learn / Make the Connection / Team RIO / Sarah Gardner

Capt. Sarah Gardner

Harkers Island, NC

Fly fishing is an extension of my love of nature. Everything is connected.

Waters you call home

I started my fly fishing career about 30 years ago in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but coastal North Carolina is my home now.

Funny Fact

If you don’t go you don’t know

All of my boats have been named "Fly Girl." I didn't have a choice in this name - it just stuck. "Fly Girl" was the name of a dance group featured in the 80's tv show "In Living Color". It's hardly an original name, but as I get older it's nice to think I have (or had) moves like Jennifer Lopez.


SAGE & RIO Ambassador, Patagonia Ambassador, photographer, writer, videographer.

Personal beliefs on fly fishing

Mindfulness. You must always pay attention to what Mother Nature is telling you, even when you are charging a pod of breaking fish you should always pay attention to other activity and your bottom machine.

Species you specialize in

Everything that swims in Mid Atlantic saltwater. This includes cobia, blues, spotted sea trout, red drum, false albacore, Spanish mackerel and a variety of sharks.

Preferred fishing method

My favorite method is fly fishing, but I'm definitely not exclusive and will happily pick up a spinning Rod. I think fishing with and understanding a variety of gear makes you a better angler. However, to become a better fly angler you must resist switching to spin when conditions become difficult or fish get picky. Gut it out.

Favorite RIO Line

The RIO Outbound Short intermediate is my personal favorite and I like it for my clients. It turns great rods into magic wands. It's heavy head helps anglers feel less responsive rods load.


Rio constantly strives to improve their products and keep them compatible with other advances in fly fishing technology such as rods. Taking input and requests from pros seems to be a big part of this product evolution.

Favorite Knot

I can still tie a triple overhand without wearing cheaters and with band aid wrapped fingers.

Special Rigging

I can encounter such a variety of species and fast paced fishing situations during a charter that knowing all my rigging materials are compatible lets me keep my anglers "in the game."

The less knots you tie, the less opportunity you have for failure, so keep it simple. RIO's knotless tapered leaders are fabulous!

Best Fly Fishing Tip

Practice your casting. Please.

Parting thoughts

Fly fishing is an extension of my love of nature. Everything is connected. I never thought that being a good bird watcher would improve my catches. I'm always scanning for fish and bird interaction. I can tell a lot about what is going on under water by the type of birds working over it. Clients, especially fly fishers really appreciate when you point out unusual critters such as dolphins, whales and sea turtles. I'm constantly checking tides and weather patterns which play a big roll in all critter activities.