or even a 10 wt., and a slightly softer rod, since permit flies are often heavy (lead eyes) and it helps to be able to open your casting loop a little bit when casting these flies. The 10 wt. would also be my choice for larger redfish and snook if they were lying close to mangroves or docks, although a 9 wt. will handle most of the snook you are likely to encounter. For a rod like that, I would suggest a TFO....they're just a tad slower than the Sages and Loomis rods....although if Loomis still makes a rod (GL-3 or GL-4) in straight graphite, this rod might work well for you also. Just be careful because some years ago, about the time Gary sold the company to Shimano, they changed their designation numbers a lot. For a short while, GL-4 was the old IMX and this would be too fast for what I am thinking about for you.

    Then for tarpon and AJ's, I would definitely go with a 12 wt. You don't necessarily need a 12 for many Keys tarpon, as they average 60 -80 lbs. and in most cases a 10 would be sufficient. But I have come to the point where I advise over-gunning oneself for tarpon, if possible, simply because you can hopefully get the average fish to the boat a little quicker and release them in better condition, while at the same time having a rod that can handle the larger fish to 100+ lbs.

    If the AJ's are running to 40 lbs., I would definitely use the 12 wt. and I would also test drive the TFO as well as the Loomis and Sage rods. As said, the TFO is a bit slower but still more than adequate for tarpon and this might suit your casting style better. In the end, this is the most important consideration. Just deep is the water where you're finding these amberjack? When using fly tackle, it might make a difference, as to technique.
  • backbonebackbone Posts: 59 Greenhorn
    Start with the 8 weight xi3 and learn how to throw it. helped me a lot, or find a good instructor to help get you started in the right direction. Most fly shops have a good instructor. I mainly learned getting out and blind casting trout flats.
    Pair it with just about any 8/9 weight reel (I'm a Tibor guy) and your off.
    You will probably need at least a 10 wt for those AJ's.
    I use 12 wts for tarpon.
  • Thanks for all the info. Rick, we get AJs from 70ft up regularly in the panhandle, getting them on top water is easy, just jig up one and swarms follow it up, they throw some cut fish to keep them up and interested, we have caught quite a few on top water that way, just figured they would hit flies too, don't know though, but I think it would be fun to find out.
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Thanks for all the info. Rick, we get AJs from 70ft up regularly in the panhandle, getting them on top water is easy, just jig up one and swarms follow it up, they throw some cut fish to keep them up and interested, we have caught quite a few on top water that way, just figured they would hit flies too, don't know though, but I think it would be fun to find out.

    OK...water depth is close and there is no doubt in my mind but what these fish will eat a fly. We always used big poppers.Decades ago, Mustad made a 3407 that was 3X long and this was the perfect hook (in 4/0) for our poppers, using a 15 lb. tippet. Today, I take a standard length hook, open the eye slightly and "lengthen" the hook by adding a large barrel swivel. The eye of the swivel is what protrudes from the popper's face and where you tie your tippet and the bite of the hook can extend out far enough from the body to ensure a solid hookup.

    Our water was closer to 60 ft. deep and the AJ's, cobia and barracudas would come up from the wreck to investigate the boat, when we first arrived. We teased them with live blue runners, while the boat drifted a sufficient distance from the wreck to hopefully prevent the fish from getting back there, once hooked. I don't know what kind of structure you are fishing, so don't know if that is even necessary. You decide, since you do know.

    Teasing fish on the Gulf wrecks was my very favorite day of fishing as a guide. I didn't get to do it often, because our boats in those days averaged only 20 ft. long and these wrecks were about 33 miles offshore. So it didn't take much weather to prevent us from going. These were the days before Loran-C, never mind GPS, so there was no guarantee that a guide would even find the wreck.

    It was mentally as well as physically fatiguing but so much fun. My people loved it as well, as most of them had never seen such a show on the water, in all their lives. Imagine 3-5 amberjack (40-65 lbs.) 3-5 cobia (30-55 lbs.) and 1-2 barracuda, all trying to eat this blue runner that is thrashing about on the surface. AND trying to keep this blue runner from being eaten by one of them!!!! I'll never forget those days.
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