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  • Fly Fishing Gulf Shores, Alabama.
  • Post author
    Jess Westbrook
  • fly fishingfly fishing tipssaltwaterstreamer fishing

Fly Fishing Gulf Shores, Alabama.

fly fishing Gulf Shores, Alabama smithfly paddleboard

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

Most of us will not get the chance to chase bonefish on the flats of Belize, but with a little preparation we can still get the same rush a little closer to home.

As a staunch streamer junkie, there's nothing greater to me than having a big brown trout absolutely hammer a streamer.

But after fishing Gulf Shores, Alabama, I realized I've been missing out – the salt is a streamer junkie’s dream. 

Saltwater fish hit a fly like they have had a lifelong vendetta against that poor little Clouser (seriously, I had a ladyfish almost take the fly rod out of my hand).

Some people refer to themselves as either a “beach person” or a “mountain person.”

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

My wife and I need a front license plate that displays our constant rivalry when it comes to planning our vacations. 

The epic battle normally happens sometime around February when the IRS tax refund hits the bank (fingers crossed).

“So babe, where do you want to go on vacation this year?” Laura asked at the dinner table this year.

I was thinking Montana, Wyoming, or somewhere else out West, but I knew she was thinking beach all the way.

Being the reigning champion for the last two years, I conceded and said, “Sure, babe. The beach sounds great.”

Laura decided on visiting Gulf Shores, so I immediately did what every fly fisherman would do – spent the next several weeks at work Googling information on fly fishing in and around Gulf Shores.

Then came every fly fisherman’s nightmare.

  1. There are no fly shops.
  2. There's almost no information on the internet about fly fishing in Gulf Shores; I could only find two articles that barely touched on the subject.
  3. On the forums, one of the nicest comments I received was, “I wish you all of the luck in the world, I think you will need it.”

Gulf Shores hosts an estimated 5 million visitors a year and, according to AFFTA market research from 2012, about 1 in every 10 visitors claim to fly fish.

So according to my math there are approximately 500,000 self-proclaimed fly fishermen visiting Gulf Shores every year with virtually no resources to help them get plugged into the local fishery. 

Even if this number is inflated, there are undoubtedly a great number of fly fishermen visiting on a yearly basis.

I wanted to share the basic information I gathered over the last few months in preparation for my trip, and what I learned while I was there.

Gulf Shores fly gear guide.

Shrimp fly tied with the new Fish-Skull Shrimp & Cray Tail.

  • 6 - 8 weight fast action rod.
  • Weight-forward floating line – for lagoons and bays.
  • Weight-forward intermediate sinking line – for fishing surf.
  • Rio Redfish/Seatrout Leader 9ft.12 lb test – for redfish, seatrout, lady fish, pompano.
  • Rio Toothy Critter Leader 7.5ft. 30lb test – for mackerel, bluefish.
  • Flies – Clousers, Gummy Minnows, Crazy Charlies, and similar in sizes 4 - 8. Gummy Minnows are great because they can hold up against the gnarly teeth of the mackerel and bluefish. If you tie clousers for the trip be sure to coat the thread wraps generously with epoxy to increase the life of the fly.
  • A paddleboard or kayak can increase the amount of water you can access.

Where to fly fish in Gulf Shores.

Surf.

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

Fishing between the breakers and first sand bar can be very productive for ladyfish, pompano, seatrout and bluefish.

Little Lagoon Pass.

The Little Lagoon Pass is a local favorite. The first morning I ventured out, there were 10 kayaks and/or boats fishing a 300 yard wide section.

Generally, most people fish where the pass opens up into the lagoon; there is a distinct drop off that tends to hold fish.

You can certainly wade out to this drop off; however, the paddleboard made it a lot easier getting my gear out there.

Orange Beach Canoe Trails.

There are 10 designated kayak trails that wind through different bays and bayous.

After dark can be very productive throwing baitfish patterns under lighted docks.

P.S. I saw an alligator in some water next to one of the canoe trails – definitely caught me off guard.

Perdido Pass.

This water was a little big for me to conquer with yellow and red flags every day of our stay, but there are two jetties that extend out into the gulf and have deep water nearby.

Perdido Pass will be on my list next time I visit Gulf Shores if there are calmer seas. 

Tips for fly fishing Gulf Shores.

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

You’ve most likely learned how to be successful on your home water – watching for hatches, matching the hatch, varying retrieves, etc.

Even though you may not be in the comfort zone of your home water, use the same assessments you use for freshwater streams and tweak them to be successful in the bay, lagoon or surf.

5 tips for your first DIY bonefish trip.

For example, when sitting on the balcony of your condominium or hotel, look for birds, bait balls, and fish breaking; this is similar to watching for hatches on the stream. You are still “matching the hatch,” but instead of mayflies you are focusing on baitfish (glass minnows, anchovies, etc).

Varying the retrieves of your flies to figure out what triggers a bite is no different than when you strip streamers for big browns. Take the fish-finding knowledge that you have and apply it to your new ecosystem for success.

  • Rinse your reels, rod guides, reel seats, nippers, hemostats, etc. after every outing.
  • Take an anchor for your paddleboard or kayak. Preferably a bigger one than the 1.5 lb. anchor I took – lesson learned.
  • Rinse your flies and let them dry before you place them back in your box.
  • Sunscreen and sun shirts are a must. Preferably grow a massive beard to prevent sunburn.
  • Wind is your friend. If the wind is blowing into the shore all day, by that evening the surf will most likely be full of baitfish and the gamefish will be right behind them.
  • Remember to strip set instead of the traditional hook set.

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

If you haven't done it already, fly fishing in the salt is something that HAS to be added to your bucket list.

Next February, instead of putting on my boxing gloves and getting ready for the annual “vacation featherweight title fight,” I'll be in my wife Laura’s corner voting for the beach.

If you're headed down to the Gulf Shores this summer, do yourself a favor – grab your rod, a few leaders, a box of Clousers, and turn your family vacation into one awesome fishing vacation!

Always Giving. Always Fishing.

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About Jess Westbrook:

Jess Westbrook was exposed to fly fishing at a young age. He spent weeks every summer chasing stocker rainbows in Roaring River, Missouri. During his college years he cut his teeth guiding for Rainbow Bay Resort in Pedro Bay, Alaska. Guiding gives Jess the opportunity to combine his two passions: fishing and teaching. Today he owns Arkansas-based guide service Black Dun Fly Fishing and is the general manager for Nushagak Paradise Lodge which is located on the Nushagak River outside of Dillingham, Alaska. In 2015 Jess and his wife Laura founded The Mayfly Project, a non-profit organization that mentors foster children through fly fishing.

  • Post author
    Jess Westbrook
  • fly fishingfly fishing tipssaltwaterstreamer fishing

Comments on this post (6)

  • Sep 22, 2016

    Our beaches are a hidden gem, there are ships that cater to flyfisherman, but not many “fly shops”

    If you really want to fish down here the winter will blow your mind, bonito run is heavy and the red fish are schooled up in the bays on top all day chasing bait. We do get a tarpon run, Cobia can be caught up close to the beaches around April.

    There’s a couple guides in Pensacola. And plenty of flyfisherman that all look for people to fish with. There just all sorts of fish to eat flies, hit me up when your ready.

    — Chris Lyter.

  • Sep 20, 2016

    Thanks guys I really appreciate the positive comments! Al – The SUP is made by Smithfly, it is an inflatable paddleboard that I brought with me. It is very wide I loved fishing off of it. Give Ethan at Smithfly a call he is a great guy!!!

    https://www.smithfly.net/

    — Jess Westbrook

  • Sep 19, 2016

    Very interesting JessBrook. I try to keep up on social media, the Mayfly Project is awesome! Keep up the great work!

    — Greer

  • Sep 19, 2016

    What kind of SUP were you using ? Looks like a real wide ……. wider than any I’ve seen. Did you rent, buy there, or bring it with you? Enjoyed the read …….. Tks!

    — Al Privette

  • Sep 19, 2016

    I’m trying to grow a beard for my next salt trip….. Great read!

    — Kaitlin

  • Sep 19, 2016

    Great reading
    Thank you

    — Grant Gilmour

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