One of the most frequently used saltwater fly lines in the Mid Atlantic region is a full intermediate. Along those lines—no pun intended—the RIO OutBound Short is a popular high-performance intermediate line we use quite often in and around the Outer Banks.
The second most spooled up fly line would be a sink-tip of a specific grain weight. These lines are the go-to solution for anglers seeking stripers, and many Mid Atlantic fly-rodders are very proficient with them. But I’m here to tell you that sink-tip fly lines have far more uses than just for stripers.
In my home waters around Cape Lookout, sink-tips are a great way to deliver big flies down to where your quarry lives. In the Fall, fly anglers dredging with sink-tips can target king mackerel and jumbo Spanish mackerel around the wrecks and reefs a few miles offshore. RIO’s Leviathan sinking lines in 300 to 500-grain weights are perfect for chasing kings and Spanish. Be sure to use a Powerflex Wire Bite tippet on your leaders, though, as both king mackerel and big Spanish have wicked teeth. The 20-pound Wire Bite is great for Spanish and 30-pound is better for kings.
Fat Albert is in the House
In the fall around Cape Lookout, there are times when plenty of false albacore (aka albies, fat albert, or little tunny) can be found swimming around but not much bait available for them to eat. This is when shrimp boats working along the beaches become ground zero for the albie action. As the shrimpers cull the fish from the shrimp they toss over the small fish; this creates a mobile buffet line for the albies.
This is a situation when, if an OutBound Short Intermediate is not getting down far enough, you should try a sink-tip line. The same aforementioned line you might use for king mackerel and Spanish macks on wrecks and reefs is a great solution for anglers swinging a big fly behind the trawlers. As the fly sinks it imitates a sinking piece of shrimp-boat bycatch, fooling many false albacore in the process. No, it’s not the classic way to fish for Cape Lookout albies, but it’s a great method for catching a jumbo albie. I like to call them “Buffalos.”
We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat
Early in the fall season, when the waters are much warmer and the shrimp trawlers are farther out in the ocean, the by-catch attracts big sharks such as black tips and spinners. These feisty critters are more than willing to snatch an angler right out of their shoes with a stunning fight. While an intermediate line certainly can produce in conditions such as this, they often float right over the back of the sharks. Try using a sink-tip line—this will put your fly right in the sharks’ faces.
Anglers need to come prepared for the big leagues, when it comes to sharks. I like using a Sage Salt 12-weight paired with a Sage 6012 reel and a RIO Leviathan 400- to 600-grain sinking line tipped with a big white fly. Oh, and don’t forget the Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet in the 40-pound flavor. The heavy line will get the fly down a few feet where it will be munched eagerly before the pain begins.
Playing in the Pumpkin Patch
Cape Lookout is home to really big redfish in the Fall. They are inshore taking advantage of all the food before they move offshore for the winter. They are not always willing to play and can be very hard to find. When you do find them on top, there can be so many of the brilliant orange-gold fish that it looks like a pumpkin patch at sea. Whether they are on top or deep the action is fast so it pays to rigged and ready.
I like to have a rod or two dedicated just for reds. My go-to setups are Sage Salt 10, 11 or 12-weights, and they’re great for the big reds. The 12-weights will handle the heavier grain sinking lines and the 10-weights will handle the lighter ones
Much of the time the reds are deep and on the bottom in 30 feet of water—sometimes deeper. On occasion, however, they will be on the surface feeding making a spectacle. In either situation sink-tip lines are the way to go. Most days when fishing “marks” on your fish finder the RIO Leviathan 600-grain or new 750-grain lines make it possible to quickly deliver a big Half-and-Half fly down to reds. They seldom hold still so quick reactions are needed. Even when they are on top, sink-tip lines are preferred. Four hundred- to 500-grain lines are much easier to cast than their bigger brothers and work perfectly when the fish are on top. As a rule, reds do not look up for their food so it is important to get in front of them. If they see the fly they will generally do their job and eat it.
Sink-tip lines open more waters for the fly fisherman—don’t leave home without them.