In recent years, pelagic fly fishing has grown in popularity – and so have the blue water flies that anglers use! With more fly tying materials available than ever, the numerous options on the bluewater flies market have really exploded.
While guides continue to push the boundaries of their pelagic fisheries, they have inevitably continued to customize flies for each destination too! Often it doesn’t really matter what fly is used in the pelagic arenas, but it can make a difference between an epic day and a good day, so go prepared!
What makes a good Bluewater Fly?
The bluewater is where the biggest and baddest species in the ocean live. Strippers in New England, Giant Trevally in the Indian Ocean, Tuna in the Pacific, Marlin in Baja, you get my point. So, what makes a good bluewater fly?
The most important feature of a bluewater fly is the hook itself. Make sure it’s tied in the right size, and on a stout hook. Favorite hooks of professional bluewater tyers and guides is unanimously the Gamakatsu SL12S. There is a lot of trust behind this model hook!
Beyond the hook, large fly bodies that are sparse in material seem to fair best. It’s a lot of work to cast a whole chicken sized fly – so make it sparse! Sparse flies use less material, swim better and obviously cast way better too.
Types of Blue Water Flies
Blue water flies are usually organized between topwater and subsurface. Topwater flies are typically various styles of popper and slider patterns. Subsurface flies can vary greatly in style. Size profile, weight and color matter the most for subsurface. A wholesome bluewater fly collection should include a variety of both styles.
Bluewater Popper Flies
Most professional guides like to start anglers with larger surface flies and size down as needed. Why? Because large poppers do great at creating noise and drawing attention. This can work great for certain situations and species by appealing to their curiosity. Other times, fish spook if the situation is not right. Different poppers make different noises, be prepared to change it up!
When fish are checking out your popper but not eating it you should consider downsizing the fly. Smaller poppers can be utilized for fish that are suspicious of the larger poppers or sliders, and often sizing down gets commitment from the fish! These smaller sized surface flies work great when using teasers too!
NYAP: Not Your Average Popper is originally a GT pattern. It works great in the bluewater because of its ease while casting. The sleek design uses minimal foam, for a surface fly, and is popular in black or white variations.
Crease Fly: This Long Island classic pattern has crushed mahi mahi in Baja, GT’s in the Seychelles and of course, stripers in New England. It’s a good all the way around and deserves space in your box!
PSP Diver: The PSP Diver “popper” head from Rainey’s is a killer foamy! Not quite a popper in the traditional sense, it dives – like the name says. The sleek foam profile moves a lot of water and the unique swim pattern makes it irresistible to bluewater species. Commercial versions of this fly often have a rattle tied in as extra enticement.
Subsurface flies for bluewater are usually sized by the hook itself. Large hooks can hold large fly-bodies. While large profiled flies are often good, they can be a bugger to turn over if they don’t shed water.
Fly weight is another factor for consideration. Pelagic fish use the ocean’s surface as a barrier to push baitfish against. This means that your fly shouldn’t have to get super deep, but it does need to get down a few feet, and quicker the better! Good flies often use dumbbell eyes as the primary weight. If an Angler needs to be fishing deeper, guides will recommend intermediate or full sink lines.
Depending on the species, fly color is arguably the least important factor for pelagics. There is certainly an argument for keeping your fly similar to the natural baitfish in the area, but there is just as much merit to throwing a vibrant fly. From our experience, changing your flies’ presentation in the water (i.e stripping speed) should be adjusted before changing flies. Keep in mind that guides who fly fish for striped marlin use pink flies as often as blue or black flies!
Must-have Pelagic Flies
SF Flies: Steve Farrar, out of South Africa, created what is widely accepted as the best synthetic fly material for big game flies, the SF Fiber series. In a mix of wavy and flashy fibers, flies designed with this material hold a large profile with minimal material. These flies are used for rooster fish to marlin and of course GT’s.
Bluewater Deceiver: Deceivers are just about the best all-round family of fly for predatory saltwater fish. In this case, bluewater deceiver flies are just tied with larger bodies. Marlin guides love these patterns as they are incredibly effective and cheap to tie. Color combinations of pink/white and blue/white are used frequently.
Semper: This legendary fly has landed more giant trevally than perhaps any other pattern! Popular in the Seychelles, this fly has earned a spot as a deadly pelagic pattern as well. Long feathers create movement throughout the fly’s length making it a must-have. Dark black and blue variations are popular for mahi mahi!