Changing Gears

By Capt. Brian Horsley

Both Sarah and I enjoyed a hot summer season of great family fishing. For many of our clients it was their first taste of saltwater fly fishing. Our speckled trout were more than willing to help with the introductions, but as much as we enjoy sharing our home waters, as summer closes it is time for a change.

Just after Labor Day, Sarah and I do our best impression of the Beverly Hill Billies and pack up the family and move to “The Cape” (Cape Lookout, North Carolina). The move entails towing three boats, a large quiver of fly rods, reels, a medium size brown dog and everything we need for the next three months.

Cape Lookout witnesses some of the hottest saltwater fly fishing on the East Coast. It is smack dab in the middle of a migration route. Huge areas of bait have to cross the shoals on their way south. This sets up a perfect ambush point and on both sides of the Cape the bait is blistered by many different predators. The first predators to arrive are the Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Sage’s Xi3 6 and 7 wt. are prime fly rods to chase these hard hitting fish. The water temps are still in the upper 70’s so tropical lines are a good choice. Team these rods up with RIO’s Tropical OutBound Short floater for surface action and the 15’ Clear tip for subsurface flies, and you have an incredibly easy casting combination. Many days the fish are not showing on top and RIO’s Leviathan 200 grain sink tip is the perfect way to fish streamers to both of these fish.

There are also “albies” (False Albacore) in the mix as well. The early season albies average 5 to 7 pounds and an 8 wt. fly rod is a perfect choice for these speedsters. Sage’s XI3 is the gold standard saltwater rod but the 8 wt. ONE is gaining popularity.

Anglers need a line that will load a rod quickly and allow them to make a quick cast with a minimum amount of false casting. If an angler has this in his arsenal they will be ahead of the curve. Again, RIO’s Tropical OutBound Short Intermediate or Floating line is a proven performer; but other lines to consider are the Tropical Intermediate, Tropical General Purpose Floater or the Redfish line.
As October begins to wane and the water cools, the bigger albies move inshore to feast on all the available bait. The bigger albies are double digits in weight and some up to (and over) 20 pounds. These bigger beasts are a totally new ball game and you need to step it up with 9 and 10 wts. The same type of lines in the appropriate sizes will work unless the water gets into the mid to low 60’s. Then, RIO’s Coldwater Striper lines will be a good choice – either the Striped Bass Intermediate for anglers who prefer a full intermediate, or the General Purpose Coldwater Floater, for anglers who would rather fish a floating line. Fans of the OutBound line should spool up the coldwater versions and keep on launching!
Leader length is a personal choice. I prefer 10’ and Sarah likes the 7’ length. RIO’s General Purpose Saltwater or Striper Leaders in 12 to 20 pound are two great choices. Both of these tapered leaders will turn over a fly in the wind (yes we have wind!) with ease, and are ideal for most situations. However, on somedays a short piece of Saltwater Fluoroflex, or Wire Bite Tippet can help deal with teeth and abrasions.