Anyone who regularly enjoys Chesapeake Bay Fishing has seen a fly angler or two casting about for striped bass, Spanish mackerel, and countless other species. Fly fishing on the Bay is a fun way to change things up for those who usually use spinning or conventional gear, but it’s also a serious challenge for beginners. Proper preparation will be a key to success – and now’s the time to get started.

angler fly fishing in Chesapeake Bay
This angler is fly casting for stripers, on the Chesapeake.
  • GEARING UP is sure to be confusing, so first decide what size and type of fish you want to target (there will be a huge difference in rods and lines for different fisheries). Once you’ve focused your desire, head for a reputable local tackle shop that specializes in fly fishing, and ask for specific recommendations. Most people will start out with just one rod and reel, so if you want to maximize flexibility, remember to invest in multiple lines. Having floating, sink-tip, and sinking options to work with will go a long way in expanding your options.
  • PRACTICE CASTING is a big deal, because out on the Bay you’ll likely have to cast in difficult conditions while fighting elements like the wind and the waves. Find a large yard or field with no trees of overhead obstructions, and time your practice with windy conditions. Once you feel you can cast far enough, start working on your accuracy. Place a target the size of a Hula-Hoop at half your maximum range, and work at hitting it consistently. When you’ve got it nailed, move the target out to three-quarters of your range, and then finally out to your full range. When you can consistently hit it, wait for another one of those windy days and cast with the wind hitting you in the face, from either side, and at your back.
  • PREPPING YOUR BOAT is another thing you need to think about. In this picture, you can see a very difficult fly fishing situation. The angler has to contend with a rail with rodholders, bow light, and cleats, all of which can grab and tangle the line. Your boat may be similarly ill-suited to fly casting but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Foam pool noodles can be carved so they’re smooth at either end and fit over the cleats, to at least reduce snagging. Stripping baskets can be used to contain the line as it’s retrieved. And depending on the nature of your boat you may be able to add or remove items to make it more conducive to fly fishing.